The word politics comes from the Greek for a city-state: polis. (Metropolis, for instance). Polite comes from the same root, surely because upper-crust city folk were schooled for better behavior than cow milkers or dirt diggers. City folk didn't “hawk and spit,” or “fire their stern guns” in public — at least willingly. Nor did they publicly “scratch their cods” ... at least without unimaginable urgency.
I learned the terms from Naked to my enemies. (Charles W. Ferguson. Little Brown & Co. c1958.) Ferguson quotes from a 16th century guide book for commoners called to serve at special royal events. So far as I can tell, today's politicians wisely follow the old advice, although even today it requires discipline ... and sacrifices in physical comfort. Well, the book is more about religion than politics. Although — come to think of it — the difference between the two is not always clear.
We may speculate whether such decorum has always been abandoned when candidates were campaigning outside urban limits among spitters, scratchers and stern firers. When in Rome, do as Romans do.
Surely there are and have always been honest and socially honorable men and women who have held or now hold public office. Some may even be Democrats. At least, we'll pray for it. Sorting them out is citizenship.
I do grow ever more weary of today's political verbosity. Just a few examples:
The political expression “Over and over again:” Over and over would suffice, uh, over and over. “Again and again” is as concise and offers at least variety. So far as I can see, “repeatedly” would work just fine. Another possibility would be “often.”
Then there's “At that point in time” — which I assume means “then.” If there's reason to expound, say in a legal situation, you could say something like “on Nov. 9, 2017, at 2 a.m.” If the place is a relevant concern, you could add detail. Like: “in Mrs. Flinginjabber's bedroom while her hubby was playing golf with Donald Trump.” (Yes. Daylight golf is more common.)
And let's be clear, I know neither Mrs. Flinginjabber nor her husband. I do know a little about Donald Trump, but I do not keep track of with whom he plays golf, when, or where — or what his handicap might be ... although I suspect it would be considerable, especially when he's driving upwind.
You've surely heard “moving forward” or embellished communally: “As we move forward.” The four-letter word “next” works as well. If a more precise target is important, something like by tomorrow ... or next Tuesday, or three years from now. Or, “when Russians control our elections.” Or: “the day after “Crooked Hillary confesses her 3 million popular vote advantage came from drug dealers and rapists illegally crossing the Southern border … some of them may be good people.”
Finally, you may have noted President Trump's not just repetitive, but something like a “stern gun vocabulary.” By that, I mean gassy. Former President George H.W. Bush recently called Trump a “blowhard.” That's nicer.
In a typical Trump oration, we hear adjectives like “fantastic, incredible, outstanding, wonderful, marvelous, amazing,” For variety, the adjectives are often coupled with adverb forms of the same adjectives: We hear his accomplishments are “absolutely fantastic, incredibly marvelous, amazingly wonderful, marvelously outstanding.”
To those stern gun self-salutes, he frequently adds an additional “very” or “very, very” or “very, very, very.” Commonly, after taking a breath, he adds, a “Believe me” or two.
Well, he's the president for a while. Like the rest of us, he has freedom of speech. However, I would politely offer Trump and his adult care center advice from Kansas' famous progressive journalist William Allen White. Instead of “very,” Trump should substitute “damn.” There's a chance someone would tell him Christians would not like damn, and the word would be deleted by a skilled copy editor. The sentence would then be less egotistic and more politically effective. Of course, what did White know about anything?
Following the same reasoning, Trump could substitute @#!%$&*$! or sunzabitchin for “fantastic, incredible, unbelievable” or their adverbially enhanced forms, so that grown-ups in the White House might more successfully encourage him to tone down his blowhardery. Of course, blowhardery does delight the 35 percent or so who will always think our president is a very, very incredibly and fantastically amazingly great man.
He also has very large hands. Believe me.
Bob Hooper, a fourth-generation western Kansan, writes from his home in Bogue.