Service of the Language of the Lazy: Name-Calling Beats Learning the Facts

October 27th, 2016

Categories: Communications, Manners, Words

As a child I often heard the adage “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” but I never believed it because if someone slung a nasty name at me, I always felt insulted. And once when I was very young a bus driver was abusive to my mother. I don’t recall his exact words, but I have a vivid memory of the feeling in the pit of my stomach left by his name-calling. That’s probably one reason some adults continue to resort to this technique.

But there’s another: It’s the language of the lazy. The slothful version of “When you leave your shoes all over the house I find it both unattractive and dangerous–someone could trip and fall,” is to point at the sneakers and loafers and grunt, “You’re a pig.”

Instead of saying, “I wish that more devout Muslims would explain how they feel about ISIS and what they suggest the most effective way might be to arrest the movement,” the lazy version is “Muslims are evil.”

This is Trump’s specialty, from the cruel nicknames he gives political opponents to the childish rant he snapped at Secretary Clinton during the last debate, calling her a “nasty woman.”

It’s also a foolproof technique to avoid having to know more than a few words about any subject. The easy answer to “What is your policy about ______” is “what a stupid question.” Conversation over.

Why bother to explain your position when you can resort to one of the names he called columnist Marc Thiessen: “failed.” Failed, failing–or some version of the word–is a Trump favorite. Thiessen is in good company. Trump also tweeted this description of The New York Times, Jeff Zucker president of CNN, The New York Daily News, John R. Allen, retired US Marine General, The National Review, to name a few who haven’t seen eye to eye with him.

Who is the “really dumb puppet?” The editor of the Fox News Channel, Chris Stirewalt. Chuck Todd of Meet the Press is “pathetic;” members of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board are “dummies;” columnist George Will is “broken down, boring and dopey;” Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, mayor of Baltimore is “a joke” and Donna Brazile, DNC chairwoman is “totally dishonest.” Isn’t name-calling easier than parrying with facts to address what each of these organizations, reporters, columnists or executives may have written or said about him or his proposed policies? I’ll say.

Thank you to Jasmine C. Lee and Kevin Quealy of The New York Times for collating “The 282 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List,” the source of the name-calling noted above.

The technique was effective enough to land Donald Trump as the Republican Presidential candidate. Why do you think so much of society today finds this appropriate behavior to be praised and rewarded? What happened for this to be so? Will this approach impact how we all interact going forward?

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9 Responses to “Service of the Language of the Lazy: Name-Calling Beats Learning the Facts”

  1. David Reich Said:

    I am sure there will be many books written about this campaign and abo0ut how Trump managed to hijack the whole process. Part of the reason he has been able to get away with this childish behavior and bamboozle so many Americans is because he is a celebrity. The reality show he starred in was hardly reality. It portrayed him as the ultimate successful businessman, so wise in his pronouncements. The boardroom in the show, which was actually a set and not his office or boardroom, was made to elevate him practically to the level of royalty. And there was no one on the show to comment on or correct all of his exaggerated boasting about his company and his projects. They were all simply “the biggest,” “the best,” “the smartest.” And it was “reality,” so many viewers bought the con.

    So as a candidate, those same people and others who’ve perhaps been frustrated by their own lack of success and upward mobility bought his hype and latched on to his anger at “the establishment” who they think has kept them down.

    Unfortunately, many of us who saw through his hype and lack of substance from the beginning didn’t take him seriously so we just shook our heads and waited for him to blow himself up. Crazy that it hasn’t happened, until the debates began and he exposed himself for what he is — a bad hombre filled with lots of hate.

  2. David Reich Said:

    I think the months after the election will be interesting. Hopefully, there will be some real blowback from all the hatred and divisiveness Trump has brought out. I think/hope there will be a movement — whether fueled by politicians, religious and lay leaders, and maybe even some corporate backers who might see some PR or marketing payoff to backing a “bring us back together” movement.

    If Hillary wins, I hope she will assemble some apolitical group to work on bridging the divide and making us one nation again — a nation with differing political viewpoints, but a nation that can at least talk and work together in a civil, respectful tone.

    I think many people are sick and tired of what’s been happening.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I agree: many are literally sickened by what’s happening. Discourse on Facebook turns nasty in a second with name-calling similar to Trump’s reflecting flashing tempers out of control. I’ve been called a liar. The writer doesn’t know me. Is a person you don’t agree with a liar? L A Z Y response. It also stops discourse. I wasn’t going to waste time conversing with that person.

    I’m hopeful that your idea for a program with teeth comes out of this. Award businesses and organizations –such as The Christophers–that promote hope, courtesy and understanding, with tangible grants or rewards and publicity. Anger promoted at the level of a presidential campaign spreads and is palpable and energizes at every turn, hatred between people of different religions, nationalities, regions, industries, ages–you name it. As the world becomes increasingly crowded tolerance is even more important.

    One of the benefits of education is to encourage students to question information. As our educational system is trending towards knowing the answers to questions in a “choose the best answer” format–if that–no wonder so many believe what they see and hear. They have not been encouraged to think. A person repeats “I’m a business genius,” so they must be. People I otherwise admire have told me this about Trump when the evidence is that he wins by bamboozling and threatening–not a model for President or business executive in my opinion.

  4. CG Said:

    I totally agree with David’s comments about Trump. Without his ridiculous TV show (who watches that garbage???) he would be just another loud-mouthed narcissist and misogynistic demagogue who hates everyone who disagrees with him. Yes, he’s bamboozled a lot of people. No doubt, these are the voters who are so ignorant of basic facts about our government and how it operates that they can’t even name its three branches. They would call me elitist. I call myself informed.

    David, great idea about Hillary forming an apolitical group to work on bridging the divide. Given the climate in this country, this is going to be essential.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Trump is a master marketer and Americans are used to responding Pavlov-dog like to pitches. He is so masterful he’s hardly had to spend a cent on advertising. [And whose fault is that?] Reminds me of friends of my parents who had a genius child they let run all over them until she was unmanageable and eight and a person nobody wanted to be around, including them. The media welcomed Trump to center stage and now many are sorry.

    In addition to an initiative to turn around the hate in this country we need one to shorten the primary and election periods. [I know, it’s off topic.]

    In my early 20s, I was stuck without a car in a little town in the middle of nowhere with no friends. [I was newly married and a new Air Force wife. We lived off-base in a small Illinois town–my husband took the car to work at 5 a.m. and needed the car while on base to get around. We had just arrived.] Without transportation, I couldn’t get a job. So on occasion I’d watch “Divorce Court,” on daytime TV produced for an audience of women and each instance illustrated a lineup of mean men. On his return from work my mood told my husband in ten seconds if I’d seen a segment. TV can impact the best and worst of us. With little else going on in a person’s life I can see how people’s TV standards might drop to watch Trump’s fake reality TV show. I was lucky: It was a short tour and at the next base I had a job, a lot of friends and plenty to keep me busy. Not everyone is so fortunate.

  6. Lucrezia Said:

    Much depends upon how one perceives insults, and from whom they come. Those of the Trump variety are crude, infantile and laughable. The man’s no dummy, reads overly sensitive people, and rightly sees this as a source of free publicity, and possibly a road to the White House. Perhaps he’s to be blamed for the disruptions he’s causing, but those gullible enough to take him seriously share the responsibility for whatever consequences arise.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    We will all suffer because of the gullible if he wins, is the problem, and the aftermath if he doesn’t–a carpet of anger that he’s unrolled–could also hurt the innocent.

    Media–or the owners of the TV, radio and newspaper empires–that encouraged and egged him on for their short term gains hopefully won’t learn a tough lesson the hard way.

  8. hb Said:

    I vividly recall one time during the late 1970s, when I experienced firsthand what happens when the rule of law no longer applies. (After all, what you are really talking about here is barbarian behavior — the way uncivilized savages deal with one another and settle disputes.)

    I was a director of a Nigerian bank, and frequently attended board meetings in Lagos. This time, the city was awash in political speculation as to the possibility that the Moslem northerners might momentarily stage a coup d’état and overthrow Nigeria’s duly elected government. (The British had left behind, when they left after Independence, both European institutions such as a parliament, elections and the common law, but those reached only skin deep into the fabric of nationhood.

    As might be expected, the directors seemed quite nervous at the meeting. About half way through it, I noticed a young bank officer, whom I knew to be capable, come in to the board room and whisper something into the chairman’s ear. The chairman calmly interrupted the proceedings to inform the board that the rumors about a coup now warranted being taken seriously, that he was accelerating the pace of the meeting to bring it quickly to an end and that a reception and dinner scheduled for later that evening were being cancelled.

    I noticed my dynamic and charismatic French colleague and fellow director, Edouard Finot, who was seated next to the chairman, quickly say something to him. I caught Edouard ‘s eye. Minutes later, he was beside me, “You ready. There are only two more flights out before they close the airport. Who knows when they will reopen it again.” A few minutes after that, the two of us were in a bank car on a back road with its driver and the young bank officer. Of course, we had no airplane reservations, just passports and traveler’s checks, no luggage just a handbag. (It was smart then to travel light in Africa.) We stayed on the back roads all the way out, because the airport highway would have been clogged to a stop by citizenry fleeing the city.

    We entered the airport through a disused back gate and drove on the tarmac to the terminal, where, away from the main hall of the terminal, which was jammed with humanity seeking to flee the country, we were met by an awesomely imposing figure of a formidable, not less than 300 pound, female of indeterminate age – one of West Africa’s famous “market mamas.” Even the supposedly unflappable Finot was taken aback. The Nigerians, all except the young bank officer who was only deferential, seemed to be terrified by her. She shooed us into an unoccupied office and took our passports and tickets for our previously booked flights, and departed barking orders, (To talk of abusive language!), as she went by in that ferocious voice of hers, all in sundry scattering here and there before her. Half an hour later she was back and handed us our passports franked by Nigerian passport control, and two First Class boarding passes for a Caledonian flight to Gatwick leaving in 20 minutes.

    An hour later, as I sipped my scotch and soda at 28,000 feet on the jammed plane, I mulled over the unfairness of it all, the sorry fate of those two passengers whose seats we were sitting in, leave apart that mass of frightened humanity at the airport. What sort of society can long usefully exist where the only thing that counts is power and money? I’ll admit, though, that I also realized, when you’ve got them, it’s all too easy to become used to a comfortable seat and a scotch and soda on demand no matter at what cost.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You had me at the edge of my seat! What a story.

    I well know the benefits of being among the leaders or well-connected, especially when in a pinch. But some people exaggerate and beat with sticks anyone who tries to reach up. They only deal with and are interested in helping people who can do them some good. That’s one reason we are where we are; why Bernie Sanders resonated with so many people and yet another reason that DJ Trump doesn’t make any sense to me. How do so many people believe he wants to help them? His whole life has been about helping himself.

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