A Race to Save American Discourse
“Donald Trump’s [debate] performance consisted mainly of an incoherent jumble of sniffles and nonsense.” —John Oliver
“When [Trump] talks, I actually understand what he’s saying… But, like, when fricking Hillary Clinton talks, it just sounds like a bunch of bullshit.” —Pennsylvanian Trump supporter
“You’re part of the establishment.” —CNN reporter, to Hillary Clinton.
“I just don’t understand what that means.” —Hillary Clinton, to reporter.
Americans no longer know how to talk to each other. During the 2016 presidential campaign, the novelist George Saunders explained that we had become “two separate ideological countries … speaking different languages,” while journalist Nathan Heller lamented the “collapse of public discourse.” This sounded bad enough, but when we heard Kanye West describe Donald Trump’s speaking style as “very futuristic,” we knew we could no longer stand idly by. We hope you will join us in “The Crisis of Language Project,” a new initiative to restore the possibility of communication in our beleaguered republic.
Project objective: In order to facilitate mutual comprehension, we will assemble a pocket dictionary. This phrasebook will help us express ourselves effectively and understand each other with ease, no matter our political differences.
As you’ll see below, we have begun to chip away at this daunting task. But we will never get it right all on our own: we need your help. Please submit entry suggestions for a chance to have yours published in the next issue of the magazine. You can do this by filling out the form below, or via Facebook, or by tweeting your ideas to us (@the_point_mag) with the hashtag #langcrisis. Check out the sample entries below—and feel free to improve on them!
Submission deadline: December 15, 2016.
Prize: If your contribution makes it into the final dictionary, you’ll get credit in the magazine and be awarded a one-year subscription, in addition to having the satisfaction of having helped revive American democracy. (Current subscribers will have the option of receiving a free back issue or gift subscription.)
America: i) previously great. ii) already great. iii) never great.
Economics: the opposite of race. “Actually, ~ explains everything.”
Electoral college: i) body designed to ensure less prominent regions have a voice in the election of the president and thus mitigate geographical inequality. ii) conservative conspiracy to destroy America. iii) liberal conspiracy to destroy America.
Empathy: i) how you solve differences in politics. ii) “What is ~?”
Great: i) America. ii) not great.
Global warming: i) genocide. ii) left-wing conspiracy to steal jobs from the white working class.
Immigrants: i) not great. ii) “We are a nation of ~.”
Imports: i) not great. ii) “Without ~, no more IKEA.”
Internet: i) greatest force of democratization since the Second World War. ii) bubble.
Intersectionality: use in place of innovation when talking to academics.
Liberal: i) left wing. ii) liberal. iii) conservative. iv) “Actually, it’s all the ~s’ fault.”
Locker-room talk: i) I’m not sorry. ii) “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” —Harvard soccer team.
Mansplaining: i) an act induced by a lack of girl-understanding. ii) “You see, neither explanation nor understanding is gendered. So basically, if you think about it, what I’m saying is, the idea of ~ is sexist.”
Misogynist: a liberal who thinks Bernie Sanders would have won the election.
Politics: i) emotions. ii) memes.
Polling: ancient twentieth-century form of necromancy.
Race: the opposite of economics. “Actually, ~ explains everything.”
Racism: i) systemic. ii) psychological. iii) the new queer.
Science: i) solution to everything. ii) liberal conspiracy to undermine America.
Science and technology: solution to everything.
White working class: what you call the working class once it stops voting for you.
To get you started, here are a few incomplete entries: