I've been told that it's very hard to find a single educated person in the US and you can walk the entire length and breadth of this massive country for months without encountering a single literate person but I'm sure that's a cruel exaggeration. But it is a fact that whenever a person exposes his lack of education on an internet platform, he is more likely to be American. Years ago, on an Internet forum, a few Americans made fun of me because I spelt 'spelt' that way. They were insistent that 'spelled' was the only correct spelling for the past and past participle of the verb and anything else was an error.
I'm reminded of this experience of mine when I read this article from the Washington Post written by one of their 'political reporters' Dana Milbank. I've not heard of him before but a cursory glance through his badly-written and incredibly puerile article that closely resembles a taunting session in a kindergarten playground and in a language that matches the immaturity of toddlers, assures me that Milbank must consider himself very fortunate to be working for a fake news website and not a respectable newspaper.
Milbank writes in the characteristic style of an illiterate who is careful not to expose his lack of education. By casting his entire article as an attempt at parodying Trump's honest language, he hopes to evade censure for his own language errors and there are many that the careful eye can detect. All one has to do is to read on and wait for the writer to criticise Trump's language. Illiterates usually know far too little to get their criticism right. Nothing shows up a person's lack of education more conclusively than his assertion that someone else is wrong in his language when grammarians and lexicographers are all agreed that he is not wrong.
Milbank lambastes Trump repeatedly for his spelling of 'judgement' instead of 'judgment'. There is nothing more brazen and audacious than a news reporter harshly criticising the President for a supposed spelling error he himself is obviously not sure of. But I have encountered many American illiterates who are equally loud and obnoxious when they really know nothing at all about the subject they profess to be experts on.
Any educated person must know that the word 'judgement' can be spelt with or without the central 'e'. As the grammarian Robert Burchfield wrote in 1996 with regard to whether it should be spelt 'judgement' or 'judgment', 'The presence or absence of -e- is not a matter of correctness or the reverse, but just one of convention in various publishing houses.' Just in case some illiterate liberal argues that the language has changed since then, Jeremy Butterfield repeated in 2015 the very words of Burchfield on the question of whether the central 'e' in 'judgement' ought to be dispensed with. And this is not just a recent development. Henry Fowler in 1926 recommends the spelling 'judgement' as 'more reasonable' and he says this accords with the spelling accepted in the OED (the definitive Oxford English Dictionary in 20 volumes). Sir Ernest Gowers agrees with Fowler on the spelling of 'judgement'. Gowers further adds that a distinction is sometimes made between 'judgment' for a judicial pronouncement and 'judgement' for all other purposes but he wonders if this may be 'too subtle for popular taste.' This in fact is the convention of the Oxford University Press.
Whatever convention you follow, no educated person will pronounce either spelling as wrong but Milbank repeatedly singles out this perfectly correct spelling of Trump's for censure and labels it a 'mistake' and 'unorthodox spelling'. Of course we do not expect an illiterate journalist from the fake press to know what grammarians have to say about English spelling or the English language in general; English is no doubt a language that is as alien to Milbank as Arabic is to Trump. And if you think I'm wrong to place Washington Post in the category of fake press, I will cite no less an authority than the President of the United States himself, whose soundness of judgement (correct spelling!) nobody can reasonably dispute. Surely the President of a country must know which newspaper in his own country is rightly branded 'fake press'?
Even if Milbank's education is inadequate and he didn't go to any establishment institution called 'school' and he didn't have the opportunity of studying elite subjects such as English, the least he could do before criticising another person's spelling is to look it up himself in a dictionary. If Milbank had been a journalist with a respectable newspaper (and not a fake news publication), it would be hard to believe that any editor would have tolerated such a disgraceful error on his part.
Like most illiterates who love to use words they don't know the meaning of, Milbank does precisely this when he describes one of Trump's spelling slip-ups as 'a felicitous phonics failure'. How on earth can a failure be described as 'felicitous'? He probably means 'infelicitous' or perhaps he wanted a word that could add to the alliteration and in his characteristically sloppy way, he just threw in the word 'felicitous' even if it is sure to offend the sensibility of any educated person.
Are Milbank's linguistic flaws evidence of a lack of intelligence or are they an indication of inherent sloppiness and recklessness? The incessant flow of grammatical errors and misspelt obscenities online made by Liberal Loonies who slavishly support Hillary Clinton and viciously attack President Trump suggests the same (though this may be because they are Mexicans or Arabs who are a part of the 2 million non-citizens who voted illegally for Clinton).
NOTE: If you are interested in an index of all posts in this blog that examine the use and, more often, the abuse of language, please click here.