SOU Linguistics Professor Writes a Book About the History of Presidential InsultsHistorians in the News
tags: presidential politics
In his new book, “Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels,” Southern Oregon University professor Edwin Battistella details the vicious, scurrilous and often laughable ways American political operatives have used name-calling to provoke and besmirch foes in the top job.
Before the internet — and especially Twitter — name-calling was the reserve of respected and thoughtful pundits and high-level operatives of parties. But, says Battistella, with the explosion of the digital web 25 years ago, anyone could and did vilify politicians with epithets, some of which would become instantly viral, such as “Slick Willy” for Bill Clinton or “wimp” for George H.W. Bush.
Epithets are often infused with attacks on sexuality, intelligence and honesty — and pull in comparisons with animals such as snakes, baboons and small dogs, Battistella notes. They are bullies, clowns, racists, despots, drunkards and cowards — and any president had best be ready to hear them daily and be able to brush them off.
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