Friday, June 17, 2016

Political Linguistics: Should "Bigly" Be Used More?

As we've mentioned before, it's nearly impossible to escape the non-stop coverage of the upcoming U.S. presidential election, especially when you live in the United States like I do. While it can get incredibly annoying (and depressing), there's always the occasional news story related to language that piques my interest.

Back in November, we looked at Donald Trump's use of the word "loser", and pondered whether such insults were appropriate for a presidential candidate. This week, however, he has taken the internet by storm by repeatedly using a new word he seemingly created just for his campaign: "bigly".

While he has been mocked in just about every publication for the slip, it turns out that he technically didn't invent the word, since it's an archaic term.

Generally when we invent words, it's to fill a lexical gap, since we don't already have a word to describe whatever it is that the word describes. In the case of "bigly", there are a number of synonyms that can be used instead, since the "-ly" suffix in English can be added to many English adjectives to turn them into adverbs. Examples include tremendously, greatly, enormously, hugely, and exceptionally.

So, should "bigly" now be adopted into mainstream usage since a prominent businessman and presidential hopeful dominating news coverage around the world has started saying it? Given a large number of better alternatives, I'd say no.

However, if you disagree, and feel like "bigly" deserves to generally accepted as an English word instead of being used mockingly by the news media, let us know why in the comments below!