Wow! Mike Bloomberg (newly announced candidate for president) has apologized to Cory Booker for calling him, “well-spoken.” Horror of horrors!
He was criticized for his comment which, to me, sounds like a compliment. Honestly, I would love to be known as well-spoken. But then, I’m not into the whole “woke,” PC thing. Booker was apparently, “Taken aback” by the comment. Critics called the compliment…er, slur…a “racist trope.”
Quite honestly, I’m more offended by the word, trope, than the term well-spoken (mostly because I don’t know what trope means). I would love to take a vote among all Americans to see what percentage of folks would find it insulting to be known as well-spoken. Things have changed. When I was in high school, my teachers always drilled it into our heads that we should work hard at becoming well-spoken. I never quite achieved that high plateau, but I’m still trying. Maybe I should quit while I’m behind.
Interestingly enough, after Kamala Harris dropped out of the presidential sweepstakes, Booker made the comment, “It is a problem that we now have an overall campaign for the 2020 presidency, that has more billionaires in it than black people.” Bloomberg, of course, is a billionaire. That’s two strikes, Michael.
Actually, I was kidding earlier when I said I didn’t know the definition of the word, trope. But to be truthful, I’m guessing most people don’t know that particular word at all. It’s only come into vogue during the past couple of years. It’s been around for centuries, but very few people actually used it during the course of everyday conversation. A trope is a figure of speech that moves the meaning of the text from literal to figurative. An example of a common trope would be, “Stop and smell the roses.” When you say it, you probably aren’t talking about roses per se. Fortunately, everyone gets it.
Recently, people have used another trope to point to tropes they don’t like. That trope is “dog whistle.” They don’t literally mean dog whistle. They mean that someone is using a trope that only certain people will hear and understand. Understand? I know. It can be confusing.
A Ticking Time Bomb
It used to be that everyone knew a trope when they heard it (even if they didn’t know that the technical name for it was trope). For example: If someone said, “This is a ticking time bomb,” we knew they weren’t literally referring to an actual explosive device.
Unfortunately, today we’re coming up with new tropes that no-one immediately gets—like “well-spoken” or “hired help.” I once used the term, hired help, and almost got my head handed to me. I had to explain that all of us in the office—including me—were the hired help.
It’s getting to the place where I would like someone to compile a comprehensive list of what I’m allowed to say. One of my pet peeves is having the English language stolen out from under my nose. See what I did there?
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]