Tag Archives: Trump

Falling in love with @MerriamWebster in the era of Trump (and his budget proposals)

I grew up with dictionaries. I have had my own dictionary for as long as I can remember. Even now, when I walk by one of those BIG dictionaries on a pedestal in the library, with the leather binding and almost translucent thin paper, I will run my finger down the page and read the words. I am usually looking for some word I haven’t heard of, or an etymology of a word I was unaware of, but curious about, and sometimes just to remind myself of words I already know. There continues to be something alluring about the book, and the form of the book as a vessel of knowledge.

Because of this intimate, longstanding affair with books, I have to admit to being slow to commit to any one dictionary online. My searches for meaning online have become more opportunistic, focused, yet strangely scattered, and entirely dependent upon where in the world I am when I am searching and which search engine I am using. The variety did not bother me because there was nothing particular about any of the online dictionary platforms, they could have all been the same because they felt the same. And then last fall, I saw Merriam-Webster across a crowded twitter-scape, and I caught my breath and thought, I never knew how much we needed a dictionary in our social lives at this moment. They won me over with tweets like:

We’re seeing a spike for both ‘ombre’ and ‘hombre’. Not the same thing. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hombre …


*whispers into the void* In contemporary use, fact is understood to refer to something with actual existence. https://www.merriam-webster.com/news-trend-watch/conway-alternative-facts-20170122 …

I went from being an occasional user of @MerriamWebster to subscribing and following them. On March 16 I recognized my growing need to touch base with the dictionary as I read the FY18 Budget proposal from the White House. As I looked through it, excavating the many meanings embedded in words used, I felt like I was engaged in some paranoid action, but it was the best way not to panic and gave me a feeling of control through words. I found myself thinking at various points during my read of the budget proposal: words have multiple meanings and interpretations; words can combat words; we just need a good argument made of specific words; words, words, words… (although to be fair, the cynic in me rolled her eyes at the idea that the current White House even cared about words).

It is probably the only thing I do have access to, words and arguments. But where and how those words are used, needs to be reassessed and re-imagined (for example, see a recent post by Alex on intervening on Wikipedia here). I don’t think we’ve (collectively as Anthropologists) have figured it out yet, but @MerriamWebster has hit their stride.

Continue reading

Reader Letters #2: Trump Edition

Here’s the second round of Savage Minds Reader Letters! We asked our readers to share their thoughts about anthropology in the Trump era for this round, and we got some great responses. Thanks for sending your letters, and keep an eye out for the next call. We need more letters!! –RA

The descent into incivility?

In your “Call for Reader letters:” you reminded us to “recognize that when you are critical of people’s ideas, you are also ultimately being critical of them as well.

Donald Trump was not only critical of the ideas of Democrats but was particularly critical of Senator Elizabeth Warren when he taunted Democrats by saying “Pocahontas — his insult of choice — is now the face of your party“.  From an anthropological perspective, Trump is changing the rules of discourse among civilized people developed in Greece and China hundreds of years ago to avoid conflicts.

Rules of discourse are a part of civility. Civility can be confused with disengaging from others so as not to offend, which Trump disparages as “political correctness”.

Trump’s 140 character tweets are mostly used to influence with mocking, ridicule and “alternative facts”. In a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) survey teachers said schoolchildren are adopting Trump’s overall tone of more hatred for more people. (3)

Civil discourse generally requires agreement on a common set of facts. Modern communication tools, like Twitter, however, mean anyone with access to a computer has access to a megaphone to broadcast their unquestioned, “alternative facts”.

During a hard fought presidential campaign John McCain praised Barack Obama for a terrific speech that “comforted and inspired the country” and performed an important service by encouraging “every American who participates in our political debates to aspire to a more generous appreciation of one another and a more modest one of ourselves.” (4)

Senator McCain was almost prescient, asking Americans to aspire to a “more modest appreciation of ourselves” when one of the most immodest men in history is now President of the United States. Hopefully anthropologists will not look on 2017 as the year America began a descent into incivility.

-William M. Smith Continue reading

Call for Reader Letters: Trump & Anthropology (DEADLINE 2/20/17)

In December we published our first installment of our new Reader Letters series. This time around, we’d like to hear what you, our readers, have to say about the new US President, Donald J. Trump. What will Trump’s America mean for the country, and for US anthropology? As anthropologists, how can we approach the social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental implications of the Trump era? What does his election, inauguration, and rise to power portend for the coming years? What do you think? Let us know!

Please keep the following guidelines: letters should be no longer than 250 words and should address issues covered in Savage Minds and relevant to anthropology, broadly construed. As with traditional letters to the editor, all letters must include the writer’s full name; anonymous letters will not be considered. For general guidelines refer to our comments policy. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified before publication. Letters may be subject to minor editing for clarity.

Send your letter in the body of an email (not an attachment) to ryananderson@uky.edu. You can also send me a DM via twitter: @anthropologia. Deadline for submission is February 20 and we plan to publish by March 1, 2017.