There are 171,476 words in the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, from common — the definition of “set” runs 22 closely-packed pages — to pleasantly obscure: “aglet,” for instance, the hard tube at the tip of a shoelace.
Quite a lot, really. But not enough to cover the range and complexity of human experience, judging from other languages, which have words for concepts that we can’t express in a single term. The Japanese word mibojin comes to mind: it means “widow,” though its literal translation is “not-yet-dead person” with all the harsh implications of superfluousness: a woman without a husband is just sitting around waiting to die.
Perhaps another language can serve up the elusive word to describe how I’m feeling toward Donald Trump. Readers certainly offer their opinions:
“Why the hate for TRUMP every single day” writes J.T. Kozlov, forgetting his interrogative punctuation.
“Your level of anger and hate is debilitating,” Stephen Hardy writes.
“All you do is write about how you hate Trump,” writes Ron Olovich.
I could give 100 more examples. They believe I’m criticizing Trump — not every day, I must point out — because I hate him. Trump himself flings the word about. “The hatred and extreme bias of me by CNN has clouded their thinking” he tweeted Thursday. It’s easy to see why. With “hate,” Trump and his fans can pretend he isn’t being criticized fairly, but out of blind animus. Projecting hate upon the president’s critics ignores their valid complaints. It’s in harmony with the frothing, head-exploding reaction they like to image takes place among those they sneer at as “libtards,” horrified by Trump’s unending vandalism against our country, its laws, traditions and values.
Back in the non-fantasy world, all the libs I know are in full if grim possession of their unexploded heads, while of course giving those heads frequent sad shakes of amazement.
“Amazed” is closer to the mark, but not quite right. “Shocked”? Not anymore.
Not hate. I certainly don’t hate him. He’s hardly worth hating. Honestly, if Americans elected a dog as president, would you hate the dog?
What’s the right word?
I groped for it again after Aretha Franklin died, and the first words out of Trump’s mouth were “she worked for me.” Because everything has to be about himself. How could you hate such crippling narcissism? “Pity” is more apt. He was referring to some gigs Franklin did at his casino, but that’s like my saying Bruce Springsteen worked for me, because I paid for a ticket, he took the money and sang.
Nothing makes Trump feel important enough, apparently, at least not for long. Which is so pathological, because he’s president of the United States, and rich, and the global cynosure (good word, “a person or thing that is the center of attention or admiration”). That’s why, when Sen. John McCain died Saturday, Trump at first refused to lower the White House flag to half-staff. Because McCain was everything Trump is not; a hero, for starters.
Narcissism isn’t unique to Donald Trump. We all suffer from some degree of vanity. We all occasionally look at life in the funhouse mirror of ourselves. I sure do. It’s a handicap. You survey the wide wonders of our glorious world distorted, and your eyes keep returning to one particular person — you! — sitting forward in his chair, arm extended, waving: “ooo, ooo, me me me!”
So what’s the word? Something expressing disgust in the unseemly fallout of another person’s grandiosity? It calls for one of those enormous compound German words. Maybe I can cobble one together. Hmmm … let’s see …
“Luftschloss” literally means “castle in the air” and is a German idiom for someone suffering delusions of grandeur. “Modder” means “mud” And “müde” is exhaustion. Strung together we get luftschlossmoddermüde,” or “tired of the filth being flung by an egomaniac.” That sounds a lot more to-the-point than “hate.”
For a long time, Trump’s outrages were met with a cry of “This is not normal.” That phrase rings hollower and hollower as the months unfold. It should instead be, “This was not normal.” Because it certainly is the new normality we are saddled with today and for the foreseeable future. I wish I could prescribe a cure for the luftschlossmoddermüde that patriotic Americans living in the fact-based world are feeling lately. At least now we have a word for it.