Siouxland Observer

MS.ED

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Trump’s Ellipsis Problem*


Ask Alexa, or any voice-controlled device about an ellipsis, and you will probably hear



“an ellipsis (plural ellipses from the Ancient Greek, ἔλλειψις, élleipsis) is an "omission," or a "falling short,” represented by a series of dots (typically three "…”) that indicates an intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section from a text without altering its original meaning.”

The ellipsis, for example, used in the first sentence above stands in for missing words — well one, anyway — which, would have been, “that.”

An ellipsis also represents a continuing thought, or sentence (below the YouTube video, in this example), and is frequently used on Twitter because of its limited use of characters. President Donald Trump uses Twitter a lot. Unfortunately, he has not checked his punctuation guide.



In this Twitter post, readers will notice that President Trump has used five periods (…..), instead of three — which, of course, would be an ellipsis.  Also, because his ellipsis (if, in fact, that's what his dots represent) comes at the end of a statement, the President should have made it four dots, not five.

Lauren Kessler, and Duncan McDonald, in their media writer’s guide, When Words Collide, wrote that a period should always be used with an ellipsis, if the ellipsis is at the end of a statement.

Thus, this grammatical error becomes more than a troubling faux pas, it raises doubt about what the President is actually saying, and sows confusion among those of us who fear the President’s lack of attention to detail is more than just meat to his base, but also represents a serious disregard for education, and the many cultural traditions that have made our colleges and universities the best in the world.

None of us is better than anyone else.  We all have inalienable rights, and especially in America.  And, as much as I hate to admit it, that includes Donald Trump and his supporters.  That doesn’t mean our President should avoid dictionaries and style books.  Heck, today dictionaries and style books can be dialed up on most televisions.  If only….

Democracy did not originate with the founding of the United States, says ushistory.org.  “The term ‘democracy’ comes from two Greek words: ‘demos’ (the people) and ‘kratia’ (power or authority). So of course democracy is a form of government that gives power to the people….

“Democracies are based on ‘rule of law.’ The ancient Greeks (particularly Aristotle) valued Natural Law, the notion that human societies should be governed by ethical principles found in nature. The Greeks are famous for practicing Direct Democracy, a system in which citizens meet to discuss all policy, and then make decisions by majority rule.”

Aristotle also handed down the foundations of our written language. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, he believed we, like all others from his time and ours, glean reason on the basis of endoxa (beliefs and opinion).

Thus we need some “method by which we will be able to reason deductively about any matter proposed to us on the basis of endoxa, and to give an account of ourselves — when we are under examination by an interlocutor (a person who takes part in a dialogue or conversation) — without lapsing into contradiction.”

On the corner of Mangrove and Palmetto (circa 1989, in Chico, California), I was in Lyon's sitting in the bar, filling up on hors d'oeuvres, and drinking happy-hour red wine.

As we write (or speak or Tweet), we must be impeccable in our presentations, or as Aristotle said, have ethos, (a characteristic spirit of our culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations).

Aristotle, in his 4th century treatise The Art of Rhetoric, believed ethos was the first of three artistic proofs, or modes of persuasion, which also included pathos (an emotion of sympathetic pity) and logos (reason that in ancient Greek philosophy is the controlling principle in the universe).  Thus, these artistic proofs should guide all communication.  And in the written word, of course, good grammar helps too.

I’ve spent 30-plus years trying to learn how to craft good writing; I try to write everyday, and one day I hope to be better at it.  I first learned about the ellipsis at a Lyon’s Restaurant, a kind-of upscale Denny's in northern California that closed its last restaurant in 2012.

On the corner of Mangrove and Palmetto (circa 1989, in Chico, California), I was in Lyon's sitting in the bar, filling up on hors d'oeuvres, and drinking happy-hour red wine.

After trying to write another masterpiece in my journal, I decided to check out the bookcases lining the bar’s “study.”  Among the dusty, garage-sale books on display, I found a book on grammar that actually brought relief to a rather sad, uneventful afternoon.  A handful of barfly's looked on in amusement as I studied the book. They thought I was being ridiculous, except for the fact I'd found something I wanted to read.

Study, reading and writing is essential in our culture, not to mention it can bring dignity. Understanding, and accepting, others (in America and elsewhere) is an important part of our democracy. Even those who find excitement in learning how to use an ellipsis, study Standard English, or do whatever they do in pursuit of personal happiness, it should never come at the expense of others — a goal all leaders should foster.

None of us is better than anyone else.  We all have inalienable rights, and especially here in America. And, as much as I hate to admit it, that includes Donald Trump and his supporters. That doesn’t mean our President should avoid dictionaries and style books. Heck, today's dictionaries and style books can be dial up on most televisions….


 Lyon's “library” was in back with the forest pines.

* Every computer, iPhone, iPod Touch … can create an ellipsis.  What is the advantage to this? Three periods take up three characters, says ricksvault, an ellipsis only takes one. That may not sound like much, but when you are squeezing text and links into 140 characters it can make a difference. The key command is pretty simple: 
Mac OS: option + ; (that is holding down the “option” key and pressing the semicolon) 
Windows: ALT + 0133…. 

(Photo: Google Maps.)