SOCIAL SCIENCES

Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels: Insulting the President, from Washington to Trump

Oxford Univ. Apr. 2020. 232p. ISBN 9780190050900. pap. $14.95. COMM
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Battistella (linguistics & writing, Southern Oregon University, Ashland; Bad Language: Are Some Words Better Than Others?) presents a short but insightful and informative history of presidential insults (“phrases or actions that express contempt or derision”) in an engaging, sometimes anecdotal style, that teaches readers the difference between criticism and insult. Moving chronologically through every U.S. presidency, investigating how each leader came into office and what was said (insultingly) of every one of them, while interspersing an occasional “etymological exploration” in which an arcane word or phrase is explained in greater historical context, the author reveals how Kim Jong Un’s reference to Donald Trump as a dotard revived a 19th-century insult also applied to Andrew Jackson and James Buchanan. Most readers are likely to find the sections on recent leaders the most pertinent. The final chapter is a categorized glossary of presidential insults followed by a useful list of sources.
VERDICT This authoritative handbook reveals how insults have always been a part of American politics

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