Living Columns & Blogs

Trump’s burst of bad language shows good manners have undergone a dramatic revision today

President Donald Trump listens during a dinner with European business leaders at the World Economic Forum, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, in Davos.
President Donald Trump listens during a dinner with European business leaders at the World Economic Forum, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, in Davos. AP

I thought, “Shall it be Ivory or Octagon?”

I was pondering the choice of soap to be used to rinse out our president’s mouth after his use of the scatological word that set off worldwide consternation and criticism.

The “s-word,” as we shall call it, is hands down to become the Word of the Year in American politics. The president has denied using the word with Congressional leaders when discussing how to deal with the immigration issue. He reportedly asked why the U.S. keeps accepting immigrants from African “s---hole” countries instead of newcomers from such prosperous countries as Norway.

Several Congress members in the group confirmed the report; others said they did not recall his making the offensive comment.

The fact that critics who’ve been keeping count report that President Trump has publicly lied more than 2,000 times during his first year in office doesn’t enhance his reputation for veracity.

Rarely, if ever, has such locker-room language resulted in such far-reaching repercussions. The president canceled a trip to Britain, fearing a cool reception.

Ambassadors have resigned. Some lawmakers vowed to boycott the president’s State of the Union address.

At first, some media, both electronic and print, avoided using the actual word, preferring “s-word” instead. But it wasn’t long before the actual word made its way into print and over the airwaves.

The president’s violation of good taste brings to mind a comment from a late friend who, upon hearing some public figure or even others resort to unseemly language, would inevitably say, “He ain’t got no more manners than a yard dog!”

Apparently what once constituted good manners has undergone a dramatic revision in today’s culture.

Good suggestion

Let’s change the subject with a few soul-cleansing lines from poet Sara Teasdale:

Spend all you have for loveliness,

Buy it and never count the cost;

For one white singing hour of peace

Count many a year of strife well lost, ...

Good insurance

Sexual harassment has, in effect, come out of the closet, and the women of America aren’t going to take it any more. As a result, men are now far more sensitive to the issue than they have been in the past.

For example, I read recently that Vice President Mike Pence does not dine alone with any woman unless his wife is present, though The Washington Post reported this practice has been in place for years.

Royal pen pal

It is human nature for many among us to touch the hem of greatness, i.e., make contact with prominent figures whom we admire.

Mary Randolph Newcomb of Raleigh recently shared a copy of a letter from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

“I wrote because she’s my age and I’ve watched her career all my life,” Newcomb wrote.

Her Majesty’s reply, written on Buckingham Palace letterhead by the Queen’s Lady-in-Waiting wrote, “Her Majesty was pleased to hear from you, and I am to tell you how touched the queen has been by the wonderful response to her milestone on 21st April.” She also wished Newcomb a happy birthday.

Newcomb plans to frame the letter and hang it in a place of honor, to perhaps become a keepsake for generations to come.

Shiver my timbers!

Well, shiver my timbers! Two snowfalls in January alone. With a winter like this one hitting the sunny South, we might as well move to Alaska.

Well, not really. I checked on what Alaska is like in winter. Think about coping with 60 to 90 inches of snowfall a year.

And if you thought our recent below-freezing weather remarkable, consider Alaska’s record low of 80 degrees below zero on January 23, 1971.

Although my wife and I enjoyed a delightful summer vacation in our 49th state, not even a gold rush could lure me back in winter.

Bird coping

During our occasional winter blasts that bring snow and ice and bone-chilling weather, I inevitably wonder, “How do the birds stay warm?” It’s a nagging concern for bird lovers in particular.

According to sources, birds fluff up their feathers, allowing air to enter between them. Then, the bird’s natural body heat warms the trapped air. Some birds deliberately shiver to generate more warmth. Birds also seek out thickly foliaged evergreens such as cedars and magnolias that offer some protection against the elements.

But how does a bird keep its feet warm? It stands on one leg, locking the foot around the perch while tucking the other leg and foot under its feathers, alternating the legs from time to time. Also, birds tend to seek warmth by huddling against each other. The lucky ones huddle together in the birdhouses that we erect for them.