It’s the evening of 15 November 2017. Donald Trump was elected President of the United States over a year ago. It is time for us liberals to stop using the word “bigly” as an ironic critique of the man. We’ve had our fun. But the word has now reached a point were it hardly refers to Trump and acts in a silly and idiosyncratic way as “in the day” does (for me anyway).
Yes, of course, “bigly” is a word. So are “um” and “uh” and “irregardless.” Just because something is a word doesn’t mean sensible people should use it.
“Big” is an adjective. It modifies a noun. And understandably so. Things have sizes. But if we take “bigly” to be an adverb, it would generally modify a verb. And how often do we talk about the size of an action? Not often. “Tianna Bartoletta jumped bigly at the 2016 Olympics”?! No one says that. It’s not even really correct because “bigly” is not really modifying her act of jumping but the result of it.
Now I’m sure that people can come up with sentences in which “bigly” works just fine. But there’s a reason that it sticks out when Donald Trump uses the word. It’s unnatural. It doesn’t sound right.
Did Trump Say “Bigly” or “Big League”? Both
There are two ways you can look at Trump’s use of the word. He could be a lover of language who enjoys playing with it. I am such a person, and I’ve written a number of songs that play with language in this way. But regardless (or irregardless) of what you think of the President, we all know that he isn’t a language lover who lies in bed at night reading modern poetry.
The truth is that when he said it in the first presidential debate, I’m pretty sure he said “big league.” That’s what it sounds like to me. It’s also a tired colloquialism, which pretty much sums up Trump and, really, pretty much all politicians in the US. To speak well and originally is “elitist” and therefore bad for anyone who wants to win the contest of being “most enjoyable drinking partner.”
I Hate —ly
But if President Trump did say “bigly,” (and at other times it sounds like he is saying “bigly”) he didn’t mean to create an adverb; he meant to intensify “big.” In Nineteen Eighty-Four, it would have been “double plus big.” In most places I find myself, it would be “f—ing big.”
And really: why not? I hate the use of of —ly to create an adverb. It is almost always obvious from the context if a word is an adjective or adverb. Is there anything wrong with, “He ran quick up the hill”? If I had the the power, I would make all —lys optional. Unfortunately, I live in a world where I would have put up hordes of very opinionated people whose grammar knowledge stopped after Mrs Benson’s 5th grade English class.
Let’s Rid Our Speech of “Bigly”
Love Trump or hate him, you must know that he is not an intellectual. So making fun of his using the word “bigly” is only fun for a limited period of time. And that time is over. Using it today is like using “Well excuuuuse me!” in 1990 or “Now isn’t that special?” in 2000.
Trump has already done enough damage to our society. Let’s not add to it an odd new grammar construct that completely lacks charm.
So it’s 15 November 2017 and “bigly” is done. Anyone who doesn’t agree with me can kiss my grits.