It's time to step away from the T-word

As if you have to ask. You know you've said it. You know you've been saying it too much. You may have tried to stop, but can't. In the U.S., especially, people seem fixated on it.

The T-word makes many of us incredulous. It enthralls some, repels others. No one is neutral about the T-word. Some repeat it out loud to make sense of it. Few of us are immune to it. It baits us like P.T. Barnum, or Harold Hill, or Jay Gatsby.

It seems a distinctly American word: trump. There, I said it. As in "to trump" or be "trumped." It implies a quick, clever trick. It's an abrupt word. Linguistically sharp with edgy elbows at the beginning and end. One syllable, one note. Simple, really. 

There is theater in the trump card. It is often played with an arm-waving flourish, designed not just to win, but also to attract attention while doing it, say, like wearing a bright red cap in a crowd. It implies gamesmanship without the need for consistent skill. 

Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images News / Getty Images
Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images News / Getty Images

The Random House dictionary defines the word trump as "any playing card of a suit that for the time outranks the other suits." It's just a suit of a different color, powerful for the moment, yet transient by definition. A fleeting center of gravity without the gravitas. Still it is a winning strategy at the right time.

In our times, the T-word feeds our infotainment culture perfectly. It's showy and sometimes unpredictable and that is always seductive. The more we drop the T-bomb, the more the media covers it. And the more it is in the news, the more it seems like a real movement. And maybe it is. 

The T-word appeals to our basest instincts. We keep it alive in a national game of gossip. It has a can't-look-away quality that hooks us and makes us feel that maybe we, too, can speak our minds bluntly and be heard and followed and admired. Maybe we are all apprentice celebrities in waiting. 

For now, the T-word remains bold, loud, and fearless. It blares like a trumpet without a score. But it is not sustainable. Our brains habituate naturally. Even the T-word will become a habit and the habit will become boring. We'll stop hearing the continuous hucksterism. It will be like tuning out a barker at the county fair. The non-stop snarling will fade into background noise. 

Until the 24/7 trumping finds its rightful dead end, there is something we can all do. Stop saying the T-word. When you hear it, change the subject to Rubio or Clinton, Sanders or Fiorina. If you have to, Jindal. 

Because the T-word only has power if you let it. Don't let it roll off your tongue. Buck up, be brave and back away from the T-word. You can do it. Really. Go cold turkey if you have to. Now.