So, back in February, John Oliver had a segment on the history of Donald Trump’s last name. He ended with the suggestion that we start calling him Donald Drumpf.
I loved that segment, but it didn’t really catch on except as a snarky signifier of people who had already made up their minds. Which is fine, because it was a snarky suggestion. Still, there was something true in what was said. The name Trump was invented specifically to send a message of power and prestige, and it’s attached to a man who doesn’t deserve it.
Monday night, watching the debate, I noticed how Hillary Clinton kept calling him, “Donald,” and the way he winced at that. How odd. He doesn’t balk at calling her “Hillary.” None of us do. We called her main opponent “Bernie.” But somehow it’s unpleasant for him to be called “Donald.”
When you think about it, Donald has an absurd sound. It sounds like a cartoon character. It sounds like Ronald’s petulant, unintelligent punchline of a little brother… which is incredibly appropriate in this situation. And it’s a name that you could conceivably pull off with some dignity, if you had reasonable amounts of humility, eloquence and common sense. The fact that the Republican frontrunner can’t is a spotlight on his incompetence. It’s like his tiny hands all over again; an innocuous, irrelevant detail that any decent person could shrug off, but his grandiose ego makes him explode at even a reference to it.
Donald. Donald. Donald.
When you think about it, it’s fitting that all of the serious candidates –
*coughing, hacking noises*
Sorry, couldn’t finish that sentence. Let me try again.
When you think about it, it’s fitting that all of the party frontrunners in this debate be called by their first names. It’s fair, for one thing. It sounds belittling and sexist to say “Hillary” but “Trump,” or “Mr. Trump.” Yet, in the primaries we called Bernie Sanders “Bernie,” and besides it was helpful to distinguish her from the other political Clintons. We’re all in the habit now.
And don’t the names fit perfectly?
Hillary. Distinctive. Individual. You never forget a Hillary. She strides the boundaries between feminine and masculine, in a way that makes you love her or hate her, depending on your feelings about gender conformity. Her name means happy but feels like steely optimism rather than a party. It’s a name full of energy, but not peppy cheerleader energy. It’s the name of a marathon runner.