LANGUAGE OBSERVATION ON THE AMERICAN CAMPAIGN TRAIL

While following the style of expression to which possible 2016 contenders for American presidency resort, I was surprised to find out that they try to avoid using the term “middle class”, although for each of them it’s critically important to win that social stratum over to their side. The clue to the lexical aberration may be the results of the recent Gallup poll (http://www.gallup.com/poll/182918/fewer-americans-identify-middle-class-recent-years.aspx//). The “middle class” had long been synonymous with the American dream – a house in the suburbs, a permanent job, tertiary education for children, opportunities for social mobility, financial security (also in one’s old age). At present the situation in the American society is described by sociologists as an “hourglass model”: much wealth is being concentrated in the upper stratum, more low-paying jobs appeared at the bottom, but a lot of jobs with median wages have been lost in the middle. Actually, for millions of families the middle has ceased to be a secure place. Belonging to the middle class evokes fears of falling behind, social connotations of the term have changed, so candidates wishing to appeal to middle-class Americans do not know how to address them and they are grasping for a right word. I watched excerpts from speeches of a few American politicians on the Internet. Here’s how they say it:

Mike Huckabee (R): “The working class blue collar people who grew up a lot like I did – not blue blood, but blue collar…”

Martin O’Malley (D): “Eighty per cent of those who are working harder, but are not getting ahead…”

Senator Rand Paul (R): “All Americans, especially those who have been left behind…”

Senator Ted Cruz (R):Hard-working men and women across America are hurting. We today have the lowest labor participation force since 1979…”

Senator Marco Rubio (R):Millions and millions of people who aren’t rich… “; “… People who are to work full time and raise a family…

Senator Bernie Sanders (D): “There needs to be a voice to represent the working families of this country…

Hilary Clinton, who, generally, uses the replacement “everyday Americans”, once mentioned the “middle class” too. However, she did it in a nostalgic context: “We need to make ‘being the middle class’ mean something again.”

DSC05005bIn 1971 the Russian linguist Ruben Budagov wrote a book “History of Words in the History of Civilisations”, which was rather popular among those who were engaged in sociolinguistic research at that time. I was a post-graduate student in those days and found it an added relish to my studies, following the development of such words as science, art, nature, culture, person, talent, genius, humour, irony, drama, tragedy, romanticism, etc. in their connection with the development of society. Alas, key-words in current social history are less cultural and romantic, but more dramatic and, at times, there are more tragedies of crushed hopes behind them.

 

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