President Trump paused Friday morning from whatever he is doing to combat his potential impeachment and delivered a surprise spelling lecture to the United States, in a tweet richly layered with mistakes and irony.
“To show you how dishonest the LameStream Media is, I used the word Liddle’, not Liddle, in discribing Corrupt Congressman Liddle’ Adam Schiff. Low ratings @CNN purposely took the hyphen out and said I spelled the word little wrong. A small but never ending situation with CNN!”
It’s still unclear exactly what Trump heard on CNN and the network did not immediately respond to questions, but as he explained it, the segment concerned his nickname for House Intelligence chairman Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) — a leader in Democrats’ impeachment investigations. Trump commonly assigns his political enemies nicknames that sound like 1920s-era cartoon characters — “Sleepy Joe” Biden, “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz,” etc. -- a habit Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan and others have compared to bullying.
For the Twitter mob that instantly jumped on Trump’s tweet, the low-hanging fruit was his misspelling of “describe.” “It’s really your stupidity that’s hard to ‘discribe,’” wrote Trump foil George Conway as “Liddle” shot up Twitter’s list of trending topics.
But it was the rest of the tweet that truly baffled and transfixed the public. Web searches for “hyphen” skyrocketed as people second-guessed whether they (or the president) really knew what a hyphen was. The Merriam-Webster dictionary quickly put out a clarification between a hyphen and an apostrophe.
For those looking up punctuation early on a Friday morning:— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) September 27, 2019
A hyphen is a mark - used to divide or to compound words.
An apostrophe is a mark ' used to indicate the omission of letters or figures.
I feel sorry for all the teachers discribing the liddle differences between an apostrophe and a hyphen today.— David Leavitt (@David_Leavitt) September 27, 2019
Even assuming that Trump mistook the apostrophe in “Liddle’ Adam Schiff,” for a hyphen, it’s still a mystery as to why CNN’s alleged omission of said apostrophe from the moniker would make Trump’s construction any more or less correct. (The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
In fact, it’s unclear why Trump has been tagging an apostrophe onto the end of the word in the first place. As Merriam-Webster pointed out, apostrophes typically mark where characters have been taken out of a word — as in “I’m goin’ to the store,” or “Li’l Abner,” or “Lyin’ Ted Cruz.”
Liddle’ is missing no letters; it’s just a weird spelling of “little” with a superfluous mark at the end.
I don’t know who needs to read this but: “Li’l.”— A.R. Moxon (Julius Goat) (@JuliusGoat) September 27, 2019
"Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict."— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) September 27, 2019
"I used the word Liddle’, not Liddle" but CNN "took the hyphen out and said I spelled the word little wrong"
—actual POTUS pic.twitter.com/pZweyS4pd8
Trump’s tweet was full of other petty errors. He forgot to use actual hyphens in “Low ratings CNN” and “never ending situation,” for example, and wrote “purposely” when he probably meant “purposefully,” (a mixup Merriam-Webster has taken him to task for before.)
The president has a long history of typo drama. As chronicled by Business Insider, Trump or his staff have misspelled the words “tap,” “peace,” “hereby,” “Theresa May,” “the,” and “unprecedented” — which the president spelled “unpresidented” — not to mention countless bastardizations of punctuation and capitalization, in various tweets, statements and other public documents. A retired schoolteacher in Georgia once got a letter from the president, and went viral after taking a pen to the margins to point out a dozen spelling or grammar mistakes.
Later Friday morning, Trump moved on from the Schiff diversion and spent the rest of the morning tweeting attacks on his perceived enemies, starting with what he called an “Obama loving” New York Times reporter — resuming his hyphen-bungling.