When Donald Trump tweeted recently that there is no “Smocking Gun” in any alleged case of collusion against him, I wasn’t surprised.
The man simply cannot spell. I wasn’t even surprised — though I was delighted — when he repeated the same mistake later in the same tweet, forfeiting the right to claim it had been just a typo. (A word that should more appropriately be spelled “tpyo,” though that is an epistemological argument for another day.)
What did surprise me was that once Trump’s tweet had been issued and witheringly ridiculed within seconds by hundreds of people — “smoking” is a third-grade spelling word that kinda allows for no other logical arrangement of letters — Trump didn’t even bother to fix it.
I am tempted to attribute this to the general evils of modernity — to which I grumpily attribute so many things — but I think this might have more to do with Trump than with our information-age, text-message, fumbled-thumbed disrespect for the importance of spelling.
It is true that modernity has relegated spelling to the same level of irrelevance as quaint things like “penmanship” or “needlepoint,” but the truth is that Trump is not really a creature of the modern age. He reportedly hardly ever uses a computer. So what is this about?
I have a suspicion. I think it’s about a certain form of neurosis that I share with the president of the United States. It’s different but ... the same. In a strange, ass-backward way, both involve matters of personal pride.
I have really silly hair. Unruly, unmanaged, tangly, disreputable hair. It embarrasses me. When I see a photo of myself, I cringe. And yet I don’t even own a comb or a brush. Why? Because on a deep level, an illogical and arguably insane level, I am more comfortable looking the way I do than looking like a man vain enough to worry about how his hair looks. I am terrified of giving the appearance of vanity. When I do get a haircut, my long-suffering barber, Sheila, knows not to let me anywhere near a mirror — that the experience would be emotionally paralyzing.
I think Trump would rather look like a man who doesn’t care about such mundanities as spelling correctly than like a man who needs help to seem literate. He is a man who cannot ever admit error.
He once declared himself the greatest judge of talent on Earth, and recently described his first choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, as “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell.”
He sees no contradiction here, because he simply cannot allow himself to.
And to fix his writing, he’d need to seek help. No computer can do it secretly — “smocking,” for example, is a word, so no spell check would flag it. Donald Trump has a solution that is as easily available to him as a comb and brush and weekly haircuts would be available to me: an editor. Someone like me, a really good speller, who would be on call 24/7, at no loss to him: a one-minute delay in his latest egomaniacal, fact-free tweet. But as any writer can tell you, all editing is a humbling experience. I’m about to turn this column in, and I’m scared I’ll be told by my editor that it sucks.
Hey, whoa. (Note: not “woah.”)
Donald, what if I’m your man? We could work out a trade of talents!
I swear I won’t “edit” you politically.
If you claim in a tweet that “The Wall has been all ready built and payed for by the goverment of Mexico,” I will leave the lie but fix the dreadful spelling! I promise. And you won’t even have to pay me. You can just give me hair advice.
Email Gene Weingarten at email@example.com. Find chats and updates at washingtonpost.com/magazine.