Why ‘Bare’ and ‘Bones’ are best adjectives for the 2016 presidential election
By John Wagner February 20, 2017 9:45:17There’s an argument that we need to ditch the “bare” adjective for the presidential election.
That’s because it is an apt descriptor for the president, and it is also an adjective that has a long and illustrious history in American politics.
That is, until now.
Bare was first used in 1892 by then-President John Tyler, who said that “a country which is bereft of a president is bereaved of a nation.”
In another 1892 quote, Tyler also used the phrase to describe “a people that is not sufficiently free, but is still capable of being.”
As the political and social climate became more polarizing, however, the word “barely” became more common.
And in 2016, it was used by President-elect Donald Trump to describe his transition team, which was filled with people who lacked the luxury of political experience.
The word “bare” was also used by Republicans during the George W. Bush administration in 2004, in an attempt to portray the administration as “less corrupt” than its predecessor.
And the word itself has a history dating back to the 1600s, when it was a term of derision for the English aristocracy.
The word was first coined by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in the 1600, but the term was used more broadly in the 1700s and 1800s.
In the words of historian David R. Himmelfarb, the Oxford English Dictionary states that “bare is used as a term for the people who have not had sufficient experience to make judgments about a particular situation, but whose judgment, if given, is of the same value to the general reader as to the individual.”
So, why use it?
Because it’s a word that evokes feelings of shame or embarrassment, or an image of someone who is less than “brave.”
In the book “The Making of Donald Trump,” published in 2005, author Stephen F. Cohen wrote that “there is a sense of dread in a society in which the term ‘bare’ is now a word of derisive and often derogatory use.”
“We need to make the distinction between the president who is not the president and the president that was in office when the word was coined,” he wrote.
“There is no difference between the two.”
And that, in my view, is the point.
Because Trump is a man who has not had the luxury to have experienced political experience and who is no longer the president of the United States.