Deplorable

There’s been a lot of discussion about the word deplorable in the past week or so. According to and article in USA Today, searches for the definition increase 50,000% after Hillary Clinton remarked that some of Donald Trump’s supporters would fit in a “basket of deplorables.” 

 

According to dictionary.com
deplorable
adjective

1.causing or being a subject for grief or regret; lamentable: the deplorable death of a friend.
2.causing or being a subject for censure, reproach, or disapproval;wretched; very bad

 

So, yes, in fact, many of Donald Trump’s supporters would belong there. There are some who aren’t misogynistic, racist, homophobic, xenophobic bigots, but most of them fall into this category. Frankly, I think Secretary Clinton was generous in saying that only half of his supporters are “deplorables.”

 

What I LOVE is her use of the adjective as a noun. While it doesn’t follow the usual rule of an adjectival noun (or nominalized adjective), I think it still falls into this category.

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the idea of an adjectival noun, just think about one of Clint Eastwood’s most famous roles: Blondie in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. As English speakers, we know good, bad, and ugly are adjectives, but does anyone have a problem understanding them as nouns in the title? No.

 

If you’re familiar with the New Testament, think of the Beatitudes: blessed are the meek and the merciful. Again, meek and merciful are adjectives, but no one has a problem responding to them in context as if they are nouns.

 

Where Secretary Clinton varied from the beaten path was by making a plural version of the adjective to use as a count noun rather than a collective noun. I think this was an intentional choice.

 

She could have said “a basket of the deplorable” which would have been rightly interpreted as “a deplorable people,” instead “deplorables” (to me) means “deplorable individuals.” Perhaps this is a small distinction, but it matters.

 

Secretary Clinton is calling out Trump’s supporters on their individual beliefs. She may have lumped them together and tossed them in a basket, but she’s still demanding that they be responsible for their own ideologies. She’s still pointing out that their voices and their votes matter.

Yeah, I’m with her.

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