Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Taking a Walk Through a Slogan

Today, I am going to walk you through an analysis of Mr Trump’s slogan. Bizarre as it may sound, we shall be looking for signs of poetry on our journey.

Before we set out on this adventure, remember to pack three As in your bag:

(i) Accent:                  which can be either strong or weak

(ii) Alliteration:           why would ­we want that?

(iii) Assonance:           hey, wait till I’ve made my points

All packed and ready, then? Off we stroll. (Keep up at the back, and no complaining.)

(i) Accent
Make     A    mer   i    ca      great     a   gain   

Ignore the words, tap the accents. The rhythm of the phrase is quite bouncy. Bouncy is positive and echoes the positive nature of the message.

The strong accents on Make and great complement and echo each other, which reinforces the positive, because the two words, Make and great, are positive.

The strong accent on great has a little added strength; so, if boiled down to just one word, the slogan is: great.

As long as Mr Trump sticks to this slogan, then every time an American says ‘great!’ they are, in fact, echoing the core of the slogan.

You might think that: again should be: again

I agree with you, depending on how you say the slogan:

Make America great (slight pause) a gain.   

This might make the slogan read:

Make America great: a gain.   

Thus, making America great is a gain. It’s a plus. It’s an increase in whatever you want it to be an increase in. Probably money. And jobs. And your standard of living. And whoop-de-doop and yeehah(!) for all I know.

Okay, what’s next? Oh, goody. Something simple.

Time to unpack the alliteration. (Well, I said it was something simple, didn’t I?)

(ii) Alliteration (a pedant snack, if you want one, is at the end of the walk)

Make America great again

Two examples of simple alliteration.

Makes it more memorable.

A little alliteration is a good thing.

Too much alliteration is a tongue-twister (Make America more magic, man).

But no alliteration? You’re missing a trick.

And so on to the final leg of the journey: Assonance. (Don’t give in now! We will be finished in a minute.)

(iii) Assonance

Make America great again.

The assonance amplifies the effect which the strong accents have on Make and great.

If we put in that (slight pause) then the assonance could be like this:

Make America great (slight pause) again (or: a gain).

The assonance here could amplify the bouncy rhythm and the connotations of ‘a gain’.

So, much as it might astonish us, when we take Accent, Alliteration, and Assonance into account, there is a lot of poetry to be found in Mr Trump’s slogan.

And that’s the end of the walk. What did you think of the views along the way?

As you make your way home, here’s one final point to talk about (I left it till the end as it’s an English teacher point and not a poet point):

Just a reminder of the four types of sentence:

1. Statement:  ‘America is great again.’

2. Question: ‘Is America great again?’

3. Command: ‘Make America great again.’

4. Exclamation: ‘Great!’

By using a command, Trump is commanding the American people to: ‘Make America great again.’

Like a Commander-in-Chief.

Also known as the President.

What does this mean? It means that every time Trump says ‘Make America great again’ he is being presidential. (Furthermore, any time an American says 'Make America great again' they are being commanding, and that feels good, and if you feel good when you say the slogan, then you will associate feeling good with the person whose slogan it is: Mr Trump. So you'll be more likely to vote for him. Unless Mrs Clinton has a better slogan; but that's a post for another day.)

[Pedant Snack  re: alliteration.

I appreciate that, strictly speaking, alliteration should start the word. However, a quick glance at the Princeton Encyclopaedia of Poetry and Poetics states: ‘...close enough to each other for the ear to be affected...’ So, while the ms and the gs in ‘Make America great again’ aren’t pure alliteration, they have the same effect on the ear as alliteration; we might more accurately say that they are alliterative (but I was trying to avoid steep hills on this walk). Furthermore, it sounds to the ear as though there is an indefinite article before the not-alliteration-but-alliterative words: a (merica); a (gain).

Obviously, there’s no such thing as a merica, but your ear doesn’t know that, and I personally think that the phrase ‘obviously there’s no such thing as a merica’ sounds bloody funny, and, what’s more: you can’t disagree with it.]

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