President Trump has always had a preoccupation with size. His world is a binary of big and small, where being “little” is weak and “big” is always better. His supporters are “big, strong guys,” his brain is “very, very large,” his successes are “huge.” His enemies, meanwhile, are almost always dismissed at some point or another as “little.”
Trump’s favorite recycled insult is indicative of more than just a lack of creativity, though. From “little Mac Miller” to “little Eric Schneiderman” to “little Marco,” and now the grammatically-mangled “liddle’ Adam Schiff,” Trump’s decision to physically reduce his enemies seems to reflect decades of pent-up insecurity about his own stature. Even now, from his roost in the White House, Trump appears to be haunted by nightmares of being perceived as small in any way.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is only the latest in a long line of people to be dismissed by Trump as unfortunately sized. Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart was also deemed “little,” as was former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, CNN head Jeff Zucker, and NBC’s Katy Tur. 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley was “like a disgusting, little, weak, pathetic baby,” and Trump called Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” somewhat fondly before the North Korean leader irked him, after which he became “Little Rocket Man.” Sometimes, the president’s size-related insults veer into the bizarre: “Little pencil neck Adam Schiff,” Trump ranted this spring. “He’s got the smallest, thinnest neck I’ve ever seen.” At the same time, Trump can’t help but pad his own numbers: the size of Trump Tower, his inauguration crowd, his height, his net worth.
Trump likely doesn’t realize it, but diminutives are actually fascinating insults in the English language, in part because of their awkwardness. While other languages can use suffixes to make a noun smaller — think of the Spanish ending -ito — English-language speakers usually have to affix the extra word “little” ahead of what they’re describing to get their point across. Like other languages with true diminutive forms, the context can make the use of “little” either endearing or insulting: “little man,” for example, is sweet when addressing a five-year-old, since they are actually little, but …read more