I am certainly not the only one who despises Rob Ford and everything he represents politically. But I have come to realize that I am also not the only one who has come to consider Rob Ford a deeply troubled individual. After watching his mother and sister, I can't help thinking that this guy must have had an upbringing that was hardly conducive to raising an empathetic, compassionate human being. In fact more than once I have now heard someone mention fetal alcohol syndrome in relation to much of Ford's behaviour. And it certainly seems clear that appears to suffer from some sort of behaviour disorder. One of the things I have increasingly noticed is the strange irregularities in Ford's use of language. People noticed this bizarre behaviour in particular when Ford first denied the existence of the legendary "Crack" video. Ford's word usage during his media scrum on Wednesday is a good example of his strange linguistic tendencies.
"I have never had a prostitute here," Ford said in relation to one of the more salacious allegations. The insertion of the word "here" would surely strike anyone as strange. Instead of denying ever associating with prostitutes, we get this odd grammatical structure which could easily imply that he has in fact had prostitutes in places other than city hall. In the next sentence Ford tells us that he is "very happily married at home." Once again we get a strange grammatical insertion. The common phrase is, of course, to simply say that one is "happily married." Why might one insert the words "at home?" Does this imply some, probably subconscious, kind of distinction between his home life and his life outside the home? There is a common theory that when people are attempting to misrepresent the facts they offer linguistic "tells" that unintentionally reveal the nature of their misrepresentation. Is there something here?
Of course, we might simply assume that Ford was speaking nervously, or that he has rather sloppy grammar. The sloppiness of Ford's grammar cannot be questioned. In the same scrum Ford says, for example, "that is outright lies." The confusion between singular and plural here is indicative of Ford's speech. Another grammatical confusion that continually creeps into Ford's speech is in his verb tenses. "That's why I told you guys yesterday," Ford said, "be careful what you wrote."
There are, of course, a number of learning disabilities associated with grammatical errors both written and spoken. The most common of these are put under the umbrella of so-called SLI or Specific Language Impairment. It was common at one time to talk of George Bush Sr. in relation to SLI because of his tendency toward rambling disassociated sentences. He would commonly halt in the middle of one sentence and begin another, fail to finished the second, and return to the first. And we don't even have room here to talk about George W. Bush's shocking grammatical deficit. (It is interesting too that the younger Bush was often considered to be a sufferer of substance abuse problems.)
It is often thought that grammatical fluency and eloquence are prerequisites to political success. Obviously within a populist framework (even a minimal one) this eloquence is less necessary. However, without some populist sentiment, grammatical incompetence will generally hurt most politicians, or public figures in general, to some degree or another. One would hope, of course, that in an age of sensitivity to the full spectrum of learning disabilities, people who have linguistic challenges would not be overly hampered in their pursuit of success in whatever field. I suffered from an orthographic processing disorder growing up, and I only overcame it through serious dedication to reading despite my challenges. And even without specific challenges, most of us would hate to have our every word scrutinized in the public field.
Still, some of these strange linguistic tendencies of Rob Ford's are bound to elicit public interest. When someone has publicly lied on many occasions, everything they say is naturally treated with skepticism. So when Rob Ford says to the nation "I have never had a prostitute here," we can't help but wonder, "where does he take his prostitutes?"