Flap and Doodle

Warren Harding was well-advised to hire a speech writer. "His speeches left the impression," William McAdoo once declared, "of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea." "His writing," H. L. Mencken remarked, "is rumble and bumble, flap and doodle, balder and dash..."

Nonetheless, Harding won a presidential election -- and a measure of pathetic admiration for his tortuous and tortured prose. "The only man, woman, or child," e. e. cummings remarked one sad day in 1923, "whoever wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors is dead."

["He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered," Mencken declared on another occasion. "It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights."]

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