One of the biggest mysteries of the 2016 election has finally been solved. That word Donald Trump has repeatedly used on the campaign trail that starts with "big" and ends somewhat imperceptibly is "big league" — not "bigly," as some of us might have heard.
The New York Times got linguists to conduct a voice analysis and end the debate over what Trump is actually saying once and for all. Turns out, "big league" has been a favorite phrase of Trump's since the '90s. He's used it on an episode of The Apprentice, on a television interview with CNN's Larry King, and in an appearance with NBC's Meet the Press.
But, linguists found, there's good reason for the confusion over whether Trump has been saying "bigly" or "big league." The New York Times reported "big league" is typically used as an "adjective or figurative noun," but Trump has been using it as an adverb. "It's some combination of a lot of people not knowing the phrase 'big league' then also the fact that it's an unusual place to use that phrase in a sentence," said Susan Lin, a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. "So people are parsing it as an adverb, which would be 'bigly.'"
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