Does the sentence mean that Mr. Trump's comments sound hollow? I don't think it means simply "looking bad."

Far from taking Washington by storm, America’s CEO is out of his depth. The art of political compromise is new to him. He blurs his own interests and the interests of the nation. The scrutiny of office grates. He chafes under the limitations of being the most powerful man in the world. You have only to follow his incontinent stream of tweets to grasp Mr Trump’s paranoia and vanity: the press lies about him; the election result fraudulently omitted millions of votes for him; the intelligence services are disloyal; his predecessor tapped his phones. It’s neither pretty nor presidential.

The Trump presidency is in a hole, The Economist (1 April 2017) http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21719794-and-bad-americaand-world-trump-presidency-hole

  • 4
    It seems pretty is used here in its primary meaning itself, pleasing, attractive, nice etc. Apr 1, 2017 at 3:59
  • @Bakebake Please accept an answer if it answered your question, so that this goes off the unanswered list. If the answers are inadequate please mention why in the comments.
    – Rio1210
    Apr 4, 2017 at 8:14

2 Answers 2


The usage here is derived from the phrase not a pretty sight. The writers saying that Trump's behavior since becoming President has been disorderly, undignified, immoral and unworthy of the office. An antonym of pretty is ugly. The use of the words not pretty here thus adds the idea of "ugliness," in a moral sense, to the idea that Trump is not behaving in a presidential manner.

The entry for the Longman Dictionary of conventional English defines the phrase in this way, with a number of corpus examples.

not a pretty sight very unpleasant to look at – sometimes used humorously After a night’s drinking, Al was not a pretty sight.

Examples from the Longman Corpus:

not a pretty sight • Are you sure you want to come in? It's not a pretty sight. • Afterwards I visited the boys and they were not a pretty sight. • All directors, including Spielberg, grow up, and in this film the result is not a pretty sight. • He is not a pretty sight. • What these portraits give you is a glimpse of Lowry's psychic state, and it's not a pretty sight. • It's not a pretty sight to finish in a classic fire and fall position. • It is not a pretty sight to see people so hurt.

The Oxford Online dictionary gives the moral sense of ugly in this way:

2.2 Morally repugnant. ‘racism and its most ugly manifestations, racial attacks and harassment’


No, By,

It’s neither pretty nor presidential.

it doesn't necessarily mean hollow. The primary meaning of the word Pretty is at work here.

Pretty defined by Merriam Webster:

  • artful, pleasing by delicacy or grace.
  • having conventionally accepted elements of beauty.

Hollow means - "lacking in substance or value." (I think you meant this.)

While that's (being hollow) true of Donald Trump, the author doesn't mean that here. Rather he points out what a mess Donald Trump is creating and then goes on to say It's not pretty (the mess) and nor is it presidential.

  • Let me confirm what I understood. Can "pretty" in this sentence be interchangeable with "graceful” or "civilized" to describe a mess created by Donald Trump?
    – Bakebake
    Apr 1, 2017 at 4:30
  • I guess you can loosely. I would say "the mess doesn't look nice."
    – Rio1210
    Apr 1, 2017 at 5:19
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    @Bakebake As Rof said in his answer and Mahmud Koya said earlier in a comment, the sense of pretty being employed here is the usual one: "attractive to look at". Trump's commentary is not attractive to look at, it's unpleasant, or as Rof just said, simply not nice.
    – Dan Bron
    Apr 1, 2017 at 5:42
  • @DanBron My name got butchered pretty bad there ;) Sounds more like a dog barking. :)
    – Rio1210
    Apr 1, 2017 at 6:10
  • @Rio1210 Sorry, my phone's autocorrect has it out for me. Believe me it's worse for me than any of my unintentional victims :)
    – Dan Bron
    Apr 1, 2017 at 6:12

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