In a recent interview, that Mark Levin had with Victor Davis Hanson, Hanson uses the word psycho-grammatic in reference to how Donald Trump ran his campaign.

My Oxford dictionary does not recognise the word (nor does this website - assuming my spelling is not the culprit).

Is it a legitimate word and what does it mean exactly?

  • 1
    Do you have a link to the interview so we can get a sense of the context? Most likely it's a neologism combining psycho- (mind, mental; spirit, unconscious) with -grammatic, the latter being the adjectival form of -gram (drawing, writing, record). Perhaps alluding to the deliberate use of specific words for their psychological impact? This might be a question more suited to our Psychology & Neuroscience site? Dec 16, 2018 at 7:25
  • youtube.com/watch?v=WDdSsA9ZcrQ Dec 16, 2018 at 8:24

1 Answer 1


He is using the word "psychodramatic".

Note, about two months after I answered this question I have seen this man on Fox News using this same word, and it's possible he uses it in a very idiosyncratic way, see the edit at the end of my answer and the links to the video.

"psychodramatic" seems to be in Victor Davis Hanson's idiolect. Here is an article written by him titled "Our Psychodramatic Campuses", with the word used in the article itself. Here is another article by him titled "From One Psychodrama to Another." Here is an article by him in National Review titled "A Psychodrama Too Far" where he also uses it in the article."

Here is the point in the interview when he says it.

My transcription:

So Trump seemed to be the only one that was unconcerned what the Establishment - by that I don't want to be vague - what university professors said, New York Times said, PBS, NPR, Council on Foreign Relations; he just spoke to the people. And he did it in such a way that was refreshing, and he sort of, was, psychodramatic, that this was an existential war and that we were losing it, and we had to fight back, and not being worried what people said.

The entire interview is two conservatives lamenting the deterioration of American values that have primarily been eroded (in their view) by the recent pushes by the left to advocate equality for everyone at the cost of the classical American philosophy of classical liberalism and individualism. See "existential war and that we were losing it"

More relevantly, the primary meaning of the word psychodramatic is to do with the psychotherapeutic technique of psychodrama. You don't have to know about this, because this is not the way he uses it in my opinion. If we look at this definition:

3. An event, social interaction, or narrative that manifests psychological forces or problems:
American Heritage Dictionary

an often ongoing psychological struggle also : an expression of psychological turmoil
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I personally think the use of this term is an odd or obscure flourish on his part, but what I take him to mean is that Trump's message to the people that he would appeal to was ostensibly a message of anti-Establishment leadership or populism, and that this, along with the reaction to it, laid bare Americans' discontent from a collective psychological point of view. By this I mean something like the the national psyche (at least among a significant portion), which harbored a disillusionment with falling or stagnant real wages, growing wealth disparity, employment issues, dissatisfaction with immigrants' effects on the country's economy and society.

To quote again Merriam-Webster:

an often ongoing psychological struggle also : an expression of psychological turmoil

The psychological turmoil I interpret in this context as the American collective psyche, or as the collective psyche among those who thought Trump was the right person to lead their country.

Edit: Two months later (February 2019), now that Trump has declared a national emergency to build his wall, Hanson was a guest on Fox News and he used "psychodramatic" again. The following he says in response to critics of Trump who say he has circumvented Congress to appropriate funds for his wall that it's unconstitutional.

So I think it's a little psychodramatic to say the Constitution is in danger.
Link to video on Fox News, he says it in the last 30 seconds of the video
Or here's the Youtube video at roughly the right part, watch for about 20 seconds and you'll hear it

It seems from this context he's using it almost like "melodramatic", as if the claims of Trump's critics are exaggerated. If this is true, I really wish he wouldn't do that. He'd communicate much more effectively as a political commentator if he used words in a way people understood. Even knowing the meaning of "psychodramatic", it's still not clear to me whether he's actually just intending "melodramatic" or something similar in this most recent appearance on Fox News.

In any case my earlier answer and this new addition is still speculative. There are now about 5 occasions when he uses it that you can see, including two videos, and you can possibly form your own conclusion on what he means about it.

  • I've listened to this carefully and I think he does say "psycho-grammatic". Dec 16, 2018 at 7:58
  • @Chappo I'm aware of what it sounds like. You can listen to something as carefully as you like, sometimes sounds uttered or recorded don't sound like what they actually are, whether by reason of articulation of the speaker or recording equipment. Here is another good example of this when this man is talking about "in the woods" youtu.be/xB0K9Iw7A_k?t=76
    – Zebrafish
    Dec 16, 2018 at 8:21
  • Thanks, you answer is very thorough and very explanatory. Whilst it still sounds to me that he says "-grammatic" it is probably a sound distortion as "psycho-dramatic" makes a lot more sense in context. Dec 16, 2018 at 8:28
  • @Zebrafish I'm not entirely convinced, but I'll have to go with your answer: the preliminary transcript gives it as two words "psycho drama". The interview purports to be about the Trump campaign but we only get a teaser on this issue. Late in the interview Hanson says "psychological ..." but Levin talks over him so who knows whether he was returning to the earlier theme. Guess we'll have to read Hanson's book! Dec 16, 2018 at 9:04
  • I have now watched and listened carefully and, watching his mouth, it does seem like psycho dramatic. Dec 16, 2018 at 9:36

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