After you open the envelope, you learn that the missing words are “request” and “for.”
Within, at the foot of the letter of request, the font for Mrs. Trump’s signature is identical to the sawtooth felt-tip glyph generated for her husband. The letter’s text, however, in accordance with the half-whispered, breathily intimate voice of us-girls etiquette (what Stevens called “the beauty of innuendoes”), is dated “Friday Morning.” In accordance with the precept taught by Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People in the 1930s and followed ever since by every coach of every sport in the United States (“Fred, we came here to play foobaw, Fred”) it also uses my wife’s first name, Haesun, as the first word of at least three sentences. Just keep addressing people by name, says Carnegie, and you’ll make the sale.
Additional note, March 20, 2020:
During the George W. Bush administration, a legal defense of the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture was crafted by John Yoo of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. In those documents, one of the rhetorical strategies was what conservative theorists call textualism. Copying and pasting a phrase here and a phrase there from a bookshelf of dictionaries, Yoo redefined the term “torture” so narrowly that the sounds generated in the agency’s torture chambers became formally inaudible to the hearing officers outside. By definitional fiat, the screams were pre-erased from any meaning comprehended by law.
If the idea of erasure should also contemplate the verbal signifier “Pay to the order of,” the words “Check enclosed” inscribed on an envelope will become an anti-significance. In general, all it will take to enroll such an anti-significance in meaning is erasure of its context. You may think that the words “Check enclosed” mean “A check is enclosed,” but to a grammarian of the anti-contextual, that only shows you don’t know your nouns from your verbs. Actually, as the grammarian will inform you, you should have ignored the enclosure and read only what was marked on the envelope. Only the envelope words “Check enclosed” were subject in the moment to the act of reading, and if they are read in that rigorous way, without regard to context, they are equally likely to signify either “A check is enclosed” or, on the other hand, “Check the enclosed.” The grammarian will be eager to explain the theory of erasure of distinction to those who have read the envelope, and her eagerness will give the lesson a social context. It will unite the grammar joke’s words with the grammar joker’s laugh, giving them a complementary intelligibility in the verbal and the human. Responding to the unspeakable yearning to understand and be in on the joke, Mrs. Trump explains with laughing assurance to my wife, “Haesun, I know you realize how much is at stake in the upcoming Presidential Election. We simply cannot let the Democrats win the White House and set the stage for them to capture total control of our government so they can enact their Big Government Socialist programs.”
Both the assurance and the laughter are warranted. Check the lady-words like “Friday Morning” and you’ll see: the stage is already set for the joke and the envelope really is empty.