Bushism

George W. Bush at a podium during an April 28, 2005 press conference.

Bushisms are unconventional words, phrases, pronunciations, malapropisms, and semantic or linguistic errors that have occurred in the public speaking of former President of the United States George W. Bush and, much less notably, of his father, George H. W. Bush.[1][2][3] The term has become part of popular folklore and is the basis of a number of websites and published books. It is often used to caricature the two presidents. Common characteristics include malapropisms, the creation of neologisms, spoonerisms, stunt words and grammatically incorrect subject-verb agreement.

Contents

Discussion

Bush's use of the English language in formal and public speeches has spawned several books that document the statements. The first, Bushisms/President George Herbert Walker Bush in His Own Words, was released in 1992. A poem entitled "Make the Pie Higher", composed entirely of Bushisms, was compiled by cartoonist Richard Thompson.[4][5] Various public figures and humorists, such as Jon Stewart of The Daily Show and Garry Trudeau, creator of the comic strip Doonesbury have popularized some more famous Bushisms, particularly those of George W. Bush.

Linguist Mark Liberman of Language Log has suggested that Bush is not unusually error-prone in his speech, saying: "You can make any public figure sound like a boob, if you record everything he says and set hundreds of hostile observers to combing the transcripts for disfluencies, malapropisms, word formation errors and examples of non-standard pronunciation or usage... Which of us could stand up to a similar level of linguistic scrutiny?"[6] Nearly a decade after George W. Bush said "misunderestimated" in a speech, Philip Hensher called the term one of his "most memorable additions to the language, and an incidentally expressive one: it may be that we rather needed a word for 'to underestimate by mistake'."[7]

Journalist and pundit Christopher Hitchens published an essay in The Nation titled "Why Dubya Can't Read", writing:

I used to have the job of tutoring a dyslexic child, and I know something about the symptoms. So I kicked myself hard when I read the profile of Governor George W. Bush, by my friend and colleague Gail Sheehy, in this month's Vanity Fair. All those jokes and cartoons and websites about his gaffes, bungles and malapropisms? We've been unknowingly teasing the afflicted. The poor guy is obviously dyslexic, and dyslexic to the point of near-illiteracy.

[8]

Notable statements

General

  • "They misunderestimated me."[9] — Bentonville, Arkansas; November 6, 2000
  • "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."[10] — Saginaw, Michigan; September 29, 2000
  • "There's an old saying in Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee—that says, 'Fool me once, shame on, shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again.'"[11] — Nashville, Tennessee; September 17, 2002
  • "Too many good docs are getting out of the business. Too many OB-GYNs aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country."[12] — Poplar Bluff, Missouri; September 6, 2004
  • "One of the things I’ve used on the Google is to pull up maps." - CNBC interview with Maria Bartiromo, October 24, 2006.[13]
  • "We can have filters on Internets where public money is spent." – Third Gore-Bush presidential debate on October 17, 2000.
  • "I'm going to put people in my place, so when the history of this administration is written at least there's an authoritarian voice saying exactly what happened."[14] (Announcing he would write a book about "the 12 toughest decisions" he had to make.)

Spoonerisms

  • "Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream." (dreams take wing)  —La Crosse, Wisconsin, October 18, 2000[15]
  • "If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow."  —January 2000[15]

Foreign affairs

  • "Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your introduction. Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit." — Addressing then-Australian Prime Minister John Howard at the APEC Summit, September 7, 2007. (Neither the USA nor Australia are members of OPEC.)[16]

Terrorism

  • "I'm telling you there's an enemy that would like to attack America, Americans, again. There just is. That's the reality of the world. And I wish him all the very best." - Washington, D.C., January 12, 2009[17]
  • "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." - Washington, D.C., August 5, 2004[18]

Economics

  • "There's no question about it. Wall Street got drunk—that's one of the reasons I asked you to turn off the TV cameras—it got drunk and now it's got a hangover. The question is how long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments."  — Speaking at a private fundraiser and surreptitiously recorded by a reporter with the footage subsequently leaked on various news outlets, Houston, Texas, July 18, 2008[19]
  • "The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur." - discussing the decline of the French economy with Tony Blair, 7 February 2002.[20]

Education

  • "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"[5] — Florence, South Carolina; January 11, 2000
  • "As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured." — On the No Child Left Behind Act, Washington, D.C.; September 26, 2007[21]
  • "Then you wake up at the high school level and find out that the illiteracy level of our children are appalling." —Washington, D.C.; January 23, 2004[22]

See also

  • Anguish Languish (examples of homophonic translation)
  • Colemanballs (verbal gaffes by British sports commentators)
  • Eggcorn (e.g. saying "old-timers' disease" instead of "Alzheimer's disease")
  • Spoonerism (e.g. "Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?")
  • Yogiism (Yogi Berra)

References

  1. ^ Bines, Jonathan (May 1992). Bushisms: President George Herbert Walker Bush in His Own Words. Workman Pub Co. ISBN 1-56305-318-7. 
  2. ^ "George H.W. Bushisms". About: Political Humor. http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/funnyquotes/a/georgehwbushism.htm. Retrieved March 24, 2007. 
  3. ^ "The 'misunderestimated' president?". BBC. January 7, 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7809160.stm. Retrieved January 23, 2009. "The word "Bushism" has been coined to label his occasional verbal lapses during eight years in office, which come to an end on 20 January." 
  4. ^ Comics Reporter: Interview with Richard Thompson, January 25, 2008.
  5. ^ a b "Make the Pie Higher!". Snopes.com. 2002. http://www.snopes.com/politics/bush/piehigher.asp. Retrieved October 12, 2006. 
  6. ^ Mark Liberman, "You say Nevada, I say Nevahda". January 3, 2004.
  7. ^ Hensher, Philip (July 21, 2010). "Sarah Palin's struggle with English language". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/sarah-palin/7901926/Sarah-Palins-struggle-with-English-language.html. Retrieved July 28, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Why Dubya Can't Read". The Nation. http://www.thenation.com/article/why-dubya-cant-read. Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  9. ^ "Top Ten Bushisms: The Miseducation of America". Time. January 11, 2009. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1870938_1870943_1870945,00.html. Retrieved March 2, 2009 (False malaprop). 
  10. ^ "Top Ten Bushisms: Fish Are Friends". Time. January 11, 2009. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1870938_1870943_1870961,00.html. Retrieved March 2, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Remarks by the President on Teaching American History and Civic Education". White House Archives. September 17, 2002. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/09/20020917-7.html. Retrieved December 18, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Top Ten Bushisms: The Love Doctor is In". Time. January 11, 2009. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1870938_1870943_1870953,00.html. Retrieved March 2, 2009. 
  13. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90DKubFKwVo
  14. ^ http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/03/17/politics/main4872843.shtml?source=RSSattr=Politics_4872843
  15. ^ a b Top 50 Bushisms from About.com’s political humor section.
  16. ^ 2007 in Bushisms
  17. ^ http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/blbushisms.htm
  18. ^ http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/bushvideos/v/bushismvideo.htm
  19. ^ The latest Bushisms
  20. ^ http://www.newstatesman.com/200212160048
  21. ^ http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/bushquotes/a/dumbbushquotes_3.htm
  22. ^ http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/bushquotes/a/topbushisms2004.htm

Further reading

External links


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