Bushism

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This article is about George W. Bush's often unconventional use of English. For his political ideologies, see Political positions of George W. Bush. For his various foreign policy principles, see Bush Doctrine.
George W. Bush at a lectern during an October 30, 2007 press conference

Bushisms are unconventional words, phrases, pronunciations, malapropisms, and semantic or linguistic errors in the public speaking of former President of the United States George W. Bush.[1][2] 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 President. Common characteristics include malapropisms, the creation of neologisms, spoonerisms, stunt words and grammatically incorrect subject-verb agreement.

Discussion[edit]

Bush's use of the English language in formal and public speeches has spawned several books that document the statements. A poem entitled "Make the Pie Higher", composed entirely of Bushisms, was compiled by cartoonist Richard Thompson.[3][4] 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.

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?"[5] 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'."[6]

Journalist and pundit Christopher Hitchens published an essay in The Nation titled "Why Dubya Can't Read", writing:[7]

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.

Stanford Graduate School Lecturer and former Bush economic policy advisor Keith Hennessey has argued that the number of Bush's verbal gaffes is not unusual given the significant amount of time that he has spoken in public.[8] Furthermore, if Barack Obama's speeches were given the same level of scrutiny, there would be a similar number of gaffes. Hennessey goes on to say that Bush tried to position himself as an average American, not as a "Cambridge or Upper East Side elite."

Notable statements[edit]

General[edit]

  • "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
  • "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."[13] (Announcing he would write a book about "the 12 toughest decisions" he had to make. Presumably "authoritative" was intended.)

Foreign affairs[edit]

  • "I'm the commander, see. I don't need to explain — I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."[14]
  • "Yesterday, you made note of my—the lack of my talent when it came to dancing. But nevertheless, I want you to know I danced with joy. And no question Liberia has gone through very difficult times"- Speaking with the president of Liberia, Washington, D.C., Oct. 22, 2008 [15]
  • "This is still a dangerous world. It's a world of madmen and uncertainty and potential mental losses." (missile launches?)[16]

Economics[edit]

  • "You bet I cut the taxes at the top. That encourages entrepreneurship. What we Republicans should stand for is growth in the economy. We ought to make the pie higher."[16]
  • In January 2000, just before the New Hampshire primary, Bush challenged the members of the Nashua Chamber of Commerce to imagine themselves as a single mother "working hard to put food on your family."[16]

Education[edit]

  • "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"[4] — Florence, South Carolina; January 11, 2000

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bines, Jonathan (May 1992). Bushisms: President George Herbert Walker Bush in His Own Words. Workman Pub Co. ISBN 1-56305-318-7. 
  2. ^ "The 'misunderestimated' president?". BBC. January 7, 2009. 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." 
  3. ^ Comics Reporter: Interview with Richard Thompson, January 25, 2008.
  4. ^ a b "Make the Pie Higher!". Snopes.com. 2002. Retrieved October 12, 2006. 
  5. ^ Mark Liberman, "You say Nevada, I say Nevahda". January 3, 2004.
  6. ^ Hensher, Philip (July 21, 2010). "Sarah Palin's struggle with English language". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved July 28, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Why Dubya Can't Read". The Nation. Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  8. ^ http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2013/04/25/george_w_bush_is_smarter_than_you_118125.html
  9. ^ "Top Ten Bushisms: The Miseducation of America". Time. January 11, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2009 (False malaprop). 
  10. ^ "Top Ten Bushisms: Fish Are Friends". Time. January 11, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Remarks by the President on Teaching American History and Civic Education". White House Archives. September 17, 2002. Retrieved December 18, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Top Ten Bushisms: The Love Doctor is In". Time. January 11, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Bush Speech In Canada Met With Protests". CBS News. 
  14. ^ Bob Woodward (November 19, 2002). Bush at War. Simon & Schuster. pp. 145–6. ISBN 978-0743204736. 
  15. ^ http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/bushisms/2000/03/the_complete_bushisms.html
  16. ^ a b c "Make the Pie Higher!". Snopes.com. July 21, 2008. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]