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Misspeaking is a word used to describe the act of speaking "incorrectly, unclearly, or misleadingly", to "fail to convey the meaning one intends by one's words".[1] Although its roots lie in Middle English and earlier,[1] since the 1980s the word has used increasingly in politics to imply that errors made by a speaker are accidental and should not be construed as a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the facts of a case. As such, its usage has attracted a degree of media coverage, particularly from critics who feel that the term is overly approbative in cases where either ignorance of the facts or intent to misrepresent should not be discarded as possibilities.[2][3]

The word was used by a White House spokesman after George W. Bush seemed to say that his government was always "thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people", and more famously by then American presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who recalled landing in at the US military outpost of Tuzla "under sniper fire" (in fact, video footage demonstrates that there were no such problems on her arrival).[3][4] Other users of the term include American politician Richard Blumenthal, who incorrectly stated on a number of occasions that he had served in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.[3]


  1. ^ a b "misspeak, v.". Oxford English Dictionary Online. June 2011. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Hendrik Hertzberg (21 April 2008). "Mr. and Ms. Spoken". The New Yorker. Retrieved 14 August 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c Dominic Lawson (23 May 2010). "Don't lie – try misspeaking instead". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  4. ^ "Does 'misspeak' mean lying?". BBC News. 26 March 2008. Retrieved 28 August 2011.