‘Misunderestimate’ Tops List of All-Time Bushisms
Compendium of Fifteen of the President’s ‘Greatest Hits’
Austin, TX January 9, 2009 – The Top All-Time Bushisms were released earlier today by the Global Language Monitor (www.LanguageMonitor.com). Topping the List were:
- Mission Accomplished,
- Brownie, you’ve done a heck of a job!
- I’m the decider, and
- I use the Google.
“The era of Bushisms is now coming to an end, and word watchers worldwide will have a hard time substituting Barack Obama’s precise intonations and eloquence for W’s unique linguistic constructions,” said Paul JJ Payack, president and chief word analyst of the Global Language Monitor. “The biggest linguistic faux pas of the Obama era thus far involves the use of the reflexive pronoun myself. This is a refreshing shift from the Bush years.”
The rankings were nominated by language observers the world over and then ranked with the help of the Global Language Monitor’s PQI (Predictive-quantities Indicator). The PQI is a proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in the print and electronic media, on the Internet and throughout the blogosphere.
The Top All-time Bushisms with commentary, follow.
1. Misunderestimate. Stated in the immediate aftermath of the disputed 2000 election: One of the first and perhaps most iconic Bushisms (Nov. 6, 2000).
2. Mission Accomplished: Never actually stated by the President but nevertheless the banner behind him was all that was needed to cement this phrase into the public imagination (May 1, 2003).
3. “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” said to soon-to-be-discharged FEMA director Michael Brown. Stated in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; it came to symbolize the entire debacle (Sept. 2, 2005).
4. “I’m the decider” came to symbolize the ‘imperial’ aspects of the Bush presidency. Said in response to his decision to keep Don Rumsfeld on as the Secretary of Defense (April 18, 2006).
5. “I use The Google” said in reference to the popular search engine (October 24, 2006).
6. Iraq Shoe Throwing Incident. In Iraq, throwing a shoe is a symbol of immense disrespect. Some have suggested this to be the visual equivalent of a spoken Bushism — Inappropriate, surprising, embarrassing yet compelling to repeat (December 14, 2008).
7. ”I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully” came to symbolize the President’s environmental policy (Sept. 29, 2000).
8. ”You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn’t it? I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that.” Critics used this to symbolize Bush’s detachment to the plight of the working class, said to a divorced mother of three in Omaha, Nebraska (Feb. 4, 2005)
9. ”Rarely is the questioned asked: Is our children learning?” was uttered before the first primaries back in 2000 (Jan. 11, 2000).
10. ”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” was cited by his critics as revealing his true thoughts (Aug. 5, 2004)
11. It was not always certain that the U.S. and America would have a close relationship.” The President was speaking of the Anglo-American relationship (June 29, 2006).
12. ”See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.” Explaining his Communications strategy (May 24, 2005).
13. “I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?” scribbled on a note to Secretary of State Condi Rice during a UN Security Council meeting in 2005.
14. “When the final history is written on Iraq, it will look just like a comma” (September 24, 2006).
15. “Stay the course” was stated on numerous occasions during the course of the Iraq War. Bush’s change of course with the Surge, actually made a dramatic difference in the conflict.
Others under consideration: Stratergy and “Make the Pie Higher”.
Other Presidents of the United States created their own words, some of which have entered the standard English vocabulary. These include:
- ADMINISTRATION (George Washington)
- BELITTLE (Thomas Jefferson)
- BULLY PULPIT (Theodore Roosevelt)
- CAUCUS (John Adams)
- COUNTERVAILING (Thomas Jefferson)
- HOSPITALIZATION (Warren G. Harding)
- MUCKRAKER (Theodore Roosevelt)
- NORMALCY (Woodrow Wilson)
- O.K.(Martin Van Buren)
- SANCTION (Thomas Jefferson)
About The Global Language Monitor
Austin-Texas-based Global Language Monitor analyzes and catalogues the latest trends in word usage and word choices, and their impact on the various aspects of culture, with a particular emphasis upon Global English. For more information, call 1.512.801.6823, email info@LanguageMonitor.com, or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com.
Top Bushisms of 2006:
‘I’m the decider’ and ‘I use The Google’ Top Annual List
Flashback: ‘Brownie, You’re Doing a Heck of a Job’ Was Tops for ‘05
San Diego, California (January 22, 2007) The Top Bushisms for 2006 were released earlier today by the Global Language Monitor. Topping the ‘06 List were “I’m the decider“ referring to his rejection of the request from seven former generals for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to step down and “I use The Google,” in reference to the popular search engine. The rankings were nominated by language observers the world over and then ranked with the help of the Global Language Monitor’s PQI (Predictive-quantities Indicator).
The PQI is a proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in the print and electronic media, on the Internet and throughout the blogosphere. The words and phrases are tracked in relation to their frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets.
The Top Bushisms of 2006 with Commentary Follow.
1. “I’m the Decider.” “I’m the decider, and I decide what is best. And what’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense.” Some six months later, Rumsfeld was cited as one of the major reasons for the “thumpin’” (Bush’s word) the Republicans received in the Mid-term elections. April 18th.
2. “I use The Google,” in reference to the popular search engine. October 24th. Interview with Maria Bartiromo of CNBC.
3. “It was not always certain that the U.S. and America would have a close relationship.” June 29th.
4. “I’ve got an ek-a-lec-tic reading list.” August 29th Interview with Brian Williams.
5. “The only way we can win is to leave before the job is done.” November 24th (Greely, Colorado)
6. “Stay the course.” On numerous occasions.
7. “When the final history is written on Iraq, it will look just like a comma.” September 24th. Interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN.
8. “The Congress was right to renew the Terrorist Act.” In reference to the Patriot Act. September 7th. (Washington, DC)
9. “I want to be a war president; no president wants to be a war president.” October 26th. (Des Moines)
10. “The fiscal year that ended on February the 30th.” The government fiscal year ends on September 30th; there actually was a February 30 (and 29th) before the Emperors Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar added the days to their namesake months: July and August. October 11th (Washington, DC)
The Top Bushisms of 2005 Topping the ‘05 List were: “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” said to since-disgraced FEMA director Michael Brown; “In my line of work you’ve got … to kind of catapult the propaganda” explaining his Communications strategy; and “I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?” scribbled on a note to Secretary of State Condi Rice during a UN Security Council meeting.
As War Evolves so Does Language
By Andrew Ratner, The Baltimore Sun
‘Mission accomplished’ has now become synonymous with miscalculations
Baltimore, May, 2006 — When Synthia Laura Molina tried to drum up clients for her health-management consulting firm, the reaction often was not what she anticipated. Did you consider changing the name of your business, customers would ask. Eventually, Molina and her associates felt they had no choice but to do so. Its former name: Mission Accomplished.
“When you told people the name, their initial reaction was ‘Oh, really.’ It was clear that the company name had been eroded, the company brand had been eroded,” said Molina, whose venture is known now as Central IQ. “My sense was it was so damaged, it may take a generation to lose that association.”Maybe a political group would want to buy it?,” she wondered. “Mission accomplished,” a military phrase, long ago became part of common jargon to describe a job well done. But the term took a turn for the worse after May 1, 2003.That was the day President Bush declared an end to major fighting in Iraq. He did so in front of a red, white and blue banner that proclaimed “Mission Accomplished” on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln off the Southern California coast.The power and authority of the phrase, at least in civilian usage, has since toppled like a dictator’s statue in Baghdad.
On a long list of unintended consequences and significant costs of the Iraq war, the erosion of “mission accomplished” from a widely used term of affirmation to one of miscalculation isn’t terribly significant. But it illustrates that vocabulary is shifting and organic and that overly declarative statements are probably best avoided, especially by presidents. “Rhetoric invites you to be assertive, and sometimes it’s our undoing,” said Martin Medhurst, a communications professor at Baylor University who previously directed the study of presidential rhetoric at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. “It’s like Nixon’s proclamation, ‘I’m not a crook,’ ultimately becomes the tagline for being a crook.” The term “mission accomplished” evolved in military use during World War II, usually in the context of a successful flight operation such as a strafing run or photo reconnaissance - technically a “mission,” according to A. Marjorie Taylor’s The Language of World War II in 1944. Eventually, its use became so common - and benign - it could be found on everything from plumbing tips to recipes. But during the past three years, the term has all but vanished from non-political use, particularly in the U.S. media. A search of the electronic library LexisNexis showed that the phrase is now mostly confined to references on sports pages and occasionally in news stories unrelated to war and politics in publications outside the United States. “The top references are jokes, blogs and insults. Ninety percent are negative or humorous,” said Paul Payack, who runs the Global Language Monitor in San Diego. “It’s a tagline that evokes not a smart thing to do, stepping into a trap, exactly what not to do at an apparent moment of triumph. Like ‘wardrobe malfunction,’ it just has become part of the public consciousness.”
But for all the unusual stuff that he comes across, he said he marveled at what has happened to “mission accomplished” in three years of its ricocheting around cyberspace. In 2003, the year the Iraq war began, the term “mission accomplished” appeared 375,000 times on the Internet. In 2004, it appeared 500,000 times. By 2005, it was more than 1 million. Are missions being accomplished twice as fast as before? Hardly. Payack said the phrase has assumed a new life in political reporting and elsewhere as shorthand for “grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.” A humor blog last fall read, “Bush declares ‘mission accomplished’ in New Orleans.” The “mission accomplished” event has contributed to the president’s plunge in popularity. In 2003, Bush’s name was linked to the phrase on the Internet 30,000 times, Payack said. That rose to 50,000 in 2004, 75,000 in 2005 and 60,000 times in the first three months alone of 2006. The president’s father, George H.W. Bush, was himself ridiculed after overplaying his hand as president with “Read my lips: No new taxes,” but that was before the rise of the commercial Internet, which sustains and amplifies the missteps, said Nancy Snow, a communications professor at California State University, Fullerton. “‘Mission accomplished’ is so uniquely American, the sense of being overconfident,” Snow said. “I can see why they took advantage of that day, but as I watched that play out, I just had a sinking feeling.” Among the most frequent variations of “mission accomplished” that turned up in an electronic library search were words spoken in 2003 by then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer shortly before the president’s declaration: • “I’m not going to be able to shed any more light on when the president will say the mission is accomplished.” - April 13, 2003. • “At the appropriate time, when the president is ready, the president will have more thoughts to share with the nation about the mission, what was accomplished in the mission.” - April 27, 2003. Fleischer, who left the White House job in July 2003 and now runs his own corporate communications consulting firm in Westchester County, N.Y., said in a telephone interview that Bush’s use of the phrase that spring was unavoidable after the statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down by Iraqis and U.S. Marines in central Baghdad’s Firdos Square. “Between April 6th, when the statue fell, and May 1, I was pummeled with questions by reporters, including ‘Is he trying to stretch this out for political reasons?’” Fleischer said. “One hour after the statue came down, the press was asking, ‘Why hasn’t Bush declared the war over yet?’” Fleischer, who was with the president on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, maintained that the sign was hung by someone on the ship, not by the White House. The Navy disputed that it had posted the banner in various press accounts. Bush also never actually said the words “mission accomplished” May 1 on the aircraft carrier. He actually said the opposite. “Our mission continues,” he told the crew. “Al-Qaida is wounded, not destroyed.” Afterwards, however, the president could hardly have said, “Read my lips: I didn’t say ‘mission accomplished.’” The stagecraft of the event - including the president’s arrival in a green flight jumpsuit in the co-pilot’s seat of a Navy S-3B Viking as it made a dramatic “tailhook” landing - was purposeful, audacious and meant to send the message that the “Mission Accomplished” sign succinctly conveyed. Too succinctly, it turned out, for both the president and the status of the phrase itself. “On May 1, 2003, it was a powerful and accurate metaphor that played to the president’s benefit, and as events grew worse, it was a powerful metaphor that played to the detriment of the president,” Fleischer said. “In retrospect, the sign was too declarative, while the president’s words were accurately subtle. It all got undone because of all the post-war problems we’ve had.” firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright © 2006, The Baltimore Sun
Top Bushisms for 2005
“Heckova job, Brownie”
San Diego,California (December 30, 2005) The Top Bushisms for 2005 were released earlier today by the Global Language Monitor. The rankings were based on the Global Language Monitor’s PQ (Predictive-quantities) Index. Topping the ‘05 List were “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” said to since-disgraced FEMA director Michael Brown; “In my line of work you’ve got … to kind of catapult the propaganda” explaining his Communications strategy; and “I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?” scribbled on a note to Secretary of State Condi Rice during a UN Security Council meeting. “The Global Media are continually fascinated by the Bushisms phenomenon,” said Paul JJ Payack, President of the Global Language Monitor. “In fact, President George W. Bush has provided the literary- and linguistic-minded a plethora of interesting turns of phrase over the last five years. Of course, his supporters use his frank, shoot from the hip manner of speaking as proof of Bush as a decisive man of action. This contrasts sharply, so they believe, with the precisely turned phrases of the loyal opposition that might be pleasing to the ear but lead to little or no action, compromise on the world stage or, even, worse.” The PQ (Predictive-quantities) Index is a proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in the print and electronic media, on the Internet and throughout the blogosphere. The words and phrases are tracked in relation to their frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets. The Top Bushisms for 2005 follow: 1. “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” To FEMA director Michael Brown, who resigned 10 days later amid criticism over his handling of the Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. Mobile, Alabama, Sept 2, 2005 2. “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.” Explaining his Communications strategy. Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005 3. “I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?” A note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a U.N. Security Council meeting. September 14, 2005 4. “This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table.” Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 22, 2005 5. “In terms of timetables, as quickly as possible - whatever that means.” On his timeframe for Social Security Legislation. Washington D.C., March 16, 2005 Bonus: “Those who enter the country illegally violate the law.” On Illegal Immigrants or Undocumented Workers Tucson, Ariz., Nov. 28, 2005
A Note on Bushisms
Other presidents have shared the same perception of linguistic ineptitude, including Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Harry S. Truman. Though Jackson was considered the ultimate back-county rube, he oversaw the fall of the aristocracy and the rise of the common man; Lincoln, thought to be a Bible-spouting baboon, is now considered one of the greatest leaders the world has ever produced; and Truman, the uneducated haberdasher, laid the basic political foundation of the Post-Modern world, which is only now yielding to, well, the post Post-Modern world (whatever that may be). This is not to say that linguistic ineptness invariably leads to greatness. History shows us that we’ve had our fill of verbally challenged chief executives who were also severely overtaxed by the burdens of office and have now fallen most ungraciously into the various dustbins of failed expectations. And then there was Warren G. Harding. He is said to have scandalously coined the term ‘hospitalization’ in the 1920s. A quick Google search shows that the word now appears on the web more than 8 million times. Well done, Warren! Not a bad legacy for a third-rate president. Like the ‘Yogi-isms’ of Baseball Hall of Famer Lawrence P. “Yogi” Berra, some of Bush’s most famous Bushisms can be found in literature many years before he supposedly coined them. ‘Resignate’ dates to the 18th century, and ‘Grecian’ as a reference to things Greek was the preferred way to describe those inhabiting the Greek Isles from the 18th century onward. Even ‘Misunderestimate’ can be found in 1960’s literature.