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Wednesday, 20 February, 2002, 09:20 GMT
Misspoken: Mouth in foot disease
misspoken ppl.v. 1. (US only) To speak mistakenly, inappropriately, or rashly. 2. past part. of MISSPAKE, possibly.

USAGE: White House officials rushed to assure rattled currency traders that President Bush had "misspoken" when referring to the "devaluation" (lowering the exchange rate) of Japan's troubled yen. He, of course, meant "deflation" (falling prices) - a word which wouldn't have immediately knocked half a yen off the currency's dollar value.

ORIGIN: presumably a compression of the words "mistaken" and "spoken" (cf. to be spoketaken), it is used almost exclusively by unnamed political spokespeople (cf. misspokespeople) to defuse rows without calling any involved party stupid, a liar or worse.

EXAMPLE: "I think [General Schwarzkopf] may have misspoken. He's just not used to doing a lot of television": an unnamed Pentagon official reinterpreting a 1991 TV interview in which Stormin' Noman said he wanted to "annihilate" the Iraqi army.

NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH: Bushism. No longer denotes the President's linguistic gaffes (aka Bushlexia), the Washington Post has begun to talk of Bushism as an proper "ism" - like Thatcherism or Reaganism.

"Bushism - or in deference to his father, should we call it Dubya-ism? - may be the route to a new conservative ascendancy." EJ Dionne Jr. 27/01/02.

ALSO SEE: Bushisms as a particular and positive form of post-11 September political speech. Criticisms of the President's grip on English have slowed to a trickle in the US press since the terror attacks.

Time magazine now classifies such phrases as "evildoers" within the lexicon of Bushisms.

ALSO NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH: a mere misunderestimation of the power of words.

Has clear English been devalued or merely deflated? Comments and suggestions can be submitted to the E-cyclopedia by clicking here.

Your comments:

Reader Ross Larsen (USA) writes:
Bush is a president for these times and the cynic in me thinks a lot of Americans only resent people who sound smarter than them. That's why the man's obvious stupidity is endearing to them.

See also:

18 Feb 02 | Americas
Yen gaffe joins Bushism catalogue

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