A word in the Bush is worth two in the hand

by Emily

Last week, we took a look at the world of embarrassment that was George "Dubya" Bush's use of the English language.

Few can argue that Bush Jr left a fine legacy from his presidency of the United States, and his unusual grasp of English is just one of the less than flattering things that he will be remembered for.

Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and at least Dubya raised awareness of certain grammatical errors, all of which could be solved with the help of an English tutor.

So where did GWB go wrong?


A malapropism is the substitution of one word for another with a similar sound, in which the resulting phrase makes no sense but can sound hilarious. The word malapropos means "inappropriate" or "inappropriately", which comes from the French phrase mal à propos (literally "ill-suited").

Out of the mouth of Bush: "They have miscalculated me as a leader."

Wrong word, wrong time

Sometimes, Dubya went one step further than a malapropism and just used a word completely out of context that sounded nothing like anything that could have been right! It's this habit that gave Dubya's spoken English a very curious quality.

Out of the mouth of Bush: "I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."


A spoonerism is a mistake in spoken English (or an intentional play on words) in which corresponding consonants and vowels are switched around.

These are named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner, warden of New College, Oxford, who was prone to a spoonerism or six. Still, he appeared to have survived Oxford life with the habit - and Bush survived the biggest job in the world with it as well!

Out of the mouth of Bush: "If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow."


A neologism is a newly coined word or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but is yet to become part of the mainstream. In the case of Shakespeare, this was a clever and well thought out literary and rhetorical device. In the case of Bush, this was more of a daft mistake.

Out of the mouth of Bush: "They misunderestimated me."

To make sure you avoid linguistic catastrophes like this, contact First Tutors for an English tutor in your area.