Mighty Red Pen

March 18, 2009

Bush speaks: Authoritative vs. authoritarian

Filed under: Lit review,Word wars — mighty red pen @ 6:17 pm
Tags: , ,

This just in from former President George W. Bush, who is planning to write a book:

“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.”

Did Bush say authoritarian when he meant authoritative?

These words are markedly different: authoritarian means “requiring unquestioned obedience to authority, dictatorial,” as in His approach to discipline was authoritarian; he would brook no disagreement or discussion whatsoever. Authoritative has no pejorative overtones where it means “reliable, official, well-qualified,” as in She has written the authoritative biography of the poet. The only overlap is in the sense of “being fond of exerting authority,” but authoritarian is much the stronger in that meaning and suggests a less admirable quality. (Columbia Guide to Standard American English)

Or was this just one those, er, Freudian slips?


January 27, 2009

Presidential acts

Over at the Borowitz Report, Andy Borowitz has a parting shot for George W. Bush in the form of Bush Repeals English Language: Last Official Act as President:

In what he hoped would be the capstone to his eight years as President, George W. Bush today signed an executive order repealing the English language. Scrawling his name on the official document, Mr. Bush said that in abolishing English he had vanquished his greaterest enemy.”

For Mr. Bush, the executive order represents the realization of a longstanding dream that began in 2001 when he declared an official War on Grammar.

The President followed up that declaration of war in 2003 when he signed an executive order cancelling the agreement between nouns and verbs.

And if you like that story, you might also enjoy Obama’s Use of Complete Sentences Stirs Controversy: Stunning Break with Last Eight Years:

The historian said that if Mr. Obama insists on using complete sentences in his speeches, the public may find itself saying, Okay, subject, predicate, subject predicate—we get it, stop showing off.”

Hat tip to Mr. Verb.

January 16, 2009

George W. Bush: Out of the mouths of presidents

Filed under: Pop culture,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 8:13 pm
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People, don’t misunderestimate the awesome linguistic power of a fully operational George W. Bush.

Jacob Weisberg at Slate has collected hundreds of “Bushisms” over the course of Bush’s presidency. In honor of our departing Commander-in-Chief, Weisberg’s compiled his list of The Top 25 Bushisms of All Time. There’s even a priceless video montage.

I don’t know if I could possibly choose but these are some of the classics that have always tickled me:

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”—Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

“You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.”—Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001

“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.”—Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002

Weisberg even tries to make sense of it all:

People often assume that because I’ve spent the past nine years collecting Bushisms, I must despise George W. Bush. To the contrary, Bushisms fill me with affection for the man—and not just because of the income stream they’ve generated. . . .

Being able to laugh at yourself is a rare quality in a leader. It’s one thing George W. Bush can do that Bill Clinton couldn’t. Unfortunately, as we bid farewell to Bushisms, we must conclude that the joke was mainly on us.

MRP wants to know: What’s your favorite Bushism?

Hat tip to Captain Moondog.

July 29, 2008

It’s awesome!

If you’re anything like MRP, you like to liberally sprinkle your speech with the word awesome.  In fact, the word is so awesome that apparently even the President of the USA uses it. A lot. In a recent article, “George W. Bush: ‘Awesome!‘” Andrea Higbie addresses the ways in which this word continues to capture our hearts and minds:

On Memorial Day, President Bush paid tribute to the troops and their families at Arlington National Cemetery. Of the men and women buried there, President Bush declared, “They’re an awesome bunch of people, and the United States is blessed to have such citizens.”

What else is awesome? Just about everything. “Thank you, Your Holiness,” the president publicly said to Pope Benedict XVI in mid-April when he became only the second pope in history to visit the White House. “Awesome speech.”

MRP’s addiction to awesome: a lasting effect of having grown up during the 1980s? Well, I can neither confirm nor deny that.


Bonus MRP moment: Speaking of awesome, members of Red Sox nation will appreciate these musings by our friends at Everything Language and Grammar.

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