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Jewish World Review Jan. 21, 2003 / 18 Shevat, 5763

Tom Purcell

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"Misunderestimated" | After querying linguists around the globe, recently released its Top 10 Words of 2002. Last year's No. 1 was invented by President Bush: "misunderestimated."

It's no secret that our president is linguistically challenged. He frequently has difficulty articulating what he means to say. And he frequently is mocked by folks who are eagerly awaiting his next slip.

But I have to admit our president has given us some beauties.

Last February in Japan, he said "devaluation" when he intended to say "deflation." That caused Japanese traders to make a bigger rush on the yen than they did when Godzilla came to town.

While speaking to a group of small business owners, Bush said, "I understand small business growth. I was one."

Sure, our president flubs up his words and syntax, but most Americans have not only come to accept his creativity, we've come to enjoy it.

Bush once promised American voters: "Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes. I'm a free trader. I will work to end terriers and barrifs everywhere across the world."

The president meant to say barrier and tariffs, of course. But we know what he meant. Besides, we aren't sure what he said was wrong anyhow. Terriers tend to be high-strung, whiney little animals; America would be better off without them. And "barrif" isn't a word, but should be. Barrif: "Balding middle-aged bureaucrat who impedes free trade."

As for trade, it is true that our president said "more and more of our imports are coming from overseas." So what? Has it occurred to Bush's critics that he is forced to state the obvious due to an education system that is in such a shambles?

"There's only one person who hugs the mothers and the widows, the wives and the kids, upon the death of their loved one," he said last December. "Others hug, but having committed the troops, I've got an additional responsibility to hug and that's me and I know what it's like."

OK, that's some pretty embarrassing language. But embarrassed is the way a man should respond to emotional stuff. I much prefer the Bush approach to that of his predecessor, a fellow who could turn on the touchy-feely faster than you can say Monica.

"Let me tell you my thoughts about tax relief," the president said in Boston last October. "When your economy is kind of ooching along, it's important to let people have more of their own money."

There is nothing to criticize here. Our economy is "ooching" and our people are "ouching," and I for one am grateful our president isn't hemming and hawing.

You see, where communicating with the American public is concerned, there are three major areas that concern us. There is what our president thinks, there is what he means, and there is how he says what he means.

Bush frequently stumbles with words - though his formal speeches tend to be remarkably compelling for such a "limited" man - but we know what he means and we usually know what he really thinks. Sure, it would be great if the chief representative of our country was also highly articulate, but in an imperfect world, two out of three isn't so bad.

I look at Bush the way my mother does. She says when you really stand back and look at what he's done - when you look at the number of wins he's accomplished, agree or disagree with his politics - you can only draw one conclusion: Bush sure is dumb. Dumb as a fox.

And if his opponents were smarter, they'd stop misunderestimating him.

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01/10/03: Republican night life
01/06/03: Exercise pills
12/31/02: They provide unending joy to those who are wise enough to let them in
12/13/02: Hurried Man Syndrome
12/06/02: In DC, snowstorms have important ramifications --- or, at least, they should
11/26/02: Police advertising
11/15/02: An Interview with Osama
11/01/02: How to vote in America
10/25/02: On edge in Washington, D.C
10/11/02: Giving new meaning to "selling your body"
10/04/02: Bush's Angels
09/27/02: Conservatives, Liberals, Dick Armey and Barry Manilow
09/20/02: Are SUV drivers are the new GOPers?
09/13/02: Bubba is Dubya's man
09/06/02: The Freedom to Picnic
08/16/02: Ah, the $izzle of anti-terrorist pork
08/09/02: Vacationless prez and gutless Americans
07/26/02: Study gives women permission not to hide their emotions
07/15/02: Patriot food
06/28/02: Eavesdropping on a San Fran classroom
06/21/02: The crowded skies
06/14/02: Contemporary Father's Day: A conversation for the ages
06/07/02: Legal rights for animals?
05/19/02: Advice for prom goers this year: Hold onto your money
05/10/02: Don't take her for granted
05/03/02: Letter to the parents of a tubby teen
04/26/02: Zacarias Moussaoui gets expert legal advice

© 2002, Tom Purcell