It’s just a slip of the tongue

Friday - - Leisure -

We all make mis­takes in speech and writ­ing. There are fac­tual er­rors, gram­mat­i­cal gaffes, spell­ing mis­takes, mis­pro­nun­ci­a­tions and bad or ab­sent punc­tu­a­tion. But we get away with it be­cause we’re not in the spot­light.

Celebri­ties and politi­cians aren’t so lucky. They’re ever in the pub­lic eye; mi­cro­phones and cam­eras are every­where; and one slip of the tongue spreads like wild­fire thanks to so­cial net­work­ing sites and in­stant up­dates on smart­phones.

Oc­ca­sion­ally it bor­ders on be­com­ing a ma­jor diplo­matic in­ci­dent: re­cently dur­ing a news con­fer­ence, France’s Pres­i­dent François Hol­lande, speak­ing in French in Tokyo, re­ferred to the Al­ge­rian hostage cri­sis in Jan­uary in which 10 Ja­panese na­tion­als died, say­ing he “ex­pressed the con­do­lences of the French peo­ple to the Chi­nese peo­ple”, and then made no at­tempt to cor­rect his mis­take. It was left to a quick­think­ing in­ter­preter to fix the ver­bal gaffe as she gave her si­mul­ta­ne­ous trans­la­tion, ren­der­ing the sen­tence as it had been in­tended.

The fun­nier ones seem to come from the US, with for­mer Vi­cepres­i­dent Dan Quayle be­ing some­thing of a past mas­ter at de­liv­ery:

● “Wel­come to Pres­i­dent Bush, Mrs Bush and my fel­low as­tro­nauts.”

● “I be­lieve that I’ve made good judge­ments in the past, and I think I’ve made good judge­ments in the fu­ture.”

● “It isn’t pol­lu­tion that’s harm­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. It’s the im­pu­ri­ties in our air and wa­ter that are do­ing it.”

● “I stand by all the mis­state­ments that I’ve made.”

Ge­orgeWBush, too, was af­flicted by foot-in-mouth dis­ease:

● “You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a lit­er­acy test.”

● “I prom­ise you I will lis­ten to what has been said here, even though I wasn’t here.” And one clas­sic Freudian slip:

● “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.”

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