Perrspectives - Bringing light to Darkness

Bush Hooked on Phonics at UN

September 25, 2007

Early in his presidency, George W. Bush was an enthusiastic proponent of "Hooked on Phonics" for educating America's children. Now we know that his ringing endorsement came from personal experience. At the United Nations today, President Bush addressed the General Assembly using a crib sheet of phonetic pronunciations for those difficult country names and leaders sure to trip up any leader of the Free World.
Much to the dismay of a White House which only yesterday deemed Barack Obama "intellectually lazy," the UN briefly posted a marked up copy of Bush's speech including pointers for avoiding the rhetorical pitfalls that come with addressing the world body. Tips included:

  • Kyrgyzstan [KEYR-geez-stan]
  • Mauritania [moor-EH-tain-ee-a]
  • Harare [hah-RAR-ray]
  • Mugabe [moo-GAH-bee]
  • Sarkozy [sar-KO-zee]
  • Caracas [kah-RAH-kus]

Of course, Bush's losing struggle with the English language involves far more than his butchery of individual word pronunciations. Though not on display during his prepared remarks at the UN today, the President's unscripted rhetorical incontinence often renders his speech incomprehensible to friend and foe alike.
As I wrote two years ago, Bush unconstrained by written text is a veritable gaffe machine:

This latest incomprehensible utterance illustrates the last of the four types of Bush gaffes. The first, Accidental Truth, involves Bush inadvertently saying what he actually feels or believes. The second, What He Really Meant, are those cases where the discerning observer can find the actual intent of Bush's words that had been sadly lost in his lack of familiarity with English. The third, Post-Modern Dyslexia, involves President Bush changing the order, conjugation or tense of words to render the mundane incomprehensible. Last, as in the case of Bush "going on with his life", is the What the F**k? category, where the meaning of Bush's words are hidden to man and God alike.

For more analysis and detailed examples, see "On W's Words of Wisdom."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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