George W. Bush speaking to a Joint Session of Congress, 2001
George W. Bush speaking to a Joint Session of Congress, 2001

Bushisms are unconventional statements, phrases, pronunciations, Freudian slips, malapropisms, as well as semantic or linguistic errors in the public speaking of the 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush.[1][2] The term Bushism has become part of popular folklore and is the basis of a number of websites and published books. It is often used to caricature the former president. Common characteristics include malapropisms, the creation of neologisms, spoonerisms, stunt words and ungrammatical subject–verb agreement.


Bush's use of the English language in formal and public speeches has spawned several books that document the statements. A poem entitled "Make the Pie Higher", composed entirely of Bushisms, was compiled by cartoonist Richard Thompson.[3][4] Various public figures and humorists, such as Jon Stewart of The Daily Show and Garry Trudeau, creator of the comic strip Doonesbury, have popularized some more famous Bushisms.[citation needed]

Linguist Mark Liberman of Language Log has suggested that Bush is not unusually error-prone in his speech, saying: "You can make any public figure sound like a boob, if you record everything he says and set hundreds of hostile observers to combing the transcripts for disfluencies, malapropisms, word formation errors and examples of non-standard pronunciation or usage... Which of us could stand up to a similar level of linguistic scrutiny?".[5] Nearly a decade after George W. Bush said "misunderestimated" in a speech, Philip Hensher called the term one of his "most memorable additions to the language, and an incidentally expressive one: it may be that we rather needed a word for 'to underestimate by mistake'."[6]

Journalist and pundit Christopher Hitchens published an essay in The Nation titled "Why Dubya Can't Read", writing:

I used to have the job of tutoring a dyslexic child, and I know something about the symptoms. So I kicked myself hard when I read the profile of Governor George W. Bush, by my friend and colleague Gail Sheehy, in this month's Vanity Fair. All those jokes and cartoons and websites about his gaffes, bungles and malapropisms? We've been unknowingly teasing the afflicted. The poor guy is obviously dyslexic, and dyslexic to the point of near-illiteracy. [..]
I know from my teaching experience that nature very often compensates the dyslexic with a higher IQ or some grant of intuitive intelligence. If this is true for Bush it hasn't yet become obvious.

— [7]

Stanford Graduate School lecturer and former Bush economic policy advisor Keith Hennessey has argued that the number of Bush's verbal gaffes is not unusual given the significant amount of time that he has spoken in public, and that Barack Obama's miscues are not as scrutinized. In Hennessey's view, Bush "intentionally aimed his public image at average Americans rather than at Cambridge or Upper East Side elites".[8]

Bush's statements were also notorious for their ability to state the opposite of what he intended, with notable examples including his remarks on the estate tax, "I'm not sure 80% of people get the death tax. I know this: 100% will get it if I'm the president."[9]



Foreign affairs



See also


  1. ^ Bines, Jonathan (May 1992). Bushisms: President George Herbert Walker Bush in His Own Words. Workman Pub Co. ISBN 978-1-56305-318-4.
  2. ^ "The 'misunderestimated' president?". BBC. January 7, 2009. Retrieved January 23, 2009. The word "Bushism" has been coined to label his occasional verbal lapses during eight years in office, which come to an end on 20 January.
  3. ^ "The Comics Reporter".
  4. ^ a b "Make the Pie Higher!". 2002. Retrieved October 12, 2006.
  5. ^ Mark Liberman, "You say Nevada, I say Nevahda". January 3, 2004.
  6. ^ Hensher, Philip (July 21, 2010). "Sarah Palin's struggle with English language". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on July 23, 2010. Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  7. ^ Hitchens, Christopher (September 24, 2000). "Why Dubya Can't Read". The Nation. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  8. ^ "George W. Bush Is Smarter than You".
  9. ^ Hall Jamieson, Kathleen (2004). The Press Effect: Politicians, Journalists, and the Stories that Shape the Political World. Oxford University Press. p. 62.
  10. ^ "Bushisms of the Week". Slate Magazine. May 11, 2000. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  11. ^ Jackson, David and Wayne Slater. (May 10, 2000). "Subdued McCain Endorses Bush". The Dallas Morning News.
  12. ^ "Top Ten Bushisms: The Miseducation of America". Time. January 11, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2009.
  13. ^ "Top Ten Bushisms: Fish Are Friends". Time. January 11, 2009. Archived from the original on January 18, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2009.
  14. ^ "Remarks by the President on Teaching American History and Civic Education". White House Archives. September 17, 2002. Retrieved December 18, 2010.
  15. ^ "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me". Retrieved March 4, 2021.
  16. ^ "Top Ten Bushisms: The Love Doctor is In". Time. January 11, 2009. Archived from the original on January 19, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2009.
  17. ^ "Bush Speech In Canada Met With Protests". CBS News.
  18. ^ a b c see (item number "26.", of) Kelly, Martin (June 22, 2016). "The 40 Dumbest Bush Quotes of All Time". Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  19. ^ Jacob Weisberg (May 25, 2005). "Bushism of the Day". Slate.
  20. ^ Daniel Kurtzman. "The 25 Dumbest Quotes of 2008". Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  21. ^ "The 'misunderestimated' president?". BBC. January 7, 2009.
  22. ^ Bob Woodward (November 19, 2002). Bush at War. Simon & Schuster. pp. 145–6. ISBN 978-0743204736.
  23. ^ "The Complete Bushisms". Slate Magazine. March 20, 2009. Archived from the original on July 22, 2017. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  24. ^ a b c d "Make the Pie Higher!". July 21, 2008.
  25. ^ "Top 10 Bushisms". Time. January 11, 2009. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  26. ^ Jacob Weisberg (March 20, 2009). "The Complete Bushisms". Slate. Archived from the original on July 22, 2017. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  27. ^ Caitlin Johnson (September 6, 2006). "Transcript: President Bush, Part 2". CBS News.
  28. ^ "President George W. Bush Speaks to HUD Employees on National Homeownership Month". U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. June 18, 2002.
  29. ^ "President Bush Discusses Economy, Small Business in Wisconsin". The White House. October 3, 2003.
  30. ^ Alan Isik, Arda (November 17, 2015). "Now watch this drive!". Daily Sabah. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  31. ^ a b "GEORGE W. BUSH QUOTES II". NotableQuotes. Retrieved December 11, 2014.
  32. ^ "'Misunderestimate' tops list of notable 'Bushisms'". New York Daily News. January 8, 2009.
  33. ^ ""Childrens do learn," Bush tells school kids". Reuters. September 26, 2007. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved June 30, 2017.

Further reading