Zahira Kharsany
Zahira Kharsany

Figures of speech

So I have been told that I’m the new recruit on Thought Leader and, wow, what a privilege it is to be among such people. I’m actually taking over from the previous M&G Online Dutch intern and I have big shoes to fill. So, as reference — the original three blog post are not mine but Thijs van der Post’s.

But this post is not about that. This is about the fact that President Bush has a notion that Mandela is dead.

Yes, Mandela, our saviour, seems to be dead or a dying breed — depends on how you interpret what Bush was trying to say. He seemed to be saying that the Mandela breed is dead in Iraq, but the way the layman read it, it seemed as though he suggested Mandela had died.

Last month Bush was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying: “I heard somebody say, ‘Now where’s Mandela?’ Well, Mandela is dead. Because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.”

I felt sorry for South African consulates around the world as well as the Nelson Mandela Foundation, having been inundated with calls regarding his death. I wonder if Bush could ever retract that statement. “Bushism creates more blunders,” the headlines should be crying.

Not to worry, Nelson Mandela is as alive and well as could be considering his age. Makes me wonder whether Bush needs a new speech writer — or was he, in fact, writing his own speech?

“It appears that his statement has been misunderstood and we wish to assure everyone that Mr Mandela is alive and well and enjoying some rest and relaxation at his home in Johannesburg,” said Achmat Dangor, chief executive of the foundation.

You may regard these facts as outdated and irrelevant, but the reason for this is to understand the nature of the Bushism. The US president seems always to make some alienated remarks suited to him alone. If I ever made such comments, I would be regarded as an obscure little cell. And to think that he is the most powerful man in the “free world” … who would have thought that his speech writers were having problems?

Wikipedia defines a Bushism as any of a number of peculiar words, phrases, pronunciations, malapropisms, semantic or linguistic errors and gaffes that have occurred in the public speaking of the American president.

Some of the profound characteristics of a Bushism is the use of words that sound similar to intended words but are either inappropriate for the context — such as “nucular power pants” instead of “nuclear power plants” — or completely alter the meaning of the sentence, such as using “devaluation” instead of “deflation”, which “caused confusion in the currency markets”, “Opec” instead of “Apec” and “Austria” instead of “Australia”.

Bush indeed needs a new writer — or is this just an insight into the man elected as president of the most powerful country in the world? From some of his obscure Bushisms one would think that he was an illiterate unintelligible fool. Or could he be using such phrases on purpose?