The political season has hijacked the news cycle, with no hope for reprieve until November. A dispiriting prospect, except for us word people who find a certain fascination in the sheer volume of utterances pouring out of the mouths of candidates. Thus the increasing use of the phrase, “walk that back.”
I did a bit of research, lest we forget history. George H. W. Bush, the father, was famous for his non-sequiters. Here, courtesy of a slender volume called Bushisms, compiled by the editors of The New Republic, we have a selection of gaffes that seem to have been collected in a spirit more of affection than scorn.
“Fluency in English is something I’m often not accused of,” Bush said modestly. Like Shakespeare, he sometimes found it necessary to invent a word to get his point across. “I put my confidence in the American people to sort through what is fair and what is unfair, what is ugly and what is unugly.” “Those are two hypo-rhetorical questions.”
Sometimes, what he wanted to say wasn’t that complicated. “We’re enjoying sluggish times, and not enjoying them very much,” he explained. “It’s no exaggeration to say the undecided could go one way or another.”
The forest of metaphors could sometimes lead him astray. “Please don’t ask me … because you’re burning up time, the meter is running through the sand and I am now filibustering.”
As I face the revisions on my first draft of the novel I’m writing, I’m heartened to realize that, at least, it’s not the treacherous spoken word. In the privacy of my own office, a simple delete button can put a merciful end to my filibustering. Halleluja.