Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Dubya always says "nukular," not "nuclear." In tonight's State of the Union address, he mangled this word about six times in 45 seconds. This isn't new. He said "nukular" when he was the governor of Texas and throughout the 2000 campaign.
This undoubtedly annoys a substantial number of potential voters, probably numbering into the millions.
If George W. Bush continually reshaped himself to fit what pollsters tell him about how to avoid turning any voters off, he would stop saying "nukular." He would find the best speech therapist in the world and hook himself up to electrodes and a videocamera and undergo whatever aversion therapy it took to strike that mispronunciation from his vocabulary. He'd show up for a speech, and say "nooo-cle-ur" smoothly in a sentence, and every newspaper reporter in the room would flinch and look at each other in surprise.
Some people believe that because Dubya says "nukular" instead of "nuclear," he's stupid. They'll continue misunderestimating him right into a second term.
And the most spectacularly unsuccessful President of the last half-century was in fact a nuclear engineer in the Navy. He was very smart, and could say the word correctly, but he chose to squander his time as President on such matters as supervising the schedule for the White House tennis courts.
But for me, strangely, Dubya's mispronunciation of "nuclear" has become comforting. It's such a small thing, but it's in character. What you see is what you get; he is by far the most genuine politician I've ever seen, and he doesn't care about this mispronunciation because he has bigger fish to fry.
The primal noise at the conclusion of this sound clip, however, scares me. What was going through this man's mind when he made that noise?
Update (Wed. Jan 21 @ 1pm): The Curmudgeonly Clerk argues eloquently, with impressive citation of authority, that Dubya's pronunciation of the word is "just as valid" as the "primary or original pronunciation of 'nuclear.'" I'm persuaded; those who hold a grudge against President Bush for other reasons probably won't be, though.
Update (Wed. Jan 21 @ 3pm): A commenter on the Clerk's post points out that Prof. Eugene Volokh has also "discussed this ad nausem." The links are here, here, and here. Ah, the blogosphere! Someone emailed Prof. V, by the way, to point out that (contrary to my recollection) Jimmy Cah-tah used the same pronunciation that Dubya does.
Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to Nukular and sent a trackback ping are listed here:
» The Nuclear Option from The Curmudgeonly Clerk
Tracked on Jan 21, 2004 9:48:16 AM
» THE CASE FOR "NOOKYOOLAR" from Patterico's Pontifications
Tracked on Jan 21, 2004 9:08:23 PM
Well, Merriam-Webster says that Bush's pronunciation of 'nuclear' is kosher, and that's good enough for me!
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