&#91FOUNTAIN&#93As I was saying . . . oops!

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[FOUNTAIN]As I was saying . . . oops!

U.S. president George W. Bush is well known for his frequent malapropisms. Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of media studies at New York University, described some of the president's slips in his book "The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder."

In the book Professor Miller cites examples of Mr. Bush's many grammatical mistakes. Instead of using the past participle "shaken" when saying "have shaken hands," the president said "shaked," a word that does not even exist. Saying "Is our children learning?" when he should have started with "are," and using "more few" instead of "fewer" are other examples in Mr. Miller's book. Mr. Miller argues that what we have here are signs of ignorance rather than mere verbal mistakes. Mr. Miller contends that the real problem is that the president does not seem to care about these errors.

The American president properly using his native language is not a major issue with us. If, however, he makes remarks offensive to others on the international stage and does not seem to care, then that is a different story.

Commenting last year on disputes between India and Pakistan, President Bush angered Pakistan by calling its people "Pakis" instead of the correct "Pakistanis." "Pakis" is a derogation comparable to "Japs" or "Negroes."

During his visit to Europe, Mr. Bush held a joint press conference with French President Jacques Chirac at the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. Not able to remember the flood of questions thrown at him all at once, Mr. Bush, blaming jet-lag, said that is what happens when you get to the age of 55. The American press described how the French president, who is 69, raised his eyebrows in reaction to the remark.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, one of Bush's closest advisers, referred to Germany and France, both opposing a war against Iraq, as "old Europe." Afterward, contemporary intellectuals Juergen Haber-mas and Jacques Derrida criticized Mr. Rumsfeld's remark as one of ignorance and arrogance.

The Bush administration's problem of being considered more offensive than it actually is by the international community is partially because of these speech patterns that violate simple verbal courtesy.

One can only wonder, is the president influencing his staff, or is his staff influencing the president?


by Chun Young-gi

The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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