We all trip over our words at times. If we’re lucky, we trip and fall just as a vice president is about to open fire in our direction. No, not Dick Cheney. (More)
This week Morning Feature splashes in the shallow end of the political pool with a look at tongue-tied politicians and their mangled comments. Today we hunt for meaning with former Vice President Dan Quayle. Tomorrow we’ll beat around the babbling of former President George W. Bush. Saturday we’ll conclude with a potpourri of prattle from other famous politicians.
Thoughts that got lost on the way out
We all trip over our words at times. That may happen because our brains process thoughts faster than our mouths can articulate the sounds. Add a dash of deer-in-the-headlights anxiety and a sensible idea comes out as nonsense. We can sometimes recover the original thought through forensic interpretation … but frankly it’s more fun to laugh at the thoughts that got lost on the way out.
For example, take this gem by former Vice President Dan Quayle:
- Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.
It’s safe to assume he wasn’t referring to swaddling. Indeed we shudder at the thought of Vice President Quayle using that word. Ducks would likely end up blushing as bright as flamingos. Nor did he likely intend any bizarre kink. Still, a single syllable – the three-letter difference between “bonding” and “bondage” – opens unintended doors. He stumbled through a few of those:
- What a waste it is to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.
Here he was speaking to the United Negro College Fund and trying repeat their famous slogan: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” It’s in there, somewhere, maybe. Sort of.
- One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is ‘to be prepared.’
We can sum up that mistake in a single word: “too many words.”
Time marches on?
Several of his mental meanderings involved the passage of time:
- The Holocaust was an obscene period in our nation’s history. I mean in this century’s history. But we all lived in this century. I didn’t live in this century.
- I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy – but that could change.
- I have made good judgments in the past. I have made good judgments in the future.
- The future will be better tomorrow.
If the BPI Fizzix Department ever get that time travel machine working, perhaps we can figure out what, exactly, those meant.
Space, the final frontier….
Clearly, Vice President Quayle was a fan of the space program. Because the truth is out there:
- Welcome to President Bush, Mrs. Bush, and my fellow astronauts.
We’re sure he didn’t mean “my fellow space cadets.” We think:
- Mars is essentially in the same orbit … Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe.
- For NASA, space is still a high priority.
- [It’s] time for the human race to enter the solar system.
Vice President Quayle’s earthbound geography was equally suspect:
- We have a firm commitment to NATO, we are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe.
- I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix.
- It’s wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago.
Perhaps he inspired the invention of Giggle Maps.
Paging Doctor Dumbfounded
Much of his vivisected verbiage might have survived with prompt syntactical surgery:
- We are ready for any unforeseen event that may or may not occur.
- When I have been asked during these last weeks who caused the riots and the killing in L.A., my answer has been direct and simple: Who is to blame for the riots? The rioters are to blame. Who is to blame for the killings? The killers are to blame.
- Illegitimacy is something we should talk about in terms of not having it.
- We’re going to have the best-educated American people in the world.
- Quite frankly, teachers are the only profession that teach our children.
Others simply defy comprehension:
- People that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history.
Perhaps he meant himself.
He didn’t! He did!
Not all of Vice President Quayle’s doozies were actually donesie. For example, he never said these:
- If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.
- A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls.
- It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.
Nor did he make this famous linguistic loop, offered as a joke by a Rep. Claudine Schnieder after the vice president complimented her French in Belgium:
- I was recently on a tour of Latin America, and the only regret I have is that I didn’t study Latin harder in high school, so I could communicate with those people.
There’s no reason to pile on like a mashed potatoe. His own verbal veg-o-matics were more than enough:
- Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things.
- The American people would not want to know of any misquotes that Dan Quayle may or may not make.
- I stand by all the misstatements that I’ve made.
Former Vice President Dan Quayle: a man of his word … if ever he finds it.
Source: Dan Quayle Quotes at snopes.com