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Shooting Fish in Barrels


By Miranda

Isn't it fun catching out public speakers in a slip of the tongue? And how easy it is to do these days when all public utterances, and some not supposed to be public, are recorded by members of the media or by individuals with mobiles (cellphones, for the US) and various other bits of usefully intrusive technology.

The sheer terror of being in the spotlight is made worse by the assurance that every word said will be available for later dissection. It's 'glossophobia', the fear of public speaking, amplified by the certainty of finding in your audience that lovely borrowing from German, 'schadenfreude', the delight in others' failure or pain.

When Bertie Ahern begged people not to "upset the apple tart" I wonder if, in addition to being a risible error, it's also evidence of a mind going rapidly from 'upsetting the apple cart' to other things associated with apples, for example 'apple pies', thus upsetting 'apple pies' to give a mess. He could even have gone from the pie to a slapstick 'pie in the face' and on to 'egg in the face' before pulling back to complete the phrase not yet entirely articulated and, keeping the sound of the word 'cart', ending up with a pie synonym and going into history as an habitual mangler of the English language.

George W Bush described a "hateful few... who kill at the whim of a hat", where the progression from a whim to 'at the drop of a hat' is clear.

I suppose our minds work much faster than our mouths, especially under the pressures of facing the press or, for members of the media, broadcasting live.

So perhaps the TV analyst I heard recently describing the tossing about of options in a very serious political caucus did mean to make things a little more light-hearted by saying they were "bantering about" the ideas.


6 Responses to

Shooting Fish in Barrels

tonianne said:
July 22, 2010 at 12:03 AM

Kath from Kath n Kim fame has a delightful habit of "turning a phrase" & it is wonderfulSometimes the mistake makes better sense than the original word.

July 22, 2010 at 3:33 PM

In a recent national news report, featuring an octopus picking the winning football side, it was referred to as having 8 testicles. Quite a giggle in our household.

July 22, 2010 at 4:12 PM

My pet peeve is "the proof is in the pudding" instead of "the proof of the pudding is in the eating". I could go on as I am a bit of a word nerd too. I also hate the use of incorrect grammar especially the apparent death of the adverb especially using "real" instead of "really" as in "real good" when it should be "really well"

grantdood said:
July 23, 2010 at 12:14 AM

No Miranda, the mouth works faster than the mind. These people speak before they think about it!!!

July 24, 2010 at 1:14 PM

I disagree, grantdood. I think the mind works infinitely faster than the mouth can. Which is why we so often get a "tip of the slung"

rhve said:
July 24, 2010 at 7:41 PM

Quite right. By the time the mouth gets to say its piece, the mind has often moved on and left it floundering foolishly behind.