Like Homer Simpson, but without the charm…or the smarts…or the class…or the virility
Homer Simpson does it, and so does Jay Leno. But these days, President Bush tops the list.
All three mispronounce the word “nuclear” as “nucular.”
That’s “NOO-kyoo-lur,” as Homer patiently explains in one episode of “The Simpsons.”
The muddled pronunciation seems to be a pet peeve of a number of Americans — especially when it springs from Bush’s lips.
“This is one of those things that gets people irritated,” says linguist Geoffrey Nunberg, a Stanford University professor who received so many e-mails on the topic that he discussed it in an essay he read on National Public Radio last year.
So why does Bush, leader of the free world and a product of Yale and Harvard, consistently mangle this vital and often-used word?
It’s possible, Guenter says, that he does it to be liked.
“There is always an appeal to a certain amount of folksiness by a president,” Guenter says. “The president is supposed to be populist and of the people. I don’t think [presidents] make any overt attempt to come across as learned or scholarly. This country has a big distrust of people that are considered to be too educated.”
Being perceived as a regular guy seems especially important to Bush, says Mark Crispin Miller, a New York University media studies professor whose recent book, “The Bush Dyslexicon,” examines the speaking style of George W.’s presidency.
“It’s very important to Bush and his team that he appear to be ‘just folks,’ ” Miller says. “That is a crucial pose for him because of his wealth and privilege, so there is a tendency on his part to flaunt some of that verbal crudeness.”
While the White House did not return telephone calls on the subject, Nunberg says there isn’t much chance that the president’s twisted diction is an innocent mistake. After all, the linguist says, it’s not as if Bush never heard “nuclear” pronounced the right way.
“His dad says it right, and at Harvard Business School he was surrounded by people who know how this word is pronounced,” Nunberg says. “To assume he doesn’t know any better or never had it pointed out to him, that’s ridiculous. It was probably pointed out to him at the dinner table when he was 15 years old.”
…or maybe it’s because he doesn’t care and he’s has gotten a free pass his entire life so why should he make an effort to do anything correctly.
Then again, maybe he is an idiot.