I watched an hour of cable television news recently, and that means two things: 1) The only newsworthy items in the world were what Senators Clinton and Obama think of each other and what issues Senator McCain was flip-flopping on that day, and 2) I got to hear my newest pet peeve of a word approximately 24 times. Clinton misspoke about her experience in Bosnia. Obama misspoke about the support of his former pastor. McCain misspoke about al-Qaida in Iraq and Iran. Misspoke. Misspoke. Misspoke.
It’s not just misspoke, of course. It’s also all of its variations: misspoken, misspeak, and misspeaking.
I haven’t done enough research to know whether this is actually even a word (another post will follow shortly)–and not just another case of mistakenly slapping a prefix in front of a word and pretending it’s a word, especially without a hyphen since there’s a temptation to pronounce it as miss poke instead of mis spoke–but that’s not even the point here.
This is simply yet another instance when we’ve decided to use a kinder, gentler way of speaking instead of telling the truth. Politicians may lead the league in this category, but the so-called hard journalists who are on the trail of truth follow like a duckling follows its mother.
If we think that someone has lied, then we should say so–especially if you’re a reporter on the news who is trying to give the viewers at home a truthful account of what has just happened. I don’t necessarily expect a political candidate to step up to a podium and say, “Yeah, you caught me. I made up that story”; however, I do expect the reporters covering the story to say, “The politician didn’t misspeak; none of the facts of the case matches the politician’s story, so it seems as if he or she is not telling the truth.”
Mark my words: Misspoke will soon be to lie what issue is to problem.
Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever
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If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Verb’s blog, you might check him out. He has a couple of posts on this issue.