. . . Thursday July 8, 2004


In high school, I briefly had a sort-of girlfriend who gave me a card on which she wrote: “Congradulations.”

At first I was quite concerned about her spelling prowess (actually, I was only 17 so I really didn’t care about anything other than flesh, but stick with me). Then I thought, maybe the error was intentional. Maybe she was sending me the double message of congratulating me and offering me her adulation (the fact that she dumped me about 45 minutes later makes this theory somewhat unworkable). Then I realized that the card had been delivered in honor of my high school graduation. She may have been offering up a clever play on words that combined congrats with graduation. Her decision to use a small smiley face to dot her “i” made this possibility seem a bit more remote.

I’ve gone through a similar thought cycle (sans the sexual frustration) when it comes the the President’s pronunciation of the word nuclear as nucular. At first, I thought it was simply a dumb error. But that seems unlikely. Perhaps he is trying to position himself as being just regular folk, but not even regular folk mispronounce the words at the very core of their workplace experiences. Maybe he just does it to piss off the professors at Yale (as if his ascension to the White House hadn’t already done the trick).

In a new book, Stanford linguist Geoffrey Nunberg examines the details of political language. Will he get to the bottom of the nucular question? I doubt it. Whoever achieves that deserves our congraduations indeed.

Concentration is important!