- April 2, 2008
- Posted by: Madrigal Admin
- Category: Word of the Week Blog
Last week news reports showed that Hillary Clinton’s account of her exposure to sniper fire in a trip to Bosnia in 1996 was at the very least, an exaggeration of the danger—she may have “misspoke”. An entertainer, on the same trip, said the scariest part for him was wondering where he’d eat next .
The Washington Post consequently awarded her four Pinnochios [sic] which it gives out for major whoppers.
Clinton’s spokesman, Howard Wolfson, told reporters:
Now it is possible in the most recent instance in which she discussed this that she misspoke with regard to the exit from the plane.
Wolfson, a partner in communications firm where he focuses on, among other things, crisis management, has a Masters degree in history. This may have been useful in appropriating ‘misspeak’ a word dating from the 14 th century to describe the Clinton blunder as “misspoke”.
Misspoke has several meanings: to mispronounce something; to express yourself inappropriately, inaccurately, or unclearly; or to speak incorrectly or imperfectly. This ambiguity makes it the perfect spin-doctor word. However, bloggers are simply calling it a lie.
Clinton’s account is an example of truthiness, the recently-coined word by American satirist, Stephen Colbert, and defined by the American Dialect Society as:
the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.
It will be interesting to see if the euphemistic response will seriously damage Clinton’s campaign. The public will accept that its politicians may be prone to truthiness but will they treat seriously politicians that open themselves up for ridicule?