On the President’s Shakespearean Tendencies

Will wonders never cease!

While other American presidents have quoted from Shakespeare, it appears that George W. Bush is the only president to emulate Shakespeare.

So argues Slate.

My first reaction? It can’t be. He doesn’t have the cadences. He talks like a gibbering moron when he’s off script, when he’s not being actively petulant.

Yet, Slate makes the case:

Shakespeare is famous for having introduced more words into the English language than any other individual. Those words have become so much a part of our vernacular that we no longer associate them with the Swan of Avon. Words used above — like birthplace, fixture, and assassination — originate with him. Perhaps Shakespeare’s most enduring legacy lies in his unseen mark on our semantic stock.

Along this metric, Bush stands alone among the 43 presidents. His coinages are the stuff of legend, including terms such as misunderestimate, mential, and embetterment. Many critics lament how busybody editors “corrected” Shakespeare’s Quartos because they did not conform to their pedestrian notions of proper usage. For the same reason, we should not let stenographers “correct” Bush’s contributions to our literary heritage. Bush’s words do not belong to us. We hold them in trust—for our childrens, and for our childrens’s childrens.

We speak of the “Bush dyslexicon,” but Slate suggests there’s something far more subtle at work. Bush isn’t misspeaking. He’s coining a whole new language.

Nah, I don’t buy it myself.

The idea is good for a laugh, though. 🙂

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