Inasmuch as making blunders, or saying something and immediately realizing what was said wasn’t what was intended, is a matter of course for humans, why do we get embarrassed, flustered, and especially angered when we make them? After all, absolutely everybody has been the victim of a self-inflicted faux pas at one time or another, and another, and another. See my point?
But let’s face it, boys and girls, all too often we—OK, I—delight when those of the high and mighty do or say something that ends up with their having enough egg on their face to serve at a buffet brunch.
Shall I illustrate? Oh, I thought you’d never ask.
We begin back in 1631 when Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, the Royal Printers of His Majesty Charles I, were told to print a new edition of the King James Version of the Bible. When the book was printed and released, copies appeared in the churches and bookstores of London with Exodus 20:14 reading “Thou shalt commit adultery” instead of “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” If that hadn’t raised enough uproar, Deuteronomy 5:24, which should have stated “Behold, the Lord our God hath shewed us his glory and his greatness …” came out as “Behold, the Lord our God hath shewed us his glory and his great-asse . . . .” Messers Barker and Lucas lost their printers license and were fined £300–about $50,000 in today’s money. (Incidentally, the latter error is widely believed to have been an act of sabotage by those coveting the valuable title of Royal Printer, which the printers claimed but could not prove.)
In 1999, a year after creating the now widely popular search engine Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, tried to sell their business to Excite CEO, George Bell. They ultimately asked for $750,000, which Bell rejected. That they didn’t sell is probably just as well for Page and Brin, I suppose, inasmuch as currently their combined wealth due to Google is around $120 billion.
However when it comes to head-shaking faux pas, we need look no further than to our world leaders, for whom a good rule to follow might be this: Put your brain into gear before putting your mouth into motion.
George W. Bush never mastered speaking Spanish as well as he could. (That’s OK, neither have I.) In 2001, President Bush mispronounced the name of Spanish prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar by saying his last name with a softer sibilant than the z requires. The problem? Ansar, which is what it sounded like, is Spanish for goose.
None of you will be surprised to be told that George W was no stranger to spouting oopsie moments. One more example: In a speech about terrorists, he commented, “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”
I suppose one has to feel at least a little sorry for Jimmy Carter. In preparing for a trip to Poland, he employed a translator so that he could deliver his remarks in Polish. Unfortunately, the translator he hired had a very poor grasp of the Polish language and, worse still, often mistakenly used Russian in place of Polish. When Carter spoke about leaving the United States, Seymour’s translation had Carter leaving the U.S.A. forever. President Carter than delivered a talk in Russian to the Polish nation that was under control of the Soviet Union.
Gerald Ford—no stranger to physical displays of “oops” moments–once locked himself out of the White House when he took his dog out for a walk.) The Secret Service was alerted to let him back in. (Ironically, the Secret Service’s nickname for Ford was “Passkey.”)
On a trip to Australia, Prince Philip asked an Aboriginal businessman if Aborigines still threw spears at each other. The businessman’s terse reply? “No, we don’t do that anymore.”
Ronald Reagan, who was often referred to as the “Great Communicator,” made an unfortunate slip of the tongue when he said, “We are trying to get unemployment to go up, and I think we’re going to succeed.” Yup, he meant to say “employment.”
OK, Barak Obama had just been inaugurated, but it counts as an “oops” when he mistook a window for a door in the White House.
While I am not certain, I think if I took the time to do the deep research I probably would find one or two gaucheries produced by the current occupant of the West Wing.
This week’s Street Advertising Smile: