Bush Goes Nucular…


…with this applause line: "The Iranian government is defying the world with its nucular ambitions, and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nucular weapons." And so the debate continues: Does he do it on purpose for that common-man touch, or can't he help it? Did his advisers spend long hours drilling him, Henry Higgins-style, to no avail?

Update: Bush's subsequent reference to "clean, safe nucular energy" shows that the mispronunciation is not limited to the context of weapons. Does he also say "nucular family"?

NEXT: Energy Independence Promised Again

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  1. fact check time, Sullum.

    19% youth drug use decline since 2001? hmm.

  2. Hahahahaha–you said “nuclear.” It’s “nucular.” The S is silent.

  3. It’s an accepted variant pronunciation. Jimmy Carter was a nucular scientist, as I recall.

  4. Drilling him to say “nucular” consistently was the greatest challenge.

  5. He says nucular to appear joclear.

  6. Carrying on the Carter legacy. Nice. Apparently, the technical term is “metathesis,” and from what I remember from my recent Word-A-Day Calendar explanation, playing the metathesis card ensures that no matter how one might do violence to any given word, it’s cool.

  7. Bah. It’s wrong, and Carter was just revealing how much of an ignorant redneck he really was by saying it. He may have been a “nucular” scientist, but he was only a nuclear engineer, taking coursework for his position in the Navy. I’m sure he got a doctorate in nucular science. That’s much easier, since it doesn’t exist.

  8. Most everybody I knew (in the Midwest) pronounced it “nucular” until Bush became president.

  9. You guys are making me laugh.

  10. Most everybody I knew (in the Midwest) pronounced it “nucular” until Bush became president.

    Same here in the pacific north west.

  11. and Carter pronounced it “newkia” not nucular

  12. It’s nuke cue ler. Say nuclear and you may end up rendered to a secret prison.

  13. Bill Clinton is a solid member of the nucular club. Howard Dean is just a junior member – I’ve only heard him say it once. (This was after he was axed a question during an interview on NPR. Counting myself, five or six people probably heard it)

    But it is absolutely maddening when someone of W’s intellijunce does it.

  14. When I was a physics student, any student that said “nucular” got laughed at derisively. IIRC, the only physics students that said “nucular” were ex-military. Generally, the physics, chemistry, and engineering students (and professors) said nuclear. This should not be surprising, since people that can understand physical science tend to be much more intelligent than average.

    If you say “nucular,” you’d better stop unless you want intelligent and well-educated people to think you’re a ‘tard. :-}

  15. BTW, I don’t consider anyone ignorant of math and science well educated. I don’t give a damn if you have a doctorate in every non-science major in existance; you’re at best half-educated.

    Just to be fair, if you are well educated in math and science but lacking in knowledge of “the other subjects,” you’re also half-educated at best.

    Over-specialization has created a world of half-idiots.

  16. Frickin’ Eisenhower said “nucular.” Get over it already.

    And Carter didn’t say nucular, he said nukeeuh.

  17. Oh god the old nucular thing. Let the snores begin.

    Jacob, I know where you can get a book of Bob Hope jokes, if you’re looking for new material.

  18. Over-specialization has created a world of half-idiots.

    I agree…with half of what you typed.

    Of course, it’s the subjective descriptors ‘over’ and ‘idiots’ that are the source of all modern tribalism. It’s always the other guy whose the ‘over specialized, half idiot’. Not too often does anyone describe themselves that way. I’d probably vote for someone who knew enough to know we all are.

  19. For an authoritative discussion of the ‘nucular’ issue, you could start with Geoff Nunberg’s work, and his original article, here
    Bottom line: Bush is being cutesy, and it’s unrelated to degree of education, but rather to one’s choice of how educated one wants to appear.

  20. It’s dialect. Big deal. There’s no “w” in “park”, either.

  21. My opinion: it’s just another display of Bush’s mighty ego. He can do no wrong. He was right on Iraq. He was right on his wacky spending sprees. He was right on the Drug Welfare Giveaway. And he’s right on “nookyullr”. If there’s one thing I can say about this administration, it’s that they never admit fault. And changing pronunciations at this point would be an admission that he was incorrect up to this point. He and all his staff know damn well that it’s “nuclear”—just like we all know that my generation and my kids’ generation are going to be fucked over by this drug welfare giveaway—but they’d never admit fault, ever…whether it’s a major issue like Iraq, or a minor detail like word pronunciation.

  22. Evan, go have a cookie.

  23. <rant>

    I’m more concerned with you easterners who think the name of the state I live in is Ne-VAHH-duh. It’s Ne-VA-duh. If you’re going to try to be Spanish, I would also expect you to say Coe-low-RRAHH-doe, or Floorr-EE-da, or TAY-hahhs.

    And what kind of crazy person says PETE-zer for “pizza?” I don’t see an “R” anywhere in that word.


  24. Yeah, it’s a sign of stupidity to pronounce words differently based on regional dialect. Whatever. Hell, according to this theory, unless you hail from one specific dialect in Britain, you’re pronouncing it ALL wrong.

    Language is malleable and it changes over time – if it weren’t, we’d all be speaking like a Chaucer poem – or worse, like we were reading Beowulf. Get over it already.

    And those who are educated in math and science are no more educated than those who are educated in English and History. Turn your nose up at other disciplines as both sides might like to do, it’s just more BS tribalism.

  25. As a resident of the state of Oregon, I too have suffered the misfortune of Easterners mispronouncing the name of our state. They pronounce it as if it were composed of the words “or” and “gone,” despite the fact that we Oregonians pronounce it much closer to the word “organ” (with a bit of “uh” in the middle, making it almost three syllables).

    I figure the only fair solution to this vital national problem is that we should all try to call places what the locals call ’em. If the locals pronounce Nevada a certain way, that’s the way it oughtta be pronounced. Likewise, if people call their land “Deutchland,” who are we to say it’s “Germany?”

  26. Okay, I was a bit of an ass for the tone I took in my statements above. I apologize.

    Nonetheless, comparing an education in science with one in English is ridiculous. One is based on fact, the other opinion. One creates life-saving technologies, the other does not. I could go on forever.

    My main point was that one needs a broad education; a narrow education is not much of one at all.

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