January 27, 2004

Non-Bushism of the day

From the middle of the New Hampshire primary, the well-known political blogger Kos writes:

And btw, I don't have any compulsion in posting mid-day tracking polls. They are the half-time score in the Super Bowl. Democracy will march onward. Heck -- if you're a Kerry voter, it means get your ass to the poll, since your guy doesn't have it in the bag. If you're a Dean voter -- get your ass to the poll since your guy has a serious shot. And if you're a Clark or Edwards voter, you have every motivation to get your guy that important third place finish.

This is a garden-variety malapropism, substituting compulsion for the similar-sounding word compunction, though the meanings are radically different. If George W. Bush said this, Jacob Weisberg would be all over him.

This particular substitution is pretty common. For example, Walter Rogers, "CNN Senior International Correspondent", says here about an IED explosion on 12/5/2003 in Baghdad that

It shows, once again, that the Iraqi guerrillas are totally indiscriminate in their violence and killing. While targeting an American convoy here, they apparently had no compulsion about setting off their charges while a civilian bus was going by.

Sometimes such malapropisms happen because the speaker (or writer) genuinely doesn't know the difference, and sometimes it's just a little neural noise that causes one word to pop out when you really had another one in mind. Everybody makes both kinds of mistakes. It's hard to know whether George W. Bush really does this kind of stuff more often than the rest of us do, because there's nobody collecting Kos-isms or CNN-isms, or for that matter Jacob Weisbergisms.

For my part, I'm glad that nobody's keeping score on me. Well, almost nobody. I'd like to take this opportunity to say that Geoff Pullum has not asked his department chair for teaching relief in compensation for the amount of time he spends correcting my spelling errors. Whatever you may have heard.

Posted by Mark Liberman at January 27, 2004 04:32 PM