Saturday, November 6, 2010

How to Use "Misunderestimate"

Peacelight Presents: A Grammar Lesson.

Some people go around saying "misunderestimate." Other people go around telling them that it's not a word. Well, what do you think?

According to the "internets," "misunderestimate" is a Bushism: a misstep in communication born from the mouth mouth of ex-President George W. Bush. (Other notable Bushisms include "Is our children learning?" and "The human being and the fish can coexist;" see amusing collection below:)

The 43rd President of the United States.
I, however, would like to defend the President. Or, at the very least, his word. Like Shakespeare before him, who invented over one thousand new words and phrases (including "eyeball" and "obscene"), Bush must have truly been one ingenious poet. For I will now demonstrate that, contrary to conventional wisdom, there is a great need and use for "misunderestimate" in our vocabulary.

It is best described in this scene:

[Begin Scene]

[Location: Pirate ship. Bright, sunny. Some wind. Action: Two actors appear, one (Captain Bob, male) dressed in traditional pirate attire and eye-patch, the other (Jane, female) less-so. The two are engaged in sword-fighting.]

Bob: Argh! You'll never win, my swording skills shall outmach thee!

Narrator: Captain Bob is apt at using creative words, like "swording," to get his messages across in new ways. Here, he estimates that Jane's skills are inferior to his own.

[Fighting continues; Jane disarms Bob]

Bob: Oh no! It would seem I underestimated ye skills!

[Another character emerges, looking identical to Jane, from below deck. Contrasting the two, it is apparent that the "new" Jane is much more fluid in movement and lifelike than the "old" Jane]

Jane (New): You're wrong Captain Bob! You did not underestimate my skill with the sword! You underestimated my ability to construct a sword-fighting robot!

Narrator: As we can see, the woman who just appeared is, in fact, Jane. The woman we previously thought to be Jane is now revealed as Jane's robot.

Bob: Argh! Right ye be! I was wrong to have thought I underestimated your swording skills! I seem to have misunderestimated ye, Jane!

Narrator: Captain Bob has coined a new word, "misunderestimated," which he correctly uses to describe a situation in which his original underestimation was not merely an erroneous estimation, but additionally an erroneously perceived underestimation; the correct underestimation would have centered around Jane's metalworking abilities.

[End Scene]

As clearly demonstrated above, "misunderestimate" has its place.

And so, the next time you hear a friend say "misunderestimate," do not scold him for misspeaking. It may be that he is, indeed, using words improperly, but don't risk underestimating his grasp of the language, as this, ultimately, may prove to be a misunderestimation of your friend's ability to successfully poke fun at the 43rd president.


  1. This should be a sketch for Major: Undecided.
    Also, once again, you are amazing. :P

  2. My inner linguist loves you. A lot.

  3. I misremember, what were we misspeaking about?


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