Misspeak; apparently it’s a word, although I failed to find it in my 1976 Concise Oxford Dictionary. (So the dictionary is thirty nine years out of date, doesn’t time fly?) But the popularity of misspeaking has made resurgence recently, so I may find it in the next dictionary I buy. (Ha, that’s funny, who ever heard of buying an actual book these days? Well… me, books at good prices are plentiful in op shops.)

The etymology for the word misspeak can be traced back to the fourteenth century from the Old English missprecan meaning to grumble or murmur. Who would have thunk? Its current meaning is to express oneself without sufficient clarity or accuracy.

Australia’s good friend China was a little miffed recently when Australia’s other good friend the US, had an official reveal plans that they intended bulk up their military presence in Darwin. Things got a little fraught. Suited men in Canberra suffered migraines. Ministers hyperventilated and wiped sweaty palms on their pinstripes. Tensions had to be eased. China, our main trading partner had to be placated, anxieties assuaged and encouraged to have a metaphorical bex and a good lie down. It was tense. Until it was revealed – oh whoops a daisy, it was just an Assistant Secretary of State ‘misspeak.’ Problemo solvedo. (Misspeakingly speaking.)

So was he being, well, unclear or inaccurate? What? Is it that they actually intend to send B-1s to say, Townsville, not  Darwin, so they can do cheeky little reconnaissance missions over Magnetic Island and give the willies to the nudists sunning themselves on Balding Bay (and maybe get to see some in return. Air Force personnel have to be vigilant as surface to air missiles can pop up anywhere there.)

It’s like when you have a gathering of friends, but among them there are two who don’t get on. There’s a history – little misunderstandings that have manifested themselves in displays of eye gouging and shin kicking, but nothing serious.

You endeavour to keep them separate. One is encouraged into the lounge room to chill on the Jason recliner within easy reach of the nachos, salt and vinegar chips and home brand spumante. The other is enticed into the kitchen where there is a sympathetic coterie and a secret stash of spirits.

As the spirits starts to flow, voices grow louder, inhibitions are lowered, judgements grow harsher and tongues grow looser.

Jason recliner gal hears her name mentioned in raucous, damning tones. Before you know it, Miss Jason is convinced a misdeed has been done. She has no misgivings about misusing her Miss Shop stilettos for a missile which she mischievously fires at Miss Spirits. Suddenly Miss Marple appears on the doorstep engaged on a mission to unravel a misdemeanour resulting in misadventure.

Her verdict: A misspeak.

The admission of a misspeak absolves everything. A misspeak can be a harmless mistake, as in the case of Tanya Plibersek calling Africa a country. It can be a rubbish comment that was never intended as demonstrated by the US military official.  Or it can be letting the feline out of the backpack – US military official again?  But it can just as easily be a lie –  think Hillary Clinton running from a sniper fire.

Jack went running to the door ready for tea. He thought I said “din din” but in fact I was asking for “gin gin.” That’s a misspeak.

wordpress misspeak Jack


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