The top 10 political spelling and grammar failures

I t’s easy enough to make a spelling mistake or grammatical error, especially if you’ve been taught by people who wouldn’t know an adverb if it cheerfully slapped them round the chops with a wet haddock; but, if you’re a politician, it’s best not to do it in public.

Sadly, politicians aren’t always the brightest or luckiest people around, and their language often lands them neck-deep in ordure. It’s even worse when they spell it wrong.

So, in celebration of those politicians who mangle their words and derail their sentences, I present…

The top 10 political spelling and grammar failures

10. Tony Blair fails to spell the word ‘tomorrow’. Twice. In one short letter.

It’s not a hard one to get wrong. ‘To’ and ‘morrow. Put them together, and you get ‘tomorrow’.

Except, back in 2001, Tony didn’t. He thought ‘toomorrow’ was the way to go, probably because the double ‘o’ before the ‘m’ reminded him of the word ‘Doomsday’.

Blair spelling mistake

9. Schools Minister Jim Knight

Illiteracy is a job requirement if you want to be Schools Minister. Earlier this year Jim Knight was brought up sharp for exhibiting the same poor standards that he was trying so earnestly to stamp out. According to The Telegraph, these are just some of the words he spelled incorrectly on his blog.

  • maintainence (maintenance)
  • convicned (convinced)
  • curently (currently)
  • similiar (similar)
  • foce (force)
  • pernsioners (pensioners)
  • reccess (recess)
  • archeaological (archeological)
  • acheiving (achieving)
  • receieved (received)

It’s rather ironic coming from a newspaper that regularly shoves misspelled copy on its website, but moving on…

8. The Labour Party

Unsuprisingly, this happened on Jim Knight’s watch back in 2008. Indeed, if you look closely you can spot his name. See if you can spot the other embarrassing mistake.

Labour illiteracy

As Jim might say, ‘excellant’!

7. Dan Quayle encounters a root vegetable

No, not George W. Bush, but a potato. In 1992, American Vice President Dan was visiting a school when pupil William Figueroa wrote the word ‘potato’ on the blackboard. The VP was appalled, and quickly ‘corrected’ it to ‘potatoe’. What a spud!

Dan Quayle and a potato(e)

6. Carving a misspelled name – and the wrong quote – into the Scottish Parliament building

A sterling effort this one. Only this month, it transpired that someone had incorrectly carved the name of one of Scotland’s greatest living authors, Alasdair Gray, into the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. It will cost £3,000 to correct the name from ‘Alisdair’, but that money will also pay for a brand new quote. Alasdair Gray also pointed out that the original, ‘Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation’ was not written by him, but by a Canadian poet.

Hoots mon!

5. Pakistan’s Prime Minister unfamiliar with the spelling of ‘God’

Bit of a controversial one this, but it seems that Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari wrote this in the visitors’ book at Maza-e-Quaid, the National Mausoleum that is tomb to Jinnah, the country’s founder:

May Gaad give us the strut to save Pakistan.

Gaad give us strut

I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to prop the place up.

4. Failing to spell Government literacy and numeracy posters correctly

Back in 2000, when the Government was busy squeezing the joy out children’s reading and mathematics with its literacy and numeracy strategies, it sent this poster out to primary schools.

Numeracy poster

The offending word was, of course, ‘vocabluary’, but the hideous phrase ‘key ideas’ is far more offensive. It was at about this time that I first heard a pupil say she enjoyed school because of the ‘key contacts’ she was making. Pass the bucket.

3. Schools Minister Iain Wright

Why do second-rate politicians always promise us a first-rate education system? One such is Schools Minister Iain Wright who, this month, made a fool of himself on BBC Radio Derby. Just watch him fall into this bear trap:

Wright: Students have often struggled with spelling. The fact is, now – more than ever – we’re getting better quality teaching, learning: and students are benefiting from that.
Presenter: Can I test you as well? We’re just gonna play you a little clip, right. This is you speaking – I think for the BBC – in an interview. I want you to tell me what the grammar error is here, alright? Are you listening?
Wright: Yes.
Presenter: Okay.
Wright (recording): “I would, I would say to students, ‘don’t give up hope’. There is options available.”
Presenter: So go on then. Tell me. What you got wrong there?
Wright: I said, ‘there is options available’.
Presenter: And it should have been?
Wright: ‘There are options available’.
Presenter: There you go, you see. So you might have A’s in politics and history and all that kind of stuff, but you need to know how to speak properly for goodness sake Iain. You’re the Schools Minister.

It’s hard to decide what to get most depressed about: a Schools Minister with a shaky grip on the English language, or a radio presenter with almost no grip on it at all. Anyway, let’s push on.

2. Almost anything uttered by John Prescott

Take your pick. The former Deputy Prime Minister’s grasp of his mother tongue is as tragic as it is tenuous. Try these:

“In the north east, there, they have had quite a bit of government offices moving in. It’s not a new policy.”

“You go down some street – no doubt it’s there, and we have to do something about it, and our programmes are designed to do that – but if that’s a picture of Newcastle, it’s not the one I recognise and I bet none in the North East do either.”

Doubt still remains whether Two Jags knows how to spell ‘Jaguar’, although he had no problems filling in expenses claims for two lavatory seats. Smile by all means, but this leads us nicely to…

1. The biggest political spelling mistake of them all

One fifth of pupils in our country leave primary school unable to read or write properly. And, frankly, I don’t think that’s funny.

Copywriter: Ben Locker

Category: Words
Tags: dan-quaid-potato-spelling, george-bush-potato-spelling, george-w-bush-spelling-potato-as-potatoe, grammar, grammar-mistakes-on-business-letter-funny, political-copywriter, political-copywriting, political-grammer-mistakes, politician-spelling-errors, politics, potato-spelling-error, spelling, spelling-errors-in-political, sterling-effort-spelling, tony-blair-misspelling-tomorrow, tony-blair-tomorrow-spelling, toomorrow-blair, top-10-political-blunders-uk, top-10-spelling-mistakes

More: « How to write TV programme titles | Beauty, Bono and Copywriting »

3 Comments

  1. Ben, I think you’ve got it wrong. That was “Strut” as in, walking the talk, cock o’the yard, the inbuilt belief that one is, in whatever Islamic way possible, essentially a Fonzerelli. Call it pointing the wall with testosterone. Such poetic language. Can only be applauded.

    I’m told, by the way, that Einstein had notoriously bad spelling, and that this is common of geniuses. But as my mother would have said, “That’s no excuse.”

    Comment left by KEB on Monday 24th August, 2009 at 10:25 am

  2. You could be right. On closer inspection, one could plausibly argue he wrote ‘strat’ and not ‘strut’, indicating that Pakistan’s main man is a fan of three-chord rock.

    Comment left by Ben Locker on Monday 24th August, 2009 at 10:31 am

  3. [...] http://benlocker.co.uk/the-top-10-political-spelling-and-grammar-failures/ [...]

    Pingback by Top Ten Political Spelling and Grammar Mistakes « Politics and Language on Friday 16th October, 2009 at 3:12 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment