August 11, 2004


For those of you who didn’t listen to the MP3 on tribal sovereignty from the previous post, here’s the transcript of the Bush quote.

Said the president, “Tribal sovereignty means that — it’s sovereign. You’re a — you’ve been given sovereignty, and you’re viewed as a sovereign entity. And, therefore, the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.”

It’s better in the MP3, but Bush’s inability to explain “sovereignty” is stunning. Bush is that kid in class that didn’t read the assignment, but genuinely thinks he can talk his way around it when he’s called on in class.

Teacher: Mr. Bush, would you tell us a little bit about To Kill a Mockingbird?

Bush: Well, it is a book. …And there’s a mockingbird in it. And they talk a lot about whether you ought to kill it or not. And one guy is thinking about killing a mockingbird. But someone else (probably a librul) doesn’t want to shoot it. And, in the end, the mockingbird gets shot.

Now, sometimes I didn’t read an assignment (this never happened with Harper Lee’s famous work) and Mr. Newton would sense that and call on me. I would always make something up to answer him, and ramble on for a minute or two, wandering far afield in as entertaining a way as possible, Mr. Newton would ask, in his mock-stern manner “Are you finished?” and I would say “yes” and then promise to read the assignment.

The sad thing about Bush is that, even though you can hear people laughing in the background, he clearly isn’t joking in his answers.

Posted by James at August 11, 2004 2:03 PM
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Has Bush been cribbing from Dan Quayle's notes?

Posted by: Patti M. at August 11, 2004 3:22 PM

You just reminded me of sophmore year English (high school) when we were assigned A Tale of Two Cities on the first day of a term, due on the last. I wrote this down in my notebook and promptly forgot we needed to read this. I don't know if the teacher never mentioned it again or I somehow was always absent/spacing out whenever she reminded the class but I finally caught her reminder two days before the exam. I spent the first night furiously reading the first few chapters (maybe 80-100 pages, it's like a 500 page book) before falling asleep. The next day I realized there was no way I could read the entire book so I read the last 3-4 chapters and skimmed the rest.

I managed to pull off an 80% which turned out being the highest grade (which now that I think about it means it's very likely she never reminded us we were suppose to read it). Thanks god I had sen the movie somehwere along the way.

Posted by: Bob at August 11, 2004 3:28 PM

And your mother, who taught HS English, would refer to the Cliff Notes while writing the test. If that's all you read, you got a big red F. Too bad for you!

Love that story.

Posted by: Patti M. at August 11, 2004 3:43 PM

Sometimes I miss school.

Posted by: James at August 11, 2004 4:05 PM

I miss school too.

I was bad about reading things that I was supposed to read. Sometimes I didn't have time; other times, I just didn't like the book. So I'd go to the library and read the one- or two-page Masterplots summaries. If I really liked the story, I'd read the book over the summer when I had more time, but in the meantime, between the Masterplots and the class discussion I had enough information to take the test (obviously I still had to refer to the book but at least I knew what I was looking for at that point).

I felt that I was doing a horrible, bad, shameful thing, but now I see that I could have done a lot worse. I never actually read TKaM (it was optional, and I chose other books instead) but I saw enough of the movie to know that it wasn't much about a mockingbird. :)

As for "sovereignty"... that was the word I spelled to take first place in a spelling bee when I was 11. I also knew what it meant.

Posted by: Julie at August 11, 2004 4:57 PM

I took third place in my school spelling bee when I messed up on chrysanthemum. I spelled the word correctly, but I forgot to say the word "chrysanthemum" because I was so excited that my studying was paying off.

It turned me off correct spelling for life. :)

Why do they call it a "spelling bee" I wonder.

Posted by: James at August 11, 2004 5:03 PM

Well, clearly, the meaining of "sovereignty" is that you can blame someone else for your mistakes. I don't know why the durty librul meedya refuses to understand that. I guess they're all Frenchies.

Posted by: Great Cthulhu at August 11, 2004 6:42 PM

I was the second person knocked out of a spelling bee after missing the word error. Or was it era? I forget. I got a chocolate donut out of the deal from my frowning 7th grade English teacher.

Posted by: Mike at August 11, 2004 7:08 PM

...and a pretty decent story.

Posted by: James at August 11, 2004 8:52 PM

Sovereignty video clip

Posted by: Mike at August 12, 2004 12:46 AM

Wow. Even worse on video.

Posted by: James at August 12, 2004 1:21 AM

I should start a Bush photo du jour weblog: Gratifying hit

Posted by: Mike at August 12, 2004 2:55 AM

From, where else, the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee (see

What is the origin of the term spelling bee?

The word bee, as used in spelling bee, is a language puzzle that has never been satisfactorily accounted for. A fairly old and widely-used word, it refers to a community social gathering at which friends and neighbors join together in a single activity (sewing, quilting, barn raising, etc.), usually to help one person or family. The earliest known example in print is a spinning bee, in 1769. Other early occurrences are husking bee (1816), apple bee (1827), and logging bee (1836). Spelling bee is apparently an American term. It first appeared in print in 1875, but it seems certain that the word was used orally for several years before that.

Those who used the word, including most early students of language, assumed that it was the same word as referred to the insect. They thought that this particular meaning had probably been inspired by the obvious similarity between these human gatherings and the industrious, social nature of a beehive. But in recent years scholars have rejected this explanation, suggesting instead that this bee is a completely different word. One possibility is that it comes from the Middle English word bene, which means "a prayer" or "a favor" (and is related to the more familiar word boon). In England, a dialectal form of this word, been or bean, referred to "voluntary help given by neighbors toward the accomplishment of a particular task." (Webster's Third New International Dictionary). Bee may simply be a shortened form of been, but no one is entirely certain.

A Dictionary of American English. Sir William A. Craigie and James R. Hulbert, eds. University of Chicago Press, 1944.
A Dictionary of Americanisms. Mitford M. Mathews, ed. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1951.
Mencken, H.L. The American Language. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1938 (suppl. I, 1945: suppl. II, 1948).

Posted by: Patti M. at August 12, 2004 9:25 AM

Thanks, Patti. I love etymologies. Especially the less clear-cut ones.

Posted by: James at August 12, 2004 9:29 AM

You're into bugs? I never knew. ;)

Posted by: briwei at August 12, 2004 10:17 AM

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