LOS ANGELES - Call it the wrong phrase at the wrong time but "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job" was named on Thursday as U.S. President George W. Bush's most memorable phrase of 2005.
The ill-timed praise of a now disgraced agency head became a national punch line for countless jokes and pointed comments about the administration's handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster and added to the president's reputation for verbal gaffes and clumsy turns of phrase.
Former FEMA Chief Mike Brown and President Bush take questions in San Diego, November 4, 2003. Call it the wrong phrase at the wrong time but "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job" was named on Thursday as Bush's most memorable phrase of 2005. REUTERS/John Gastaldo/POOL
Paul JJ Payack, president of Global Language Monitor, a nonprofit group that monitors language use, says Bush's statement in support of the then-director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency may be remembered for years to come.
"The 'Brownie' quote leads our 2005 list of Bushisms -- memorable phrases or new words coined by the president," Payack said, adding that Bush may be the foremost White House creator of new words, citing such past efforts as "misunderestimate" (to seriously underestimate) and "embetter" (to make emotionally better).
Ten days after Bush verbally patted Michael Brown on the back before the TV cameras, Brown resigned amid a public uproar over his qualifications and the administration's failure to get aid to New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Although the president did not originate any new words this year, he had several notable statements, Payack said, citing the following:
-- "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda," Bush said in explaining his communications strategy last May.
-- "I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?" Bush asked in a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a U.N. Security Council meeting in September.
-- "This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table," Bush said in Brussels last February.
-- "In terms of timetables, as quickly as possible - whatever that means," the president said of his timeframe for passing Social Security legislation in March.
-- "Those who enter the country illegally violate the law," Bush said in describing illegal immigrants in Tucson, Arizona, last month.
Global Language Monitor uses an algorithm to track words and phrases in print, electronic media and the Internet. The words and phrases are tracked in relation to their frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets.
© Reuters 2005