What Romney meant to say


Oops. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) (Ethan Miller/GETTY IMAGES)

“It was a misstatement,” he told Jon Ralston. “I misspoke.”

I think Romney needs a refresher on what “misspeaking” means.

See, there's a subtle but meaningful distinction between “misspeaking” and “wishing you hadn’t said anything at all.”

Or maybe this is a problem he has a lot.

“Honey,” Ann asks, “do I look fat in this dress?”

“Yes,” Romney says. “You look fat.”

Ann looks at him, bewildered.

“Sorry,” Romney says, after a pause. “That was a misstatement. I misspoke. I meant to say, ‘Absolutely not, you are as beautiful as the day I married you.’ But somehow it came out as, ‘Yes, you look fat.’”

“Ah,” Ann says, looking unconvinced.

“Hey, Mitt, how’s it hanging?” Rick Perry asks.

“Fine, Rick, because unlike you, I am a human being with more than a teaspoonful of brain, and I know how to put together complete sentences!”

“Gee, that seems uncalled for,” Perry says, after a moment.

“Sorry,” Romney says, blinking repeatedly. “That was a misstatement. I misspoke. I meant to say, ‘Hi.’”

Perry edges uncomfortably away.

“Mitt is tough, he's smart, he’s sharp, he’s not going to continue to allow bad things to happen to this country that we all love,” says Donald Trump.

“OH MY GOD! WHAT HAVE I DONE! THIS IS A TRAVESTY OF THE POLITICAL PROCESS! I AM ASHAMED TO BE ON THIS STAGE!” Mitt screams.

“Huh?” Donald mutters.

“That was a misstatement. I misspoke. I meant to say, ‘Thank you, Donald, for the endorsement.’”

And so on.

Generally, when people misspeak, they have something else in mind that they wanted to say, something similar that’s easy to get tripped up by as it rolls off the tongue, not just a vague and generalized regret that they opened their mouths.

“I’ve said something that is similar to that but quite acceptable for a long time,” Romney notes.

“When I said I was not concerned about the very poor,” Romney should explain, “I misspoke. I only meant to think it. It was the speaking part that was the mistake area.”

Can we do this now?

This reminds me of those Autocorrect stories found on the Web.

“Hey bro… can you help me move?“ one guy texts.

“Maybe you should get your act together and get a job…then you wouldn’t be stuck in your parents’ basement,” replies his friend. “Sorry. Autocorrect. I meant to write, sure, I’d be glad to.”

That’s not quite how talking works.

Misspeaking and wishing you hadn’t opened your mouth are not quite the same.

“I misspoke,” Romney said. To borrow a phrase from Mike Birbiglia, “what I should have said was nothing.”

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".

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