Say this, not that. (Tony Gutierrez, File/Associated Press)
Say this, not that. (Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press)

Jeb Bush is correct: recent immigrants do have a higher fertility rate than current citizens, and that’s exciting news in terms of keeping the U.S. population from withering off and dying after first extracting every penny from a dwindling workforce.

But the way he phrased this insight that’s the problem.

“Immigrants create far more businesses than native-born Americans,” Bush said. “Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families, and they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population. Immigrants create an engine of economic prosperity.”

“Immigrants are more fertile”? This sounds like he’s talking fecundity, not the choice to have a larger family described in fertility rate. We know what he meant, and Twitter seems to be calming down, but this is a good opportunity to review good and bad ways of expressing the same sentiment, to avoid future confusion.

GOOD:
You look very pretty today.

BAD:
You have an excellent hip-to-waist ratio and years of biology have convinced me that you would bear me healthy sons.

GOOD
I’d like to marry you.

BAD
I’d like to move into your house and eventually watch you die.

GOOD
I’d like to keep America safe from bad guys and terrorists.

BAD
I’ve been reading your e-mails for years.

GOOD
This is my bus stop right here.

BAD
This is the place I routinely hop aboard a giant moving vehicle, driven by a stranger, full of strangers, hoping that it will pass my workplace and I will be able to make it out in time!

GOOD
I’m on Instagram.

BAD
I want corporations to have access to my child’s baby photos!

GOOD
I just got out of bed!

BAD
So far, today, I haven’t killed any innocent people.

GOOD
34 percent of Americans believe in ghosts or UFOs!

BAD
34 percent of Americans are morons!

GOOD
I have to go to the bathroom.

BAD
I’d like to defecate in your house.

GOOD
I believe it is my duty as a citizen to leak these PowerPoint PRISM slides to the media, Lindsay. We may never see each other again.

BAD
The wedding is off.

GOOD
I have three cats.

BAD
I have three little boys in cat bodies.

GOOD
I love the theater!

BAD
I love to sit in silence next to strangers watching groups of trained con artists attempt to convince a crowd that they are who they say they are.

GOOD
I’m a history graduate student with a specialty in World War II.

BAD
I have spent the past several years paying people money so that I could sit in their building reading intensely about Hitler.

GOOD
I’m making hamburgers!

BAD
Someone recently slaughtered a cow on my behalf!

GOOD
Lucille has a great personality.

BAD
Lucille looks like an ugly lamp.

GOOD
I’m Jeb Bush!

BAD
I am the son of George H. W. Bush and the brother of George W. Bush.

GOOD
Yeah, my kids love sports!

BAD
Every day I drive to a place where softball practice is held and bring three children home in my car.

GOOD
Immigration makes America strong, and the higher fertility rate of recent immigrants is a wonderful thing.

BAD
Immigrants are more fertile.

Really, it’s all in the phrasing.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.