Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 7 Issue 17 | April 25, 2008 |

  Cover Story
  Writing the Wrong
  View from the   Bottom
  Straight Talk
  In Retrospect
  A Roman Column
  Dhaka Diary
  Book Review

   SWM Home

Straight Talk

Famous Faux Pas!

Nadia Kabir Barb

How many times have you said something and then wished you could take it back? Or how about making a comment about a particular topic and then subsequently realising that you were completely wrong? At times like these I am sure we wish for the ability to erase these embarrassing moments from the minds of those who have been privy to our less than great utterances. Or if that fails we can only hope that given a little bit of time the memory of our faux pas or gaffe will fade away. But luckily for us the mistakes we make are not blazoned across television screens or the highlight of an article in a newspaper or magazine. For those in the public eye, whether they happen to be a celebrity or politician things are not as simple. Their actions and statements become immortalised for generations to come.

The other day someone asked me about a movie I had watched a few months ago called Charlie Wilson's War. The film was about Democratic Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson who worked together with a CIA operative named Gust Avrakotos to initiate an operation to help the Afghan mujahedeen resist and ultimately defeat the Soviet Union's military occupation of the nation. However, at the time I went completely blank and mumbled, “Oh Charlie Wilson's War, umm... it was about Charlie Wilson”. An incredibly enlightening response don't you think? I was fortunate that the person on the receiving end of this particularly edifying comment was at that moment called upon by someone else. Thank goodness for small mercies.

David Beckham is probably one of the most recognisable and famous footballers of his time. Apart from his outstanding achievements in the sports arena, he has graced the covers of magazines, the face of certain advertising campaigns and is even a goodwill ambassador to UNICEF. So when he says, "I definitely want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don't know into what religion yet", after the birth of his son, I might be inclined to forgive him for his lack of understanding that when you christen a child it is a dead giveaway as to the religion he/she might be born into!

The Queen and First Lady with their famous spouses

Then of course we have the former princess of pop Britney Spears who commented "Where the hell is Australia anyway?” Might she be referring to the incredibly large land mass between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean, the sixth-largest country in the world, which also happens to be a continent? It also reminds me of one of the contestants of a reality show Big Brother. Jade Goody actually became known not just for her appearance in the Big Brother Show but for her outrageous remarks. Many people appreciated her lack of self consciousness and 'naivete' (others called it plain ignorance!). For example, she asked a fellow contestant "Rio De Janeiro? Ain't that a person?" or "What's asparagus? Do you grow it?” and when someone suggested Jade move to the US, she replied: "They do speak English there don't they?" If you don't know something there is no harm in asking but maybe one should refrain from using words one may not know, "Jonny, I'm not being tictactical in here" and no, that was not a typing error made by me or any of the SWM staff. However, Ms Goody also gained notoriety when she entered the Big Brother House at a later date with Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty and sparked wide spread criticism for her crass and somewhat racist comments.

Can you guess who said the following at a 1986 World Wildlife Fund meeting: "If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it." Well let me put you out of your misery and tell you that it was His Royal Highness Prince Phillip, The Duke of Edinburgh, in other words the consort and husband to the Queen of England. I wonder if the Queen is on tenterhooks every time her husband makes a formal appearance as to what politically incorrect statement he may come up with next. I have taken the liberty to share with you some of the more famous gaffes made by the Duke of Edinburgh. Speaking to a student who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea he quipped, "You managed not to get eaten then?” or his observation about the attire worn by the President of Nigeria during an official tour, "You look like you're ready for bed." Or even at the height of the recession in 1981 when he said: "Everybody was saying we must have more leisure. Now they are complaining they are unemployed."

At this point if I could I would have to nominate two people as the contenders for the top spot as far as making outrageous remarks or blunders go. The first Nominee would be Prince Philip and the other would surely have to be George W Bush, the twice elected president of the U.S.A. How about the one where he said "I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace." Or "I heard somebody say, 'Where's (Nelson) Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead. Because Saddam killed all the Mandelas." -- On the former South African president, who thankfully is still very much alive. "In the long run, the right answer to unemployment is to create more jobs." I believe that is called stating the obvious! “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.” Oh dear. There also the basic grammatical mistakes which G W is so well known for --- “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?” And of course “They misunderestimated me.” Need I go on? To be perfectly honest if you happen to read a few 'Bushisms' in succession, by the end of it you find yourself thoroughly confused and rather bemused at what exactly the president is trying to say. The litany of blunders is endless.

I will let you ponder and decide on who you think should be awarded the numero uno position but as far as I am concerned the jury is still definitely out! Well at least it makes us lesser mortals feel a sense of relief that when we put our foot in our mouth we can live in the knowledge that sooner or people will forget about it. Unlike our contenders above...

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007