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Section 25

Table of Contents | NCCAP/NCTRC CE Booklet

Flubs…  It happens a lot. You mean to say one thing,… but a slip of the tongue brings something else out of your mouth.

- Campaigning for the presidency, Massachusetts gover­nor Michael Dukakis referred to “modern musicians” instead of “modern munitions.”
- Jimmy Carter once referred to himself as a “former president”—while still in office. (I believe psychiatrists could have had a field day with that one.)
- Dan Quayle’s frequent flubs became grist for the com­edy mill.  In one of his more memorable utterances, Quayle took the motto of the United Negro College fund (“A mind is a terrible thing to waste”) and somehow managed to come out with this: “What a waste it is to lose one’s mind or not to have a mind. How true that is.”
- President George Bush once shocked an American Legion audience by referring to September 7 as Pearl Harbor day (which is actually December 7). One year later he told another American Legion audience that he would never make the mistake again: “As long as I live, I’ll remember the gasps from the audience.” Alas, Bush then misspoke in this speech and referred to December 7 as “election day.”
- President Ronald Reagan “the Great Communicator” made frequent flubs, but used his charm to gloss over them. He might refer to the Vienna airport as the Viet­nam airport, or assign the wrong title to Mikhail Gor­bachev.

My point is, flubs happen—a lot, even to the best speak­ers. You are not immune. If you botch your material, correct yourself simply and calmly. Try a brief, neutral statement, such as:
 “Let me try that one more time.”
 “Actually, the date is.. .“
 “I should clarify that.”
“Let me correct that.”
“What I really meant to say was. .
“Maybe I should put it another way.”
“I need to fix that. The correct number is.. .“

Keep your correction short and clean. Don’t stammer— otherwise, you’ll just call more attention to your error. Elaborate apologies only dig deeper holes. If you are comfortable with humor, a lighthearted line might help.
“Can we do a retake on that?”
“How about I give you an instant replay?”

“Now, for those of you who lack fluency in garble, let me translate that into plain, ordinary English.”
“Well, I sure mangled that one, didn’t I?”
“Gee, it might help if I took my foot out of my mouth!”

Write two recoveries from flubs you would feel comfortable using.



Forward to Section 26
Back to Section 24

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