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Presidential faux pas is entertainment

MANILA, Philippines — Faux pas (fo pa) is French for “false step,” which is now accepted as a word to mean “a social error; a breach of tact or manners.” Mispronouncing and misspelling words may also be considered faux pas, or if Anglicized means “gaffe or blunder or slip or ignorance or stupidity.” A person of position, a president for example, committing faux pas becomes media comedy fare when they make fun of the blunderbuss — television the most cruel of them all especially in America. After the ASEAN summit in Manila there is no end to Trump “taunt and ridicule” segment on TV after he misspelled “Philippines” in his tweet. Now we know Trump, happily is not only “America’s Duterte” for being a tough guy but also “America’s Erap” for his slips and false steps.

A monumental blunder, such as when Richard Nixon went to France — to attend the funeral of a French president — who, upon landing at De Gaulle airport said, “This is a great day for France” (while perhaps he meant “sad day”) is typical faux pas; when George W. Bush said in a welcome ceremony for him in Madrid, Spain, “I love your tacos!” is also faux pas — embarrassing and laughable because tacos is Mexican, while tapas is the Spanish equivalent. A Filipino government official (not a Bicolano) not so long ago, when interviewed on TV in Salem, Oregon answered a question with the statement that “…the state of Oragon is my favorite place in the US.”

Another example of unforgettable faux pas is when at one time a visiting head of state from Europe in a Middle Eastern country, after a Royal dinner, squeezed the slice of lemon on the finger bowl and drank it; the host, to save him from embarrassment, also drank the water meant for washing the fingers which proves that even a head of state of a civilized country can commit a stupid but funny faux pas. US president Donald Trump recently misspelled Philippines as “Phillipines” and it got him unlimited TV publicity (sic) with all the late evening programs in the US pummeling him incessantly with entertaining brickbats — “funny to the bones” as one TV comedian said. Now we know Trump is not only a “Twitter” but also a “Textmate”; texting, as many psychologists agree, is the cause of the seeming mental decline of this generation (including Trump [???]); mobile phone argot has invented its own misspellings such us “opis” for office, “gd” for good, “der” for there, “hu” for who, “dis” for this, and a thousand other vocabulary junks (saan na yu, dito na me) now accepted by a gullible and mindless horde who, due perhaps to a “deteriorated mind,” has made Smart and Globe sicker with wealth obesity.

Mispronunciations may not be as bad as misspelling although sometimes inexcusable such as a popular newscaster pronouncing Zaire as “Zai-re”; an American announcer of an international network pronouncing Ramon Magsaysay as “Ramon Magsisi” and Philippines as “Phili-pines” as in pine trees; George W. Bush pronouncing nuclear as “nucular”; our own Erap Estrada saying “collateral” when he means cholesterol, and many other gaffes, real or done for attention. Committing gaffes unknowingly can really be funny that is why comics knowingly act like fools to make people laugh. The late Rafael Yabut gave this writer the privilege of being with him in his popular live radio show Tayo’y Mag-aliw when we were new in radio a long, long time ago (better believe it). He asked me to read a commercial in Tagalog and although with a Bicolano accent we read it with aplomb until the last line of the script: “Bilhin ninyo anf Essco shoes sa Tris Tris Uchu Uchu (3388 or Tres Tres Ocho Ocho) Abenida Rizal.” Paeng Yabut mimicked our mispronunciation and it brought the house down. The rest is history.

So committing faux pas although embarrassing to the person is entertaining to the others who think he is a fool. But listen to the French philosopher Montaigne: “Wise men have more to learn of fools than fools of wise men.”

(Ilarde is the longest living radio-TV personality today, a freelance writer and independent radio-TV host and producer. He is a former councilor, congressman, senator and assemblyman and founding chairman-president of Maharlika Movement for National Transformation and Golden Eagles Society for Seniors. He is heard every Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in his program Kahapon Lamang over DZBB radio, 594 AM Band.)

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