In a recent tweet, John King of CNN cautioned his followers not to ‘misunderestimate the relentless base and focus’ of Trump supporters in their drive towards November.

That word (italicised here for emphasis), attracts red underlining on the screen, signalling an issue, and attracted a raised eyebrow from me.

The mis- prefix is redundant, because you’ve already got under- working to qualify or compromise estimate.

Misunderestimate isn’t in the Oxford English Dictionary — but it is in the Wikipedia entry on ‘Bushisms’.

That is, the various ‘unconventional statements, phrases, pronunciations, malapropisms, and semantic or linguistic errors in the public speaking’ of an earlier president, George W. Bush.

The 43rd president of the United States observed of his 2000 election that he had been misunderestimated by the pollsters, the media and the public.

So, King’s use of the word is a nice political allusion, as well as a warning not to discount a candidate with longer odds.

Looking back from the vantage point of 2020, GWB isn’t looking so bad (remember when he was called the ‘Worst President Ever’?). 

The reference to misunderestimating is therefore a useful reminder against complacency. 

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

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