Pronouncing Armageddon

This is not the most important story going on in the world today obviously, but a little thing that has been written about before and I’ve noticed happening with increasing irregularity, is the change in the pronunciation of the word “nuclear”.

Now, the pronunciation of wBHl8CUrCIAAy4uk.jpg largeords changes often, and this comes about over time through usage. Spelling can change to reflect new pronunciations, and the reverse is also true.

With the nuclear example though, something different seems to have been going on.

Bush famously couldn’t seem to pronounce the word New-Cleer and always pronounced it as Nuke-U-Lar, and was of course pilloried for doing so. There was even a Simpsons joke about it. Then, for one or both of a couple of possible reasons that I am about to outline, people started using the Bush pronunciation.

But which people? I noticed it pronounced that way with increasing regularity on Fox News by presenters and by other Republican apparatchiks who, surely, must have known better.

Thinking it through, the possible reasons for this could be…

  1. They heard it on TV/Radio and repeated the pronunciation they heard. Monkey hear, Monkey repeat.
  2. An attempt to cover up the fact that the former president was an ignoramus by rallying round him and using the same pronunciation so that it didn’t seem so bad.

I can’t really think of another reason. Either way, it isn’t very flattering toward people who should know better.

It’s an interesting little case study in how at times reality must be shifted in order to impose a Leader’s view of the world, or at least not make them look silly, and then everyone else must be brought to heel. With the modern echo chamber, it seems that in terms of pronunciation, this can be done faster than ever before.


  1. The nookyulur pronunciation has been around a lot longer than the Bush presidency. The bomber pilot, Major Kong, uses it in Dr Strangelove, and the giant insects posing as the average American family in Meet the Applegates correct their pronunciation from nuclear in order to blend in better. In the chimp’s case I always assumed it was a regional idiosyncracy that he used as part of his good-ole-southern-boy persona.

  2. very interesting. The lasting legacy of Bush? I have noticed another thing. There seems to be a tendency for some Americans to omit ‘is concerned’ from sentences like ‘as far as America is concerned’. So you just get ‘as far as America’ then the rest of the sentence. I couldn’t believe this but have heard it several times.

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