We're probably all very familiar with phrases uttered by U.S. politicians that have gone down in history. The good: FDR's "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" and Teddy's "Speak softly and carry a big stick." And the bad: the elder Bush's "Read my lips: no new taxes," Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," and Senator Larry Craig's "I have a wide stance."
But the same thing happens in other countries, of course, we just don't often hear as much about them. I thought we'd check some of those out today. And, if we have any natives of those countries reading, let us know if these statements really are widely known and/or mocked.
1. Carlos SaÃºl Menem, the President of Argentina from 1989-1999, has a whole host of phrases. During his tenure as President, he was accused of corruption, unemployment rates soared to more than 20 percent, and Argentina entered a terrible recession. So when you consider his campaign catchphrase, "Â¡SÃganme, no los voy a defraudar!" ("Follow me, I won't let you down!") you can see how it became the laughingstock of his Presidency (kind of like the No New Taxes debacle). He apparently was also famous for saying, "Hermanito querido"¦" which means "My dear little brother"¦". He would say it condescendingly in speeches and debates.
2. Austrian Chancellor Fred Sinowatz (his term was from 1983-1986) is often quoted tongue-in-cheek. He once said, "Ich weiÃŸ, das klingt alles sehr kompliziert...", which means, "I know, this all sounds complicated." People now use the phrase to try to hide when they don't know much about the subject. It's done ironically, though "“ as soon as you say, "I know, this all sounds complicated"¦" people immediately know you are no expert on the subject at hand. Sinowatz just recently died, actually, on August 11.
3. Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean ChrÃ©tien - "I don't know... A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven."
4. "Mit Verlaub, Herr PrÃ¤sident, Sie sind ein Arschloch." This was said by German foreign minister and Vice Chancellor Joschka Fischer. What does it mean?
It's something we've probably all wanted to say at one point or another to at least one of our Presidents: "With all due respect, Mr. President, you are an asshole." They were having a heated debate in parliament and the President had threatened to eject him from the meeting (it's just like baseball!).
5. And yet another "No new taxes" "“esque statement: "Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten." This was said by Walter Ulbricht, a German communist politician who has held several public office roles. The translation? "No one intends to build a wall." Of course, the Berlin Wall was built a couple of months later.
6. Venezuelan President Hugo ChÃ¡vez got his rear handed to him by Juan Carlos I of Spain last year during the Ibero-American Summit. First, he called former Prime Minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar a fascist. Then when the current Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, tried to respond during his allotted time, President Chavez kept interrupting, even when his microphone was turned off on him. Finally, Juan Carlos reached his breaking point, turned to Chavez and said, "Â¿Por quÃ© no te callas?" Translation: "Why don't you shut up?"
7. Another zinger from Spain: Then-Prime Minister Felipe GonzÃ¡lez was campaigning to keep his position in 1996. His opinion of his opponents were quite clear: "Aznar y Anguita son la misma mierda." You can probably figure this one out if you know how to curse in Spanish "“ "Aznar and Anguita are the same shit."
8. As current Polish President Lech KaczyÅ„ski was about to get into his car in 2002 after attending an event for the Warsaw mayoral campaign, he was stopped by a passerby. The passerby said (in Polish), "You've changed the part, you've run away like rats." The distinguished politician's response?
"Sir, piss off Sir! That's what I'll say to you."
Passerby: "Piss off sir?? Sir, you are just afraid of the truth!"
KaczyÅ„ski: "Piss off, old man!"
Ever since, the phrase "Piss off, old man!" has been seen on t-shirts, movies and cartoons "“ albeit, in a milder form for cartoons. In the Polish versions of Open Season, the Simpsons Movie and Shrek, the form, "Get lost, old man," was used.
9. At the time this quote was originated, Romanian President Traian BÄƒsescu was the Minister of Transport. After a particularly heavy snow, numerous streets were blocked and seemingly nothing was being done about it. When asked about what measures he was taking to be more effective next time, his response was, "Iarna nu-i ca vara" - "When it's winter, it's not like summer."
10. This last one is probably my favorite. I guess, in some parts of the world, "Fuddle Duddle" is a popular euphemism for the F-Bomb. Similar to "fudge," I suppose. In 1971, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was accused of mouthing "Eff off" during a discussion at the House of Commons. Of course, the press was all over it. Trudeau denied saying it or mouthing it or anything of that nature, although admitted he may have moved his lips at the moment in question. Here's the transcript of an interview from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:
Pierre Trudeau: Well what are they, lip readers or something?
Press: Did you"¦?
Pierre Trudeau: Of course I didn't say anything. I mean that's a"¦
Press: Did you mouth anything?
Pierre Trudeau: I moved my lips and I used my hands in a gesture of derision, yes. But I didn't say anything. If these guys want to read lips and they want to see something into it, you know that's their problem. I think they're very sensitive. They come in the House and they make all kinds of accusations, and because I smile at them in derision they come stomping out and what, go crying to momma or to television that they've been insulted or something?
[later in the press conference]
Pierre Trudeau: Well, it's a lie, because I didn't say anything.
Press: Sir, did you mouth it?
Pierre Trudeau: [visibly annoyed] What does "mouth" mean?
Press: Move your lips.
Pierre Trudeau: Move your lips? Yes I moved my lips!
Press: In the words you've been quoted as saying?
Pierre Trudeau: [half smile] No.
Press: (After murmurs by other press) What were you thinking"¦ when you moved your lips?
Pierre Trudeau: What is the nature of your thoughts, gentlemen, when you say "fuddle duddle" or something like that? God, you guys"¦! [walks away]
Needless to say, the press had a blast with this. When his wife became pregnant with their first child, a popular radio station declared, "Margaret Trudeau has been fuddle-duddled!"