President Barack Obama apologized for the Daschle debacle by saying “I screwed up” which raises a question of language — did the leader of the free world use a bad word or not?
Tales from the Trail
KAILUA, HI – Barack Obama may be the first U.S. president who can successfully pull off the shaka, a Hawaiian greeting Hawaiians say has various meanings, from “hang loose” and “cool” to “thanks.”
The hand gesture, also a common greeting in surfer culture, consists of curling the three middle fingers and extending the thumb and little finger.
The president-elect, looking uber-cool with his White Sox baseball cap on backwards, flipped the shaka to a crowd of about 30 people as he left a gym on a Marine Corps base on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where he is vacationing.
Obama, born and largely raised on Oahu, then walked over to greet the crowd, which had waited through a brief cloudburst to see him. Righting his baseball cap as he walked, he shook hands before posing with four babies.
William Safire, the language maven whose musings on how we use words have graced The New York Times and other newspapers for decades, has discovered something about the current crisis. Not for the first time, politicians are scrambling to avoid using common words that might get too close to the truth.