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The “oops” moment

A new phrase is surging in political coverage this month: The “oops” moment. Thank Texas Gov. Rick Perry for giving us the defining example.

During a Republican debate on November 9, Perry stumbled halfway through an answer he was trying to give about three federal agencies he would cut. Having named only two and forgetting the third, the governor panicked. Pressed to name the third agency he’d cut, Perry looked as if he knew he’d just dug his own grave, and said, “The third one I can’t. Sorry. Oops.” Here’s the video:

This isn’t the first time commentators have used the term “oops moment” to describe a political blunder, but the phrase taken on a new life as a result of the Perry stumble. After all, he literally said “oops” on live television.

Commentators, eager to bring a once-soaring candidate back down to earth, have written the hell out of every angle of this story. You can read about whether Perry’s adventure running for president is finished, how the human memory works, and of course, the sports angle.

The term “oops moment” continued to appear in the news after Herman Cain also had a similar lapse in a November 14 interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Asked about Libya, Cain spent five minutes struggling to come up with any coherent words at all.

That’s the oops moment. Similar terms for this phenomenon include “choking” (more common in sports), “brain freeze” (also what happens when you eat ice cream too fast), and “brain fart” (my favorite). We all experience lapses once in a while, especially under pressure. Fortunately, it happens to very few of us when we’re on national television and running for president.

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Bonus: Saturday Night Live spoofed Perry’s “Oops” moment on Saturday, and even threw in a John Steinbeck reference:

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Language, Politics

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