Phonetic Ambiguity

There I was, driving to work this morning, smoking a cigarette and half listening to Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme on my tinny but temperamental car stereo. They were discussing US reaction to the Petraeus Report, but I wasn’t really paying too much attention. You know how it is.

Then I heard – or, more to the point, misheard – something that shocked me so much I nearly swallowed my Marlboro Light in disbelief. To quote an old Irish proverb, “It was enough to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.”

General David Petraeus, the US’s top military commander in Iraq, has been facing severe criticism from anti-war lawmakers following his highly anticipated Report to Congress. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi – a Democrat – said in a statement: “”The Bush-Petraeus plan of 130,000 Americans in Iraq for 10 more years is not a reduction in our footprint. It is an insult to the intelligence of the American people to call that a new direction.”

It was the last sentence that I misheard. Specifically, the last two words.

You may have to say it aloud, repeatedly. But preferably not in a public place.