When in Rome, Amigo . . .

President Bush had a minor language gaffe during a light and amiable luncheon with the other G-8 leaders:

The life-of-the-party president, mingling before the meal, chatted animatedly about his parents’ health, his birthday and the corruption charges facing one of his best buddies in Europe, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy.

“Amigo! Amigo!” Mr. Bush called out cheerily in Spanish when he spotted the Italian prime minister. “How you doing, Silvio? Good to see you!”

For all I know, Bush and Berlusconi converse with each other in Spanish. Or, Bush meant to say “Amico,” the Italian equivalent, instead of “Amigo.” Or, perhaps Bush actually said “Amico” and Sheryl Gay Stolberg interpreted it as “Amigo” because she doesn’t speak Italian, either.

Regardless, it’s amusing. As is Matt Yglesias‘ helpful language map.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dantheman says:

    Bush also had a more significant language gaffe at the G-8 summit. Nothing like giving everyone the finger on your way out the door, especially from someone who ran promising to restore the honor and dignity of the office.

  2. Wayne says:

    Amigo vs. Amico which is said to be pretty close. Pretty lame slam. Are they going start on his southern accent again? How about how someone pronounces potato? How many dignitaries butcher our English language? Should we make fun of anyone who doesn’t pronounce words exactly like we think they should even if they are close? Lame!

    And don’t give me you know he was speaking Spanish with the use of one word that sounds close to an Italian word.

  3. just me says:

    Bush is fluent in Spanish-it is possible they speak to each other in Spanish.

    This is somebody looking for somebody to do something stupid and finding something small.

  4. Derrick says:

    It’s so sad to see the self-pitying that goes on with the last remnants of the Bush supporters. If you can’t find humor in Bush’s repeated struggles with language, you’re being a bit to sensitive.

  5. anjin-san says:

    Bush is fluent in Spanish

    We keep hearing this, but I find it hard to believe. After all, he is not fluent in English…

  6. Wayne says:

    Bush himself has laugh at some of his gaffes and some of them have been quite funny. This doesn’t mean that someone can’t be disgusted with lame attempts to pile on especially if they make things up to do it. Anyone have audio for this suppose gaffe.

  7. Wayne says:

    It is not like the left hasn’t made things up about Bush or say Bush said something that he didn’t.

  8. LaurenceB says:

    Bush is not at all fluent in Spanish. He knows a few words – roughly High School spanish level. I’ve seen him interviewed on Spanish cable television.

    His brother, Jeb, on the other hand, is impressively fluent in Spanish.

  9. Boyd says:

    His brother, Jeb, on the other hand, is impressively fluent in Spanish.

    Since his wife is Mexican, this would make sense.

  10. Wayne says:

    By the way, Italian and Spanish originated from the same root language and share many similar sounding words and are similar in other ways.

    Bush is much better at Spanish than Obama.

  11. Alex Knapp says:

    My first thought on hearing this is that the reporter misheard “amico” as “amigo.” But even if he said “amigo”, what of it? It’s not really a mistake or a gaffe, is it? I also use “amigo” to refer to friends in the United States, even though I was assured yesterday that such multilingual affectations were elitist, and that English is the only language that real Americans should speak.

  12. Tlaloc says:

    I can’t bash him for that. I sometimes call people “amigo” despite neither I nor them being or speacking spanish.

    This is no “is our children learning”.

  13. LaurenceB says:

    As others have said, this is another in the long list of non-gaffes that I will chalk up to the need for our political pundits to find “politertainment” to discuss, rather than something that requires the viewer to have an understanding of actual policy.

    Bush is much better at Spanish than Obama.

    It’s possible I guess Wayne. But I’ve never heard Obama attempt to speak Spanish. Have you?

  14. sam says:

    Bush is much better at Spanish than Obama.

    Well that settles it.

  15. Wayne says:

    I was trying to humorously though in a jab at Obama statement about the U.S. kids need to learn Spanish and supposedly he doesn’t know Spanish himself.

    Also I think it is ironic when the left bash Bush for knowing some Spanish and don’t give him any credit whatsoever. I suppose they think it is less impressive than not knowing any at all.

    What is worst, someone who doesn’t try to speak a foreign language or one who does and misses up?

  16. Wayne says:

    I apologize for my spelling and grammar. It is even worst today than normal.