Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

The White House

Posted by Neal on May 22, 2005

One for the TIQ files:

Once:

A former Bush Homeland Security adviser said yesterday that he can’t imagine the White House is happy with how Bush was kept out of the loop Wednesday….
“Bush kept in dark during plane scare,” Ken Herman, Cox News Service, May 13, 2005.

And twice:

The White House has defended the decision not to stop President Bush on a bike ride last week to tell him of an emergency evacuation….
“First lady offers candid comments on ‘Newsweek’ and small-plane scare,” Nedra Pickler, Associated Press, May 21, 2005.

These are the only two times I’ve seen or heard the White House used to refer not to the president, or to the White House itself, but to White House officials or administrators. And I only realized it because the actual president was mentioned later in the same sentence. I wonder how many other times I’ve heard the White House in some sentence and assumed it was referring to the president, when really it was just referring to someone (other than the president) who worked there. I wonder if the White House, or even, you know, the White House-White House, likes it this way.

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One Response to “The White House”

  1. Anton said

    It seems to me that the White House usually means minions acting or speaking on behalf of the President, rather than the President speaking or acting himself. Perhaps the present usage is odd only because it’s unusual that the President’s staff has occcasion to speak publicly of something it did collectively in which the President was explicitly not a participant. (Whew, I hope that sentence isn’t comically awkward.)

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