I found the word ‘misunderestimating’ in the article written by Peter Catapano under the caption 'Don't stop believing' in Opinionator’s Column section of New York Times (April 29).

The word is not entirely unfamiliar to me, because I think I’ve seen it in Sarah Palin’s speech before (if my memory is correct). However, as combination of ‘mis’ and ‘under’-estimate seems to me somewhat redundant, I checked up several English Japanese dictinaries at hand together with Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Cambridge Online Free Dictionary, and found that none of them carries the word, ‘misunderestimate.’

Are ‘misunderestimate’ and ‘misunderestimation’ received English or received American English? - - because, it’s been used by big guns like Sarah Palin and NYT columist.

The word appears in the following ending line of the above article:

“Or what does it say for us? Are we misreading the man that Spy magazine famously dubbed the “short-fingered vulgarian” way back in the 1980s? Are we misunderestimating the man who has monopolized an outsized portion of a vast media space in recent weeks and forced the hand of the President of the United States?

2 Answers 2


Misunderestimate is one the infamous 'Bushisms'. A mangling of the English language by President George Bush. If the italics in the article is original, then they are using the word ironically.

  • @Sam.The word, 'misunderestimating' comes in the normal typography in the text. I changed it into italic. May 1, 2011 at 2:03

I should go to bed: out of interest I thought I'd try, but couldn't find a reference to this word in a dictionary that I would trust to link, however, I didn't look too hard when I suddenly remembered the moment President Bush turned a speech into a comical sketch, yet again:

From the BBC News:

All politicians are prone to make slips of the tongue in the heat of the moment - and President George W Bush has made more than most.

The word "Bushism" has been coined to label his occasional verbal lapses during eight years in office, which come to an end on 20 January.

Among his 'memorable moments' we find this:

"They misunderestimated me."

Bentonville, Arkansas, 6 November, 2000

Here it seems the author it using this as somewhat of a pun.

  • In fairness to our feckless ex-president, in watching the video tape of this Bushism, it seems to me he is saying, "They mis... underestimated me." I imagined that he had started to say, "They misjudged me" or something similar, but then changed it.
    – Fixee
    May 23, 2012 at 6:12

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