I’m drawn to the word, “Bartlett’s best” appearing in the following paragraph of Washington Post’s (May 13) article titled, “A theory: Trump fired Comey because he’s taller.”:

“Trump’s daily scrimmages with the English language make Bushisms seem like “Bartlett’s Best.” When not syntactically challenged, they’re jaw-droppingly mystifying. What possibly could Trump have intended when he suggested to NBC’s Lester Holt that he doesn’t know for sure if there’s an FBI investigation into “this Russia thing”? So the president doesn’t believe what every intelligence agency has said and what he has personally been told in briefings?


I understand “Bushism” is G.W. Bush’s particular parlance, but I don’t understand what “Trump’s daily scrimmages makes Bushisms seem like “Bartlett’s best” means.

Does it simply mean Mr. Trump’s "English language" is poorer than that of Mr. Bush?

  • 5
    From Wikipedia: 'Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, often simply called Bartlett's, is an American reference work that is the longest-lived and most widely distributed collection of quotations. The book was first issued in 1855 and is currently in its eighteenth edition, published in 2012.' Hence, a selection of choice quotes. Commented May 13, 2017 at 20:33
  • 1
    'Bartlett' may be a Hebrew boy's name, but I have never heard of it as a first name for Americans/British/Jews/Israelis modern or ancient. Where did you get that impression?
    – Mitch
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 21:23
  • 1
    There's no Hebrew here at all. Where do people get these ideas??
    – Lambie
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 22:01
  • @Mitch.@Lambie. I mistakingly referred to www.sheknows.com/baby-names which says: The name Bartlett is a Hebrew baby name. In Hebrew the meaning of the name Bartlett is: Ploughman, and a separate source stating "Son of Talmai Diminutive of Bartholomew, Hebrew, "son of the earth." Clearly they seem irrelevant to the word,“Bartlett’s best.” So I crossed out the previous reference to Hebrew relevance from the post. My apology for making loose check. Commented May 14, 2017 at 0:24
  • 1
    There are names that are immediately Hebrew: Aaron, Sarah, Isaiah etc. But for the quotations' book, it's meaningless in terms of the question posed here. The question was not about the name origin. :)
    – Lambie
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 14:55

1 Answer 1


It's a reference to Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, the classic collection of quotable quotes. It was first published in the mid-1800s, and has been pretty much continuously in print ever since. Before there was the internet, if you needed a pithy epigraph or wanted to know "who said that" you turned to Bartlett's.

The implication of the line here is that the things Trump says are so unintelligible that George W. Bush's previously-ridiculed utterances sound brilliantly quotable in comparison.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.