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I first noticed George W. unable to pronounce the word nuclear, when he was in office. But now I am hearing nucular from various media commentators.

Was it 'W' who started it ?

[Note: I worked in the UK nuclear industry (making products for medical research and cancer treatment) from 1986 to 1994 and I never heard the word 'nucular' once.]

  • Related: What causes the pronunciation “nucular” – herisson Oct 31 '17 at 0:42
  • @sumelic They discussed the pronunciation in that posting, indeed. But there was no conclusion regarding its usage and, most importantly, no mention of W ! – Nigel J Oct 31 '17 at 0:46
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    You never heard Jimmy Carter pronounce it? – Hot Licks Oct 31 '17 at 0:55
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    President Eisenhower pronounced it "nucular", at least at times. – Xanne Oct 31 '17 at 2:36
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    Agree with @Xanne ... President Eisenhower was the one who popularized this pronunciation in the US. – GEdgar Oct 31 '17 at 12:09
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The answers in the linked question provide a good analysis of how such a pronunciation might have developed. There are other sources with insight into that question as well.

As for when: The pronunciation /ˈn(j)ukjələr/ and in fact even the spelling "nucular" date back about as far as the term was widely used in the general public, in the mid-20th century.

The OED even provides a definition for the spelling:

Alteration of nuclear adj., representing a colloquial pronunciation (widely criticized by usage guides)

The earliest attested use, as mentioned, is as early as 1943 in printed form, though the citation is surprisingly not from a popular publication referring (as one might guess in the 1940s-'50s) to nuclear weapons, but rather is found in a scientific periodical.

They..begin the reversion process which results in a 4n restitution nucleus... A nucular membrane begins to form around the whole group or around smaller groups or isolated chromosomes.

  • Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club · 1870–

OED notes that it used to be discouraged, but offers no judgment on the form:

it is now commonly given as a variant in modern dictionaries. See Webster's Dict. Eng. Usage (1989) 673/1 for a discussion of possible origins of the pronunciation.

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    I shall have to stop being snooty about its usage, I guess. – Nigel J Oct 31 '17 at 2:16
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    There is an amusing instance in an editorial in the [Kent, Ohio] Daily Kent Stater (October 19, 1954), a college newspaper: "The income from Princeton’s winning football season a few years back, helped keep Dr. Einstein and his staff of nucular physicists well equipped." – Sven Yargs Oct 31 '17 at 7:00

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