That Stupid Potato(e)

By Carolyn Gargaro
Rightgrrl Co-Founder
February 19, 1999

Well, Dan Quayle recently announced that he his going to run for President. You know what that means...

Potato(e) comments. Everyone remembers that little incident, right? Dan Quayle was at the Luis Munoz Rivera School in Trenton, New Jersey. He participated in a spelling bee by asking students to spell words on the blackboard, based on some flash cards he had been given. One of the flash cards had the word "potatoe" on it. The student spelled the word correctly, then, with a little urging from Dan Quayle, the student added an "e". Everyone applauded - and the media went crazy, claiming that, "Dan Quayle can't spell potato!"

I hear the people again already. "WHAT? Dan Quayle? President? Why, he can't even spell potato!" I have already received emails and guestbook entries to that effect because of a page on my site featuring photos from one of Dan Quayle's books signings, which I attended.

Well, here's what I have to say to those people!!

Ok, I have more than that to say, actually. I realize that this issue is a bit old and very trivial. However, due to the comments I have received about this incident, and the additional ones I am sure will pop up in the future, I thought this would be an appropriate time to set the record straight.

First, why has no one pointed out that Dan Quayle was given a card with an error on it? Who created a flash card with a misspelled word? Rather than focusing on the fact that children are being taught spelling with flash cards with misspellings, people focus on the fact that Dan Quayle didn't point out this error.

Second, Dan Quayle had asked if the cards had been checked, and he was assured that yes, the cards had been checked for errors. So - who are the people who checked the cards and missed this error? So now we have the person/people who created the cards as well as the people who checked the cards, who missed the spelling error.

Third, when Dan Quayle came upon the famous "potatoe" card, he paused and showed the card to other people, and they nodded and agreed that the card was correct! So now we have the person/people who created the cards, the people who checked the cards, and the people around Dan Quayle at the time - all who missed the spelling error.

Fourth, after the student had paused, and Dan Quayle said "almost" or something to that effect, the student added the "e" to the end of the word potato. Everyone then applauded immediately! There was no silence or puzzled looks from the onlookers as they pondered why the student added an "e" to the end of the word. So now we have the person/people who created the cards, the people who checked the cards, the people around Dan Quayle, as well as the onlookers at the time - all who missed the spelling error. In light of this, I really have to wonder why Dan Quayle's failure to question the teacher in the middle of a media event regarding the spelling on a flash card became a national incident? If we are to chide Dan Quayle for this "spelling error" then we should also make fun of all the people I mentioned above who also failed to point out the error!

In addition, how many people have been writing something, and they spell out a word and it doesn't look right? You know how to spell the word but for some reason it just doesn't look right that particular time. Now, imagine you are given a flash card at a school, one in a stack you have been assured has been checked. You come to a word that looks like it is misspelled. Would you question the teacher in front of the class and the media, or would you say to yourself "Hmmm...this doesn't look quite right, but it must be - after all these cards have been checked" and just assume it is one of "those times" when a word just doesn't look quite right? I bet if we examined all the other politicians we could find times when they spelled words wrong, yet people are still harping on this old "potato(e)" incident. Are people that desperate for comebacks that they have to dig this up? Is this the best thing people can come up with? In the age of "let's just move on" it seems as if people can't move on regarding certain issues, especially ones that have to do with a potatoe... I mean potato.

Some people also seem to reach the conclusion that this incident somehow indicates a lack of intelligence on Dan Quayle's part. Well, I do hope that they hold other Vice-Presidents to the same standards. VP's such as - hmmmm...Al Gore? :-)

This article copyright © 1999 by Carolyn Gargaro and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.