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“Internets” is the erroneous pluralization of the word “Internet” popularized by former United States president George W. Bush during his 2004 election campaign. While the word internet may be pluralized in rare occasions in the context of joining together many smaller intranets, this incorrect use of the plural form became the target of many jokes and parodies on the web, similar to the former Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens “series of tubes” gaffe. The term can be also used to signify that the speaker has limited knowledge about computers and technology.
The word “Internets” was first uttered during the third round of the Bush-Gore presidential debate held at Washington University in St. Louis on October 17th, 2000. In response to a question asked by an audience member regarding the state of morality in the American media and popular culture, Bush replied:
BUSH: …We can have filters on Internets where public money is spent. There ought to be filters in public libraries and filters in public schools so if kids get on the Internet, there is not going to be pornography or violence coming in.
The incident was largely overlooked until Bush repeated the mistake during the presidential debate against United States Senator John Kerry on October 8th, 2004 at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri (shown below).
“I hear there’s rumors on the, uh, Internets [pause] that we’re going to have a draft. We’re not going to have a draft, period.”
The same day, Urban Dictionary user CSD submitted an entry for “Internets,” which mocked President Bush’s debate response:
Something President Push hears rumors on. It is suspected that these internets are hidden from the rest of the world, cause we can only find one so far.
Also on October 8th, YTMND user Quiksilver272 submitted a page titled “Internets”, featuring a photograph of Bush with the caption “Ha Ha! / I’m using the Internets!” and accompanied by an audio clip of Bush’s quote. Quiksilver272’s submission was followed by a total of eight YTMND pages featuring the term “Internet.” On the next day, the sketch comedy TV show Saturday Night Live aired a skit spoofing the debate gaffe (shown at 2:17 below).
In the following weeks, several news personalities, including Keith Olberman and Stephen Colbert, satirically used the term “Internets” in reference to Bush’s statement. The clip was also posted on the video-sharing sites YouTube and AlbinoBlackSheep. On October 27th, 2006, YouTuber futurecam uploaded a video titled “The Internets and The Google,” which featured a CNN report on Bush’s “internets” gaffe (shown below, left). On May 2nd, 2007, Bush mistakenly used the term “Internets” for the third time while speaking to the White House press members about online news. On May 6th, YouTuber Attention101 uploaded a segment fromThe Chris Matthews Show, which featured Bush’s gaffe from earlier that week (shown below, right).
Barack Obama’s Gaffe
On July 6th, 2011, United States President Barack Obama used the term “Internets” during a Twitter Town Hall event. Immediately after making the mistake, Obama corrected himself by reformulating the sentence (shown below).
“We do have to make sure that there are computers in a computer age inside classrooms and that they work and that there’s internets that are actually -- there are Internet connections that actually function. And I think that those states that are going to do well and those countries that do well are the ones that are going to continue to be committed to making education a priority.”
Increases in search query volume for the term “Internets” coincided with the peak in search queries for the keyword “bushism,” a neologism used to refer to a number of folksy colloquialisms attributed to George W. Bush.