"Make No Mistake"


For some reason the use of the phrase “make no mistake” by Bush and his cohort has always rubbed me the wrong way. (I have wondered how a jury might respond to my telling them in closing argument, “Make no mistake. . .”)

I suspected that what bothered me was the arrogance of a person who makes mistakes (we all make mistakes) commanding others not to make a mistake. Maybe it was the arrogance of telling people (who generally try not to make mistakes) not to make a mistake.

Timothy Noah, writing for Slate, says he hates the expression because it’s “the words not merely of a bully, but of a bully who lacks panache.

That works for me.


4 responses to “"Make No Mistake"”

  1. “Make no mistake” is generally considered to be an idiom meaning “certainly” or “have no doubt,” and not an arrogant command.

  2. Anon,

    Thanks for visiting.

    If “make no mistake” MEANS anything, it means what it says — a command. In context, however, and like “clearly” or “have no doubt,” it means nothing.

    My dad might say, “if you made your case persuasively, you wouldn’t have to tell people you were right.”

    “Make no mistake” is a rhetorical device, empty of substance, intended to evoke a particular reaction in the listener.

    I have no doubt that, for most listeners, “make no mistake” evokes the feeling that Bush’s speechwriters intended — the feeling that Bush is an in-control guy who knows what’s best for us.

    Maybe I should start using it in my jury arguments. . . .

  3. If I was to wind up on a jury, despite my nullification beliefs, the phrase “make no mistake” would rub me the wrong way. It is bully-like, I think.

  4. On the other hand, sending somone to prison might very well be a mistake. Hmm… Maybe it would be appropriate in some situations.

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