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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Admiral Allen isn't the only public official backtracking this week. Yesterday, on Capitol Hill, Texas Republican congressman Joe Barton apologized to BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, for what he called a $20 billion shakedown by the White House. Later, though, Barton stepped back from that.

Representative JOE BARTON (Republican, Texas): I want to apologize for that misconstrued - misconstruction.

BLOCK: And later, he retreated still further. He said he retracted his apology. Well, our humorist Brian Unger has been parsing congressman Barton's statements.

BRIAN UNGER: As the humble son of two English teachers with master's and specialist's degrees in speech and education, who took pleasure in scolding me as a child in both Latin and Greek, I'd like to apologize to all English-speaking nations for Representative Joe Barton's apology for apologizing to BP CEO Tony Hayward, while he apologized to America for turning the Gulf of Mexico into a sorry petrochemical spittoon.

Now, I'm speaking only for me - not myself but for me, because I'm the only one speaking to the larger grammatical construction of Barton's apology that he claimed was misconstrued in opposite effect, which deserved an apology for that misconstrue misconstruction - therein.

Mr. Barton's clunk and mangle of Funk & Wagnalls is a slap in the face to anyone who stays up late arguing over two-letter Scrabble words, whose idea of a wild night is staying home drinking Schnapps and diagramming sentences. I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it.

Representative Barton, I believe you mean these words indelibly carved on your website: I support English as the official language of our country and believe all Americans should be proficient in the language spoken by our founding fathers.

But when a congressman who demands proper English be the language of the land, and then destroys that language in front of an Englishman, I must apologize for me, myself or I. To my mom and dad, I'm sorry.

BLOCK: Humorist Brian Unger.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

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