Copy editors and others who are persnickety about the English language probably know the witty American usage guide "Lapsing Into a Comma." The book is all about grammar and style and is well worth reading. But it's the title that's truly memorable -- and it has been in the air again recently thanks to U.S. President George W. Bush.

The world's most powerful mangler of English almost literally lapsed into a comma -- and a linguistic firestorm -- in remarks he offered recently on the situation in Iraq. The affair serves to remind us what Mr. Bush should have learned long ago: that words are little land mines, liable to blow up in our faces no matter how carefully we tread.

Hitting the campaign trail in the past few weeks in the runup to midterm U.S. elections, the president has found himself on the defensive as the news from Iraq suggests that the beleaguered country is edging daily closer to civil war.