In matters of international diplomacy, US President Theodore Roosevelt was famous for coining the phrase, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
This is the version found in most history books, although Roosevelt’s version underwent several rough drafts before he got it just right:
“Dance seductively while swinging a hangman’s noose.”
“Speak softly while holding the leash of Ushi-Oni, mythical monster of Japanese folklore.” (More relevant in those years Japan was seen as a rising threat.)
“Whistle a lullaby and point to a cage of snakes.”
“Whisper sweet nothings and mime being kicked in the crotch.”
“Use an inside voice and lug a caveman’s club.”
“Carry softly and speak a big stick.”
“Speak a big stick and carry softly.”
President Obama has been criticized for taking Roosevelt’s words too literally during a trip to Ireland.
Obama responded to criticism of his carrying a literal stick by countering that he spoke extremely softly, but reporters on the scene claim he didn’t speak softly at all and shouted out to any countries that might oppose him, “DO YOU WANNA CHALLENGE? IS THERE NO ONE TOUGH ENOUGH TO STEP INTO THE RING AND FACE ME IN BATTLE?”
Much to his credit as the Prime Minister of a famously peace-loving people, Enda Kenny tried to diffuse the situation by asking if he could take a look at the big stick for a moment and would definitely give it back as soon as Obama asked for it.
Obama refused the request with an icy stare, and although Kenny tried to laugh it off, you can tell how scared he was by the way his hair stood on end.