Skip to main content

Australia's Tony Abbott makes 'suppository of all wisdom' gaffe

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 7:22 AM EDT, Mon August 12, 2013
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott during the Leaders Debate on August 11, 2013 in Canberra.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott during the Leaders Debate on August 11, 2013 in Canberra.
  • "No one ... is the suppository of all wisdom," Tony Abbott says at an event
  • "There was an audible gasp," a reporter at the event says
  • The hashtag #suppository starts trending on Twitter in Australia
  • Abbott is campaigning for national elections next month

(CNN) -- Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott set social media abuzz on Monday with a memorable slip of the tongue.

"No one -- however smart, however well-educated, however experienced -- is the suppository of all wisdom," Abbott told a Liberal Party event in the city of Melbourne.

A suppository is "a small piece of medicated substance, usually conical, ovoid, or cylindrical, introduced into a body passage, as the rectum or vagina, where body heat causes it to melt," according to Webster's New World College Dictionary.

Not quite the same as a repository (a place in which things may be placed for safekeeping), the word typically used in the expression "the repository of all wisdom."

Abbott's unwitting switch of the two words both shocked and amused his audience.

"There was an audible gasp in the room, a few people snickering," said Jonathan Swan, a political reporter for Fairfax Media who was at the event.

As news of Abbott's unfortunate utterance filtered out, social media users quickly seized on the gaffe. The hashtag #suppository began trending on Twitter in Australia.

And people couldn't resist exploiting the situation's comic and crude potential.

"Oh dear. Abbott - "we are not the 'suppository" of all wisdom.' Not sure where to stick this one," wrote Marcus Priest, a political reporter for the Australian Financial Review.

'I feel sorry for Abbott & his accidental use of the word suppository. Stop going on like he's the enema," quipped Felicity Reynolds, the head of a non-governmental organization in Sydney.

It's not the kind of coverage Abbott's aides will have been hoping for ahead of national elections next month. The night before, he had been engaged in a televised debate with his key opponent, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Labor.

As of Monday evening, Abbott hadn't joined in the Twitter flurry his malapropism had caused.

He's not the first Australian politician whose words have caused a stir on social media during this election campaign.

Stephanie Banister, a 27-year-old welder running for a seat in Rankin, Queensland, unleashed a series of blunders during an interview, including referring to Islam as a country.

Her comments went viral and on Saturday, she withdrew from the race, citing threats to her family.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:28 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
With the discovery of debris from the AirAsia plane, investigators move closer to discovering what happened. What are the key questions, and what comes next?
updated 11:40 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
The growth of AirAsia has been a regional aviation success story. The reason behind the loss of Flight QZ 8501 will be key to whether passengers start to shun it, says Alan Khee-Jin Tan.
updated 5:45 AM EST, Fri February 7, 2014
They say there are no stupid questions -- but are there? How about, "Do you speak African?"
updated 9:39 AM EST, Wed December 31, 2014
The year of outrage also applies to China's Internet users in 2014.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
One man swims among sharks without the protection of a cage to make studio-quality, intimate photos of the sea creatures.
updated 6:50 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
Using a technology that has been around for 130 years, a company called Pavegen hopes to create electricity from everyday human activities.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist and fatherof the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 7:45 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
Gone are the days of grainy phone images with the resolution of a poor imitation Monet.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 12:45 PM EST, Mon December 29, 2014
"The year in pictures" treks across the globe, looking back on the events that shaped 2014.
updated 11:07 AM EST, Mon December 29, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.