Misreading "agriculture" as "clothing"
This video of Chairman Xi making a horrendous gaffe was just posted on YouTube:
For convenience of listening, the blunder (near the end of this video clip) is repeated several times.
The Chairman should have read:
qīngguān yìdào tōngshāng kuānnóng 轻关易道通商宽农 ("reduce taxes and make roads easy [to travel on], facilitate commerce and be lenient to farmers")
Instead, what came out is this:
qīngguān yìdào tōngshāng kuānyī 轻关易道通商宽衣 ("reduce taxes and make roads easy [to travel on], facilitate commerce and loosen clothing")
Whether the text was mistyped on the script or teleprompter from which the Chairman was reading, or whether he misread nóng 农 for yī 衣, the result was gibberish. Even someone with a middle school education should not have made such a mistake.
Part of the reason this happened is that Chairman Xi, or his speechwriter(s), were trying to wax literary and show off his would-be erudition. To express the same idea in vernacular, it would be something like this:
jiǎnqīng guānshuì, biànyì dàolù, tōngxíng shāngyè, kuāndài nóngmín 减轻关税, 便易道路, 通行商业, 宽待农民
jiǎnqīng shuìfù, zhěngchì jiāotōng, tōngshāng màoyì, kuānzhì nóngyè 减轻税赋, 整饬交通, 通商贸易, 宽治农业
Either of these versions would have been aurally intelligible to speakers of MSM, whereas very few auditors would have been able to understand the LS version spoken by Chairman Xi, even if he hadn't mangled the end of it.
As a matter of fact, this is a quotation taken directly from the early historical text called Guóyǔ 國語 (Discourses of the States), and it comes from the 4th chapter of the Jìnyǔ 晉語 (Discourses of the state of Jin).
Since the text is not transparent, even to someone who knows LS moderately well, most people would need to consult a commentary to make sense of it, for example the explanation of Wei Zhao 韋昭 (204-273) called Guóyǔ zhù 國語注 (Annotations to Discourses of the States):
Qīngguān, qīng qí shuì. Yìdào, chú dàozéi. Tōngshāng, lì shānglǚ. Kuān nóng, kuān qí zhèng, bù duó qí shí 輕關，輕其稅。易道，除盜賊。通商，利商旅。寬農，寬其政、不奪其時.
I will not translate the commentary, but have incorporated the gist of it in my translation of the quotation from the Discourses of the States given above, to the extent that I agree with Wei Zhao's periphrastic explanations of the constituent terms.
Although we have often compared and contrasted literary with vernacular before, I am numbering this the second in a new series, since it comes so closely on the heels of the previous installment:
"Mixed literary and vernacular grammar" (9/3/16)
Incidentally, duànzi 段子 (wisecracks) quipping about the X-gaffe are going viral on the internet. Some netters even jokingly suggest that "loosening [one's] clothing" was actually a Freudian slip. The four-character phrase kuānyī jiědài 宽衣解带 ("loosen the clothing and undo the tie / belt / girdle") is often used as a euphemism for stripping naked (and having sex). So, Chairman Xi's blooper truly causes political, diplomatic, and scholastic embarrassment.
[h.t. Perry Link; thanks to Chia-hui Lu, Yixue Yang, and Jing Wen]