A Look at 'Let the Big Dog Eat,' 'Unleash the Animal Spirits' and Other Jeb-Isms

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the College of Southern Nevada on Oct. 21, 2015 in North Las Vegas.PlayGetty Images
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The famed Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg, SC was packed. Jeb Bush stood amidst an aging crowd, making his pitch on Common Core when he diverged.

“I was all-in on the education subject. I was like the pig in the breakfast experience not the chicken. If you know what I mean...I was the bacon,” he said. Silence filled the air.

“Get it?”

A few pity-laced chuckles.

“I thought that was funny,” Bush joked at the event last November -- unfazed.

This is just one of Bush’s more bewildering aphorisms. The former Florida governor has a vast catalog brimming with obscure colloquiums (most are animal-focused), some of which he attributes to his Florida residence and all of which may bolster his self-characterization as a “nerd.”

Some amuse, others confuse; but Jeb-isms run in no short supply. These moments may come off as awkward on a great debate stage; but for the voters and reporters who cover him, his phrases can be endearing, a streak of humanity for a candidate who Donald Trump famously derided as “low-energy.”

Here's a dictionary of Jeb-isms:

'Let The Big Dog Eat'

This phrase is Bush’s most-used on the campaign trail. It commonly makes its way into his lexicon when referring to regulatory and economic reform.

At one town hall in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bush said, “People just need to lighten the load up and let people rise up as we say in North Florida, we just need to let the big dog eat. A big dog is inside of each of us.”

As oft-used as this phrase is, when Bush campaigns in New Hampshire as he often does, this particular saying can be met with a mix of bemusement and bewilderment.

Bloomberg wrote up one such moment in great and hilarious detail…which leads us to our next example.

'Unleash the Animal Spirits'

Bush uses this phrase when he’s speaking broadly about his plan to bolster the economy and hit 4 percent growth.

During his energy rollout in Pennsylvania last September, he said, “"This is what makes America so extraordinary and so special. We just have to unleash the animal spirits as Americans and we will be America renewed again."

And in North Carolina, “The animal spirits still exist inside America.”

In Iowa, Bush’s usage of the phrase served to complicate a reference to our previous expression.

A voter asked him what “let the big dog eat” means. “It means releasing the animal spirits of this country, how about that?” Bush answered.

He continued by saying, “This country is extraordinary and it’s because we have this unique ability to take risks, to innovate, to try different things, to dust ourselves off, two-steps-forward one-step-back. We’re a dynamic country and we’re losing our dynamism. That’s what I meant.”

‘Frogs…Or Crabs In a Barrel’

In Conway, South Carolina, Bush was asked about Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders’ plan to make college free. He called such tactics “insidious," slamming the notion that the government “can just take care of us.”

And then the metaphor came.

“It’s like the crabs in the, you know, whatever —- the crabs in the boiling water,” Mr. Bush began.

A voter tried to help. “Frogs!” she shouted.

“The frogs,” Mr. Bush continued. “You think it’s warm, and it feels pretty good and then it feels like you’re in a whirlpool—you know, a Jacuzzi or something.”

“And then you’re dead,” he concluded. “That’s how this works.”

'I Got a Monkey Brain'

It was a packed and enthusiastic crowd in a Nashua school gymnasium ahead of the New Hampshire primary.

Bush was feeling bolstered by a strong debate performance the night before, and he began to praise the senators in the race -- in a backhanded compliment sort of way.

"Look, I got a monkey brain to be honest with you. I can't say the same thing, I can't say it," he said, as the crowd applauded and laughed. He added, "I'm intellectually curious. It's not all scripted. I think that's actually a strength to be president of the United States because you cannot script being the commander in chief."