It seems like when people talk about Herman Cain, they have a hard time saying what they mean. Both compliments and criticism comes sounding slightly off-key and need a bit of translation.

Jeff Greenfield, Politico, Connecticut resident, Yale Law graduate.

What he said: "For Cain, the malevolent force is different. It’s the government — the regulators, the statists, the condescending know-it-alls who call most of America 'fly-over country” and who’ve never met a payroll or created a job. ... You can hear in that idea echoes of Will Rogers and Ross Perot — the approach of a plain-spoken, no-bull, regular American with no truck for the Ivy League-educated, pin-striped “experts” who got us into this economic fix."

What they mean: "As an Ivy League-educated, pin-striped 'expert,' I am afraid I may be out of touch with plain-spoken, no-bull, regular Americans." 

Margery EaganBoston Herald columnist

What she said: "Herman Cain, a black guy, is the new darling of the Tea Party -- the very party that liberals have labeled racist since it was born. How to explain this disturbing turn of events? How will liberals deride Tea Partiers now? And since so many felt so good about themselves after voting for Barack Obama (who is biracial), how good might white independents feel after voting for Cain (who’s 100 percent black?)"

What she meant: "I am taking the Tea Partiers-are-racist charge very personally."

Mitt Romney, October 11 Republican debate

What he said: "Herman, I have had the experience in my life of taking on some tough problems. And I must admit that simple answers are always very helpful, but oftentimes inadequate."

What he meant: "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy."

Jon Huntsman, October 11 Republican debate, laugher at Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan

What he said: "It's a catchy phrase, in fact when I first heard it I thought it was the price of a pizza."

What he meant: "I can't believe I'm losing really badly to this guy."

Jon Huntsman's daughters, Twitter addicts, googlers of old Godfathers pizza menus

What they said: "Too bad the price of that pizza would be $10.89 with Cain's new plan. Doesn't sound like a deal to us!"

What they meant: "We can't believe our dad is losing to this guy."

Rich Lowrie, Cain's economic analyst, to Washington Examiner's Byron York, 

What he said: "I was with Mr. Cain and I asked him, 'How bold do you want to be?' and he leaned toward me with his big, booming voice and said, 'BOLD.'" 
 
What he meant: "And by bold I don't mean, like New Deal-bold. I mean more like Doritos Bold." 
 

Joe Scarborough, MSNBC

What he said: "Speaking of plans that don't add up, you've got Cain's 9-9-9 plan. And it's cute, and it's catchy, but I think it undercuts what people like you have been talking about for a very long time, and that is: overhauling the entire tax system. ... I know this will offend some conservatives, but there's nothing behind this hood once you lift it up. ... The only thing behind -- under this hood is a European style VAT tax that you and I both know Congress will raise over time if given the opportunity ... Let me ask you this, though, what about the intellectual heft that has gone behind this plan? 

What he meant: "Does a show whose logo features a coffee stain carry enough intellectual heft?"

 
What he said: "The good news is the next Republican president only needs a forefinger and then pen and the capacity to hold a pen, he doesn't need to come up with ideas. We have a Republican House, we will have a Republican Senate, they will fix the tax code and send [the president] stuff to sign. He can fly around in a cool big plane and hang around the White House and he can sign the legislation that Boehner and Mitch McConnell send him, and we'll be fine."
 
What he meant: Actually, exactly what he said. He may have been thinking, however, "The Bush years were awesome."