Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The 'F'-Word and Other Language

Caution. Some of what follows in this column contains more than the usual amount of “R”-rated language.

So if the “F”-word is not your bag, come and visit me again in a week or so. I promise that my next column will be considerably tamer.

I was reading the Poynter media website the other day when I came upon a story that was written by Christine Pelisek in LA Weekly.

Christine got my attention for a couple of reasons. First of all, her last
name isn’t all that common, and it was the name of one of my high school teachers.
The Pelisek I knew was even the football coach at old Wilson High School in Cedar Rapids for a few years.

The first name of the retired teacher and coach is Joe, and I have no idea if he’s related to Christine. He’s living in Nebraska now, so I’ll ask him one of these days.

The second reason that Christine Pelisek’s story in the July 2-8 edition of LA Weekly got my attention was because of the subject matter.
I mean, it’s not every day that the “F”-word is in just about every sentence of a story. The headline, too.

The headline on the story was this:

Fuck Yourself, Dick Cheney

As far as I know, that would be something physically impossible for the vice-president to do, even with the assistance of Viagra, Levitra or some of the other things the TV commercials keep babbling about these days.

But that’s beside the point.

Christine Pelisek was writing about how newspapers and wire services handled some of the recent news of the day.

“Dick Cheney had some advice during the U.S. senate’s annual photo session for Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, who has been relentless in his criticism of the no-bid contracts awarded to the vice-president’s alma mater, Halliburton,” Pelisek wrote.

“A search of the Nexis newspaper database showed only one U.S. daily newspaper—the Washington Post—quoted the vice-president’s wish for Leahy’s self-sufficiency: ‘Fuck yourself.’

“Here’s how other newspapers and wire services handled the vice-president’s words:

“L.A. Times: ‘Go…yourself.’

“L.A. Daily News: The headline said Cheney cursed.

“The story, the Associated Press, said Cheney said, ‘F---off’ or ‘F---you.’

“The Boston Globe: Referred to the expletive as a ‘vulgar directive’ and
provided no other clues.

“Calgary Sun: ‘(Bleep) off’ or ‘Go (bleep) yourself.’

[NOTE: This is me, Ron Maly, back again. I have no idea what it feels like to bleep myself or anyone else. I guess I’ll have to go to Calgary to find out].

“Daily News (New York): ‘Go f--- yourself.’

“Greenwire: ‘Go (expletive) yourself.’

“The Guardian: ‘Fuck off.’

“The Weekend Australian: F..k off’ or ‘Go f..k yourself.’

“Agence France Press: ‘Fuck you’ or ‘Fuck yourself’ then

“Miami Herald: ‘F--- off or ‘F--- you.’

“The New York Times: ‘obscene phrase.’

“The New York Post: ‘F--- yourself.’

“Newsday: ‘----yourself’ or ‘Go ---- yourself.’

“CNN: The ‘F’ word.

“The University of Iowa’s Daily Journal: ‘Go fuck yourself.’”


A lot of very nice things have happened over the years in the pleasant community of Tiffin.

Surely some of you recall The Lark restaurant. That place was nationally known for the wonderful steak and seafood dishes owner Bob Thompson and his cooks turned out for so many years.

Hell, the highlight of Bobby Knight’s trips to Iowa City for Indiana-Iowa basketball games was often the steaks he enjoyed the night before at The Lark. He bought my dinner there one night, and I still thank Knight for that every time I see him.

[Just so you don’t think it was a one-sided friendship, I bought his lunch the next day in Iowa City].

The trouble is, Knight and the rest of us who like good food suffered a downer several years ago when The Lark burned to the ground. I guess that’s the reason Knight got out of the Big Ten and took a coaching job at Texas Tech.

But, actually, The Lark isn’t why I began writing about Tiffin.
The boa constrictor is.

Yeah, you read that right. The boa constrictor

What a terrible thing to happen to a nice place like Tiffin.

I hear that things were going along nicely in the town until last week. That’s when it became known that some guy had a huge boa constrictor in his garage. He’d often come outdoors with the snake draped over his shoulder, then would walk around the yard.

There are names for guys like that, and even though I can get by with language in this column that other communications outlets can’t, I won’t use the words I’d really like to use.

But one resident of Tiffin did.

Someone in town called the authorities when he saw the snake’s co-owner walking around with the boa constrictor over his shoulder. The town has an ordinance against keeping exotic pets.

So the people who own the snake proceeded to call KCRG/Channel 9, a Cedar Rapids TV station, to complain that their rights were being violated.

A reporter from the station showed up in the neighborhood, and wanted to get both sides of the story. However, one of the first guys interviewed hates snakes. So that interview quickly ended when he called the snake’s owner a “dumb son of a bitch.”

The guy who used that kind of language is all right with me. I’m afraid my language would have been even stronger had the TV reporter interviewed me about a boa constrictor being in my neighborhood.

The good news is that the owners—an adult brother and sister--were told to find other living quarters for the boa.

And just one more thing about a guy being interviewed on TV who starts out by calling someone a “dumb son of a bitch.”

It brings me back to Bobby Knight. One of Knight’s favorite things to do when he coached at Indiana was to purposely use profanity in every other sentence—sometimes every other word—when he wanted to have fun with a TV or radio announcer.

Knight knew that what he said couldn’t possibly be used on the air.

I recall him doing that with the late Gene Claussen of KXIC in Iowa City a number of years ago. Claussen came over to Carver-Hawkeye Arena the day before an Iowa-Indiana game and wanted to do a pregame show with foul-mouthed Bobby.

Knight began using one swear word after another, so it was obvious that Claussen couldn’t use the interview.

“I feel like running it anyway,” Claussen said.
But he didn’t.

Knight won again.


A friend of mine—someone who understands the newspaper business very well--writes:
“Ron: What’s this ass-kissing of Borsellino? Do I detect a bit of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm there? My objective take on him is that he ain’t half the guy he was in his first trip through Des Moines.”

Me an ass-kisser? Watch yourself with that kind of language! Me guilty of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm? Could be, my very observant reader.


Ever since Saki, my 13 ½-year-old shih tzu, died unexpectedly recently, I’ve been hearing about others who have gone through the emotional experience of losing dogs.

Among them was an Iowan who had his 13-year-old black lab put to sleep late last week.

When the man did his running, the dog ran with him. But lately the black lab would stop part-way and wait until the man was heading back home. Another thing the dog particularly liked was going to the pond the man has on his farm.

But, with the change in the dog’s behavior lately, a veterinarian reasoned that she had suffered a stroke.

The owner was talking about how much the dog is missed by the cat owned by the man’s daughter. The dog and the cat made quite a pair, sleeping together in the yard.

I hear that for successive nights the cat scratched on the sliding door that leads to a bedroom at the house. The owner said he got up and walked around the yard with the cat to show her that the dog was gone, then gave her a treat.

The cat is an outdoors variety, and its owner is not a particular lover of cats, so those who know him well couldn’t imagine him doing that.

Because he misses the dog, he felt sympathetic toward the cat.

Ken MacDonald, Where Are You?

People in the newsroom at the local paper were chuckling when they received a memo from Kathy Hickman, whose job is listed as executive assistant to the VP/Editor.
The memo read:

“The Iowa Newspaper Association is asking—is former Register employee Ken McDonald still living? If so, does anyone have a mailing address for him?”
Well, I contacted a wise old retiree--a former reporter and editor at the local paper--about this terribly difficult matter. Here was his answer:

“Kenneth MacDonald was editor of The Register when I came aboard in 1955 and I think remained in that role until Gartner took over, sometime in the 1970s. Ken would be in his mid 90s and lives on Southern Hills Drive in south Des Moines. If anyone was looking for him, it would have been difficult to find since he is listed under his name in the Des Moines telephone book.”

In other words, MacDonald’s name was misspelled in the memo that went through the newsroom. And the “former Register employee” mentioned in the memo was a former editor. And if people wanted to call him, all they had to do was look for his number in the phone book.

Too difficult, I guess.

[NOTE: I asked a guy what Diane Graham would say about this Ken MacDonald thing. I got my usual answer. The guy said, “I’ll ask her when she wakes up.”]


Something else I hear:

A guy writes that “Ira Lacher was fired at Meredith, something about he couldn’t get along with fellow workers. Sound familiar?”
Lacher is a former sports copy editor at the local paper. Sources say he had outworn his welcome and was told he had no future there. All I know about Lacher is that he was the worst sports copy editor I observed in my nearly 40 years at the paper.
So then he wound up being Meredith’s problem. I guess one or two people at that place didn’t like something about him either.

“I got it from a reliable source that he was fired,” a former newspaper editor and reporter writes. “He had apparently been on probation for quite a while.”


Several people have responded to my column on the logo flap between the University of Iowa and Southern Mississippi.

Some of the e-mails I’ve received:

From an Iowa woman:

“The Iowa logo must have been copied from Hanna-Baber’s Fred Flintstone’s head, because I always thought it reminded me of Fred Flintstone. They should sue Iowa and then see where the shoe falls.

“This is ridiculous. Iowa has better things to pursue than a similarity in logos. I hope Southern Mississippi sticks to their guns and doesn’t let Iowa get to them. I hope they come up and beat the pants off of Iowa. Thank you. I don’t bleed over Iowa’s problems.”

[The reader’s reference to beating the pants off of Iowa has to do with Southern Mississippi’s appearance next December in a basketball tournament hosted by the Hawkeyes. Southern Mississippi is now coached by Larry Eustachy, formerly of Iowa State].

From another Iowa woman:

“Larry Eustachy is just wanting to get back at the state of Iowa for what Iowa State did to him. But he seems to be using the University of Iowa to do it. He is making a statement that ‘I am back with a vengeance.’ I wouldn’t use his name in the same sentence as the U. of I. If I were Bob Bowlsby, I would not play them. Then, again, maybe Southern Mississippi is looking for a reason not play Iowa!!!”

From yet another Iowa woman:

“If the guys aren’t smart enough to know who their team members are, maybe they shouldn’t be on the court to begin with!”

Vol. 4, No. 241
July 6, 2004