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Verbal laxity: is it contagious?
Any half-brain can post anything
By Malamute, Posted 24 January 2005

The latest set of metaphors and adjectives used to describe the UW football program has rankled Husky fans. If it isn’t the media, it’s Husky fans themselves who are bashing the grand old program. The lack of an offensive coordinator in place and the prospects of a poor recruiting class are both at the heart of the matter. (UW AD Todd Turner, photo left).

Metaphors that don’t quite fit the subject at hand, along with questionable adjectives, are a writer’s bane. They come back to haunt his sleep at night.

Note: Any writer worth his salt eventually catches the "Safire syndrome," his fingers trembling at the keyboard as if Bill Safire were looking over his shoulder. Feeling the heat of Safire, he spirits off to an on-line dictionary, thesaurus or what ever cheat sheet is at hand, checking every two-bit word for meaning.

Safire writes  "On Language," a column for the New York Times. As one fan of his wrote, "Safire explores myriad areas of interest to word lovers."

I am not sure all Husky fans are word lovers; however, there are some words that don't sit well with them, to coin an idiom. (Editor's note: Safire says in jest, "always pick on the correct idiom." "To coin a phrase," is better, he would say.)

For example, one administrator from dawgman.com called the Huskies' program a “pig of a program.” That metaphor raised all sorts of commotion on another Husky website. By using the word “pig” was he referring to a gluttonous program? Certainly there are gentler words to describe the current state of affairs – like, say, "a moribund program on the wane, but wearing the purple cloak of immortality."

Ugh, that's purple prose. I like "pig" better, even if it strikes a nerve or two.

Commenting on the number of commitments to the recruiting class, Ted Miller of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the “that total relegates the Huskies to the sewer of the Pac-10 recruiting rankings…”

"Sewer?"

Surely, Miller, a wordsmith, having majored in English literature at the University of Richmond, is more than capable of finding a better word to use than “sewer.” Of course, “basement” is the obvious word, as is “cellar.” But wordsmiths don’t use obvious words. How about “whine cellar?” No, that’s a pejorative pun on "whining fans." "Dustbin of the rankings?" "Ash heap?" All too bland and much too commonly used.

Anyway, Ted Miller isn’t just writing for Husky fans. I’m sure some Cougars read him, too, and they must have loved the “sewer” sentence. You see Miller's dilemma. I mean writing good stuff that pleases everyone is not an easy task.

Okay, I'll go along with the word "sewer." It's clever and original. Score one for Ted.

Even athletic directors can cause enmity with their choice of nouns and adjectives.  After Coach Keith Gilbertson agreed to step down, UW athletic director Todd Turner said he would add “pizzazz” to the program with his new coaching hire to be. The middling response to the hiring of Tyrone Willingham made Turner regret his use of the word “pizzazz.” Willingham wasn't the Jeff Tedford that fans had in mind. 

Naturally, the wordsmithing Miller pounced on "pizzazz." He writes, “even if Bellevue High standouts J.R. Hasty and E.J. Savannah become the Huskies' first four-star commitments, this recruiting class will be distinctly pizzazzless.” Ouch, that hurts.

Miller could have written that "Jonathan Stewart, who has committed to Oregon, has romped off to greener pastures." "Greener" isn't as biting as "sewer," but that isn't Miller's style. Anyway, it's corny. 

Commenting on fans who have been critical of his coaching hire, Turner said, "Anybody with half a brain can get on the Internet and say whatever they want -- pay no attention to that."

Using the pejorative “half a brain” didn’t fly with Husky fans who post messages on the Internet. Turner most likely meant that anyone can post anything on the Internet that he wishes, considering his anonymity. "Half Brain" goes too far, and with some of us, it hits home.

I, myself, am not immune to verbal laxity.

For Instance, I shot myself in the foot the other day, posting stuff on an Internet board. Commenting on Gary Crowton, who was hired as an offensive coordinator by the University of Oregon, I wrote:

“Now Crowton is in the grasp of Whoregon (a. k. a, the Ladies of the Knight), Lottie Bull and her pimp Bull Moose.” (1)

Commenting on the availability of Paul Hackett, formerly of the New York Jets, for the vacant offensive coordinator’s job, I posted the following:

-- "Didn’t Paul Hackett once thub hith t-woe in a Toejam?" (2)

 -- "They say that Paul Hackett will accept the title role in the forthcoming movie production “My Cousin Vinnie Testaverde” before he JETs off to leaner pastures." (3)

-- "Some Husky fans say that Paul Hackett’s very name is Ersatz for 'Slightly are the men who wear the purple and the gold.'” (4)

-- "Maybe Todd Turner needs to Stanback and give Hackett Paus for thought before giving him the keys to the Emmert-ald city." (5)

You know, Turner is correct. Any half-brain can post anything he wants on the Internet -- and, I'm sure, Bill Safire would agree.

Editor's note: Meaning of Malamute's half-brained, verbal laxities:

(1) Phil Knight, former CEO of Nike, is an Oregon alum who contributes to its athletic fund. "Lottie Bull" is a play on the Oregon coach's surname "Bellotti." Bill Moos, a. k. a., Bull Moose, is the athletic director at Oregon.

(2) Paul Hackett was once a head coach at Southern California, the Trojans.

(3) Vinnie Testeverde is a New York Jets quarterback; the use of his name is a play on the title of the movie, "My Cousin Vinnie."

(4) The phrase "slightly are the men," is a play on the phrase, "Mighty are the men," words that appear in the Huskies' fight song.

(5) Isaiah Stanback and Casey Paus are UW quarterbacks. Mark Emmert is the new UW president. Seattle is called the Emerald City.

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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