Not Ms. Language Person.

So yesterday I read that the “embattled” president of the University of Colorado (which is “CU” on second reference, and if you know why, please explain) resigned. Just resigned? Oh, hell no. She resigned “amid turmoil.” Journalese strikes again.

Journalese is, of course, the language spoken only by journalists, although it sometimes pops into conversational speech, and it always sounds strange when it does. Take the word “controversy” in its many forms. Have you ever used that word casually? “That T-shirt will stir controversy with your principal,” say? Of course not. Which is why I’m always amused when someone does, like my friend John, who will sometimes ask a waitress, “Where are these alleged fries?”

Speaking of language, sooner or later we’re going to have to answer the “masturbate” question. I was raised to believe that “masturbate” is a, whaddayacallit? intransitive verb? Meaning, I think, that it ends where it ends. He masturbated. She masturbated. They masturbated. You don’t masturbate someone; it’s self-contained. Right? You can only do it to yourself. If you did it to someone else, it would no longer be masturbation, it would be manual stimulation that may or may not lead to orgasm.

But maybe I’m wrong. I keep reading about Michael Jackson masturbating some kid, sometimes while he’s masturbating himself. This just sounds wrong to me. Grammarians? Chime in.

I could check the transitive/intransitive thing if I could find my dictionary, but it’s in a box somewhere. The online dictionary I use just calls it a v.

That said, if I were assigning reporters to cover the M.J. trial, I’d certainly send Hank. I’m so glad someone did.

Posted at 9:53 am in Uncategorized |

27 responses to “Not Ms. Language Person.”

  1. harry near indy said on March 8, 2005 at 11:06 am

    journalese is a variant of english that is often written on autopilot.

    one journalese trope that truly bugs me is this one (it’s a hypothetical example):

    “a member of the sons of atlantis, smith also belongs to the committee to promote bearbaiting on espn.”

    instead of alternating the subject of the sentence with either smith or he/she, reporters put these half-ass qualifying phrases before it.

    it’s hackwork. i know — i used to be a reporter, but got out. journalese was one reason.

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  2. juan said on March 8, 2005 at 11:24 am

    Ah, the dreaded gerund! With the power to elevate the basest of profanity to extradimensional versatility, and befuddle grammarian bloggers in a single noun!

    ger�und (jer und), n. Gram.

    1. (in certain languages, as Latin) a form regularly derived from a verb and functioning as a noun, having in Latin all case forms but the nominative.

    2. the English -ing form of a verb when functioning as a noun, as writing in “Writing is easy.”

    3. a form similar to the Latin gerund in meaning or function.

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  3. juan said on March 8, 2005 at 11:34 am

    Back to Websters:

    DW gives transitive masturbators a little wiggle-room, if you’ll pardon the pun.

    mas�tur�ba�tion n.

    1. the stimulation or manipulation of one’s own genitals, esp. to orgasm; sexual self-gratification.

    2. the stimulation, by manual or other means exclusive of coitus, of another’s genitals, esp. to orgasm.

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  4. Dick said on March 8, 2005 at 1:27 pm

    However this turns out, wank, as an equivalent word, will have to live by the same rules, I suppose.

    Which reminds me. There was a blizzard, crowded hotel, three buddies who had to share a bed. Next morning, buddy on the left says “I dreamed I had the best wank of my life!” Guy on the right exclaimed “Wow! Me too.” The middle man moans “Oh, geez. I dreamed I was on a fast downhill ski run.”

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  5. Nance said on March 8, 2005 at 1:48 pm


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  6. juan said on March 8, 2005 at 4:40 pm

    Euphimism contest anyone?

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  7. KCK said on March 8, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    OK Juan, here goes

    slammin’ the ham

    whippin’ the lizard

    poundin’ the pud

    and my favorite

    floggin’ the dolphin

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  8. KCK said on March 8, 2005 at 6:02 pm

    Oh, and Coloradoans (and CU alums) call it CU, don’t know why, maybe to differentiate from the other UCs Univ of Cincinnati, UC (Calif: Berkeley, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Davis, Irvine, Riverside, LA, Santa Cruz, SF, Merced …)

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  9. alex said on March 8, 2005 at 6:46 pm

    I’m especially fond of chokin’ the chicken, being a Hoosier boy. A friend who studied abroad says that in France “chastising the pope” is all the rage.

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  10. Joe said on March 8, 2005 at 7:01 pm

    Punching the clown.


    Big news in the fort today, 21 bought 33 and fired everyone except Linda Jackson, No NBC national news at least for now. They are running mash at 6:00 on 33 then Linda Jackson comes on at 6:30 and does the wise 33 news on 21 alive.

    If you go to 33 web page it takes you to 21’s web page. This all took place around 4:30 tonight. Suppose the bars around the stations are doing a brisk bussiness?


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  11. Nance said on March 8, 2005 at 7:15 pm

    Deb, J.C. and Wade will back me up on this: One of the best bits of graffiti in our college newspaper office — and there was a lot of competition — was a steadily lengthening (sorry) list of masturbation euphemisms in, where else, the bathroom. My fave: Polishing the bishop.

    And Joe, the simple answer is yes. God, the news business sucks.

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  12. Joe said on March 8, 2005 at 7:20 pm

    Sanding the main mast.

    NBC news now on at 7:00pm in the Fort


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  13. Bartleby said on March 8, 2005 at 9:51 pm

    Waxing the carrot. Sharpening the spear.

    And, while we’re being gross: for almost an entire semester, in the restroom on my floor of the dorm where I lived, there was a stall whose partition was devoted to various boasting graffiti describing the size and character of the turds that guys had deposited there. Example: “10-inch floating log, with corn.” Or, “12-inch sunken ship.”

    And now, back to our regularly-scheduled programming.

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  14. ashley said on March 9, 2005 at 12:26 am

    Throttling the purple helmeted soldier of love

    Shaking the one eyed trouser snake

    My all time favorite piece of graffiti: “Jesus Saves”…then, below, in a different style of writing “…but Gretzky slams in the rebound!”

    Followed closely by “Save Soviet Jews…win valuable prizes”

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  15. Mindy said on March 9, 2005 at 6:16 am

    Stay awake, arrive alive

    Choke your chicken while you drive

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  16. John said on March 9, 2005 at 7:55 am


    i first saw that it was Esposito (Phil) scoring on the rebound after the save by Jesus.

    and i do love “win valuable prizes”!

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  17. Michael G said on March 9, 2005 at 8:54 am

    Y’all forgot yanking your doodle and pocket pool.

    Then there was the bumper sticker: “Free Angela Davis — with every ten gallons.” How many know who Angela Davis is/was?

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  18. Danny said on March 9, 2005 at 10:05 am

    Spanking the monkey.

    Michael, I had to look up Angela. Sounded familiar, but I was thinking Angela Landsbury. They are dissimilar.

    Speaking of remembering, anyone remember Oliva de Haviland. I recently caught the 1938 version of The Adventures of Robin Hood and was wondering who this delightful creature was with a voice like silk and butter. Interesting bio on She is still alive and resides in Paris.

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  19. juan said on March 9, 2005 at 10:46 am

    Whippin’ the wire, and…

    my personal fave…

    Poppin’ the top on the squirtable convertible!

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  20. alex said on March 9, 2005 at 11:51 am

    I was a bit young to comprehend it all at the time, Michael, but wasn’t Angela one of the Weathergirls in California who used to bomb Brink’s trucks or something? Speaking of such bumper stickers, I ought to carry a Sharpie marker with me. Every time I see “Free Mumia,” I want to write “Where can I get mine?”

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  21. Michael G said on March 9, 2005 at 1:31 pm

    Angela was a commie and involved in radical black politics with the Black Panthers and involved in the George Jackson affair back in the sixties and early seventies. She’s a prof at a UC campus now.

    I remember Olivia de was in “Gone With the Wind”. Ashley’s honey was it? I was never crazy about her — she was not believable as a young love interest. She did seem to get better as she got older and played more “mature” parts.

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  22. mary said on March 9, 2005 at 3:48 pm

    Olivia de Havilland won two Oscars, and she has a sister, Joan Fontaine, who was very nearly as famous. They feuded for years, supposedly, over some part they both wanted. Olivia played Melanie in gone with the wind. She was very sweet, and oblivious to Scarlett’s scheming to take Ashley from her.

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  23. harry near indy said on March 9, 2005 at 4:06 pm

    juan, i dislike gerunds.

    other euphamisms for masturbation:

    whipping the bishop

    pounding the pud

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  24. juan said on March 9, 2005 at 6:19 pm


    While we are on the topic of the proper grammatical use of off-color words and topics:


    God damn, I hate it when PUD is used in the masculine.


    Pud is short for pudendum, genital skin consisting of labial folds. While the scrotum could (technically) be considered pudendum, the fact is that PUD applies mainly to the female genitalia.


    pu�den�dum , n., pl. -da

    Usually, pudenda. Anat.

    the external genital organs, esp. those of the female; vulva.

    [1350�1400; ME

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  25. Gary Heckman said on March 10, 2005 at 11:15 am

    In Angeles Ashes we learned the term

    “interferring with yourself”.

    Just another option.

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  26. harry near indy said on March 11, 2005 at 2:00 am

    the hand, when used for masturbation, is often called rosy palmola and her five sisters.

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  27. alex said on March 12, 2005 at 1:01 am

    I knew a Venezuelan who used to tell me when all else failed he could always have a “date with Manuela.”

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