I try to keep up, but I am struggling with the lingo in snowboarding and journalism.
I am not going to gripe that my first skis were solid wood, that “bumps” used to be moguls or that “halfpipe” makes me think of “Don’t Bogart that joint.”
But I am having trouble this Winter Olympics with excited snowboarding announcers using terms such as “off-axis backside rodeo,” “method air,” “front side Alley Oop” and “air-to-fakie.” I think I get “verticality,” but am still stumped by “heavy widers.”
Nor will I dwell on my newspaper career, beginning at the tail end of an era when “journalism” was a word more often associated with “school” than putting out a daily paper. Its practitioners smoked, cursed and criticized co-workers and competition alike. The really “rad” ones sometimes showed their regard for readers and co-workers by throwing telephones into trash cans, sticking receivers in their crotches and, I’ve heard, heaving an occasional typewriter. I’ve heard tell of newsmen in Santa Fe setting a self-important “colleague’s” copy on fire. But all this is nothing compared to editors with unknown pedigrees having carte blanche to impale your polished prose on a treacherous device known as a “spike.” It was both a noun and a verb, but it meant DOA in either form.
A story was a story and a brief was a brief. Sometimes, with deadlines looming and backshops waiting, you were told to write — in numbers of words or “takes” — to the length of the “hole.” There were “brights,” “features,” “Sunday stories” and, as I was assigned without instruction in my second year on the job, the “writing job.” The appropriate form was determined by an unsentimental editor wielding a thick pencil, a glue pot and a giant pair of scissors.
I am not particularly proud of this history, but I still do a double take when I hear newspaper people utter words such as “colleague,” “longform” and “nuance.”
And I will tune in to the Olympics again tonight to see if Shaun White can pull off another “giant backside double McTwist.” I’ll figure out where the commas go later.