Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 12, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

TIGER AND THE PRESS....On Sunday, after blowing half a dozen putts to lose the Masters to Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods said:

As good as I hit it, that's as bad as I putted and it's frustrating, because I felt so in control of my ball from tee to green, and once I got on the green I was a spaz.

Didn't hear about this? Australia's The Age explains why:

Print outlets Bloomberg, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe all ran reports from which "spaz" had been excised. The Los Angeles Times sidestepped the issue by forcing Tiger to say, "It was frustrating because I felt so in control of my golf ball from tee to green, then when I got on the green, I was a (wreck)."

On the other hand, over a dozen U.S. newspapers used the full quote as did British newspapers, which criticized him harshly for his choice of words. Woods apologized on Tuesday.

So: were major U.S newspapers guilty of covering up for a popular sports star? Slaves to PC orthodoxy? Doing the right thing since the word is generally considered offensive by the disabled community? All of the above?

Kevin Drum 8:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (128)

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Comments

Huh? When did "spaz" become offensive? Seriously -- when did I miss this?

Posted by: Jaquandor on April 12, 2006 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Ditto what Jaquandor said. Maybe if he said "I was a retard" or something I could understand. I've never heard "spaz" used as a way of disparaging people with a particular disability.

Posted by: Paul on April 12, 2006 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

people who think "spaz" is offensive are retards.

Posted by: haha on April 12, 2006 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

What scumbags!

Posted by: Drinker Nisti on April 12, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

It's a bigger deal in the UK, where "spaz" is an insultingly short term for "spastic," which was in common parlance as a medical term as recently as a few decades ago. Over there, it's exactly equivalent to if he had said "cripple" or " 'tard."

Posted by: Phil on April 12, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

You guys missed it. He was spinning slowly and tapping his chest with the back of his hand while he said it.

It's all about context.

Posted by: enozinho on April 12, 2006 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

Oof, even more recently, actually: The UK's Spastics Society only changed its name to Scope in 1994.

Posted by: Phil on April 12, 2006 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

Spastics Society sucks ever since the lead singer left.

Posted by: Rob Staeger on April 12, 2006 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

Wow...I never thought "spaz" meant anything other than "uncoordinated idiot". It used to be a derogatory term for some sort of disability?

I've never heard the word "spastic" used as a noun for a person either.

This reminds me of how dwarfs don't want to be called midgets. 100% of the US population sees the word "dwarf" and "midget" as being exact synonyms, neither one more derogatory than the other...but the actual small people seem to see "midget" as offensive.

Posted by: Cryptic Ned on April 12, 2006 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

The post immediately before this is titled "Growing less lame by the minute". Anybody else see the irony in that?

Posted by: Tom Hilton on April 12, 2006 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

Does this mean Brits will stop calling cigarettes "fags"?

Posted by: Andy on April 12, 2006 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

Ah yes, the Knee Pad media

May they all rot as soon as possible & a curse on Politcal (Fascist) Correctness

The mind is its own place,
and in itself can make a heaven of hell,
and a hell of heaven. - John Milton

Posted by: daCascadian on April 12, 2006 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

And shouldn't it be ok for Tiger to call himself a "spaz"? I mean, it's not like when Fuzzy Zellar made that fried chicken reference after Woods one his first Masters.

Posted by: enozinho on April 12, 2006 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

What scumbags!
Posted by: Drinker Nisti on April 12, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, that's offensive to scumbags.

And shouldn't it be ok for Tiger to call himself a "spaz"? I mean, it's not like when Fuzzy Zellar made that fried chicken reference after Woods one his first Masters.
Posted by: enozinho on April 12, 2006 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

We'll really have to wonder when he starts calling interviewers "my nigga" - I mean, we know it's okay for black people to use that term, but Tiger?

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on April 12, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

I'm with all those that didn't know 'spaz' was supposed to be offensive. This kind of thing has come up many times since my child was born ten years ago; I've been shocked to learn some words others find offensive. We never cuss in my family, but "suck" is an everyday term. Apparently, it bothers some people. As does "butt".

But newspaper editors are paid to know this kind of thing, so I think it was probably correct not to print the word, even though it seems silly to me.

Posted by: Mark on April 12, 2006 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

In quickly checking the etymology on this I could not find a reason this would be offensive. What am I missing? Is it just a UK thing?

Posted by: ecoboz on April 12, 2006 at 8:55 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's a "Meatballs" reference.

Posted by: David on April 12, 2006 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

If we can name Native Americans after a portugese guy, Amerigo Vespucci, we can call uncoordinated people spaz.

No matter how much you try to make language behave, it always will misbehave. Now you can't call deformed people "special" anymore and that was so you didn't call them deformed, which actually described what they were. Another one AD and BC which describe succinctly what they mean must now be BCE and ACE, which means before and after the "common era". Which is meaningless.

Posted by: exclab on April 12, 2006 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

If we can name Native Americans after a portugese guy, Amerigo Vespucci

He was Italian. What do you have against gumbas?

Posted by: enozinho on April 12, 2006 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

Least important PA topic, ever.

Posted by: JamesP on April 12, 2006 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

So what's the translation of "klutz?" (a term I apply to myself with no intent to offend).

Posted by: modus potus on April 12, 2006 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing, it used to be that Native Americans all practiced sutra and believed in Krishna. Now that eat spagetti and sing opera. I can't keep up, thats all.

Posted by: exclab on April 12, 2006 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Pardon me earlier lazy post. I did a bit of additional checking and found these:
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=spastic
http://www.bartleby.com/61/7/S0610750.html
Most discussion seemed aimed at the UK. I found nothing that would indicate this has been an issue or generally considered offensive in the US, but it is the opposite case in the UK. Since golf is widely covered in the UK, Tiger's apology was probably a good thing but I hope this does not become a big issue in the US. I finally just got back to using "rule of thumb"....

Posted by: ecoboz on April 12, 2006 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone remember a few years ago when George Steinbrenner got annoyed at his new Japanese acquisition Hideki Irabu and called him "a fat toad who was filled with pus." Except he really called him a "fat pussy toad" -- and many newspapers printed it as "fat [deleted] toad" or such.

We shall not have references to pus in our newspapers! Because they remind people of vaginas!!

It's all very strange.

Posted by: Martin on April 12, 2006 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

Burroughs, a very overrated writer did say "Language is a virus from outer space."

Posted by: exclab on April 12, 2006 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

Spaz is one of those nice little buried words that you don't realize is offensive until you learn its origins. To be a spaz when I was growing up was to be hyperactive, unfocused.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty on April 12, 2006 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Many people with spinal cord injuries, nerve injuries, and some neurological diseases have no control over their own muscles. For some people, their muscles simply don't work. Others have "spastic" muscles, which contract without their owners' consent. Thus, you might have seen people in wheelchairs with curled up hands, or people repeatedly kicking or whacking things. "Spasticity" is a very troubling, embarrassing, and sometimes dangerous symptom of many diseases. People who suffer from spasticity are subjected not only to pain and injury, but they also get made fun of. People used to call them "spaz." There's a line of wheelchairs called "Spazz" to make fun of the fact and try to take the sting out of it.

Posted by: lupe on April 12, 2006 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.planetmobility.com/store/wheelchairs/manual/colours/spazz/

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/spasticity/spasticity.htm

Posted by: lupe on April 12, 2006 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

I saw Tiger play a few rounds and all I could think was "Timmay!!! . . . Timmmay!!"

Posted by: toast on April 12, 2006 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

seriously, what a tard

Posted by: toast on April 12, 2006 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe they should just write SP__. I would be all for sports pages refusing to print racist sport team names.

I think that would embarass the universities into doing the right thing.

Posted by: bakho on April 12, 2006 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

This reminds me of something that happened to me in high school. I hung out mostly with my theater and speech/debate friends, and peripheral to that crowd were the ultra-lefty-idealists who organized lots of clubs about this and that pet issue. One girl in particular from that crowd, Danielle, was friends with my girlfriend and typically sat near us at lunch. So I come back from the lunch line and say something about the price of my lunch being way high, and said "what a gyp!" This sent Danielle into a huge tizzy about how the word gyp is a huge slander towards gypsies and it is incredibly offensive... blah blah blah. I knew it was futile to argue with her from past experience and just kept my mouth shut. I mean, c'mon! Does anyone here agree with her? I completely understand that to say something is a "gyp" means it is a rip-off, but isn't that what the friggin gypsies actually DID quite often??? And even if they didn't, are there still any gypsies left? Do we really have to limit our speech to the level of not offending extinct cultures and peoples??

btw, i i by NOOOOooo means am a conservative and do consider myself quite liberal, and I severely resent the fact that people like her are allowed to smear the true beliefs and values of that label by wasting everyone's time with petty battles like this one.

Posted by: Brian on April 12, 2006 at 9:58 PM | PERMALINK

Its like blasphemy or taking the lords name in vane or questioning the rightness of the volcano god - the spirit of the gypsy lives in every man and woman and by doing that you insulted the cosmos.

Posted by: exclab on April 12, 2006 at 10:02 PM | PERMALINK

Brian, didn't you try to jew that lunchlady down on the price?

Oh wait, I meant.....

Posted by: Doug-E-Fresh on April 12, 2006 at 10:18 PM | PERMALINK

According to the original Hebrew text, the 'Lord's' name that you're not supposed to take in vain is YAHWEH. So, whatever you do, don't say YAHWEH. Or think it. Or whatever.
That's YAHWEH. Pronounced YAW-WAY. Yahweh.

Got it?

Posted by: Paidi on April 12, 2006 at 10:28 PM | PERMALINK

Growing up I always thought the "indian giver" was somehow connected to folks that made treaties with indians and then didn't live up to the treaty -- taking more land, killing them, converting them, etc.

Posted by: toast on April 12, 2006 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

This reminds me of the recent controversy over the word "scumbag" being an answer in the NYT crossword puzzle. To people over 95 years old, the word "scumbag" apparently means "condom". Neither the author of the puzzle nor the editor had ever heard of this before.

Posted by: Cryptic Ned on April 12, 2006 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

Christ, this is nothing. I was savaged on this very Blog about a year ago when I mentioned that I liked Eskimo Pies. A bunch of silly fucking Canadians swooped in an basically made me out to be a Klansmen for using the term Eskimo. And they were serious. So now I eat Native People's Pies and tell the freaking Canadians to lighten up.

Posted by: Pat on April 12, 2006 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

I'm thinking spaz isn't offensive at all in American parlance--we barely use the word "spastic," even in medical usage (excepting "spastic colon".) It's basically on the level with "dork" and "dweeb".

So I vote for "slaves to PC orthodoxy."

Posted by: Justin Slotman on April 12, 2006 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

I thought Burroughs was pretty good when he didn't splice his pages up. Why did he do those cut-ups? I can't remember, except he was under the influence of that groundbreaking artist whatshisname.

Posted by: Lucy on April 12, 2006 at 10:58 PM | PERMALINK

Gypsies -- who themselves prefer Romany -- are alive and well all over Europe, generally known as scam artists and pickpockets, like Travellers in America. Of course, this is a generalization. I leave it to you to debate its accuracy.

Posted by: Kiril on April 12, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

are they made of real native people's?

Posted by: exclab on April 12, 2006 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

And yes. There still are lots of gypsies. They are not "extinct." TMaybe they should have hauled Tiger away in the Paddy Wagon?

Posted by: Pat on April 12, 2006 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

This is the first time I've heard of the incident. I suppose our major newspapers have now become whores for Nike, or simply afraid of offending Tiger since he's bigger than the game (just as many of them soft-pedaled Michael Jordan's gambling). Disappointing.

Posted by: Vincent on April 12, 2006 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

a good insult for sudden, violent unexplained movements could be "What a Cheney!" Then you insulting one person and quite justifiably.

Posted by: exclab on April 12, 2006 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

I seem to remember reading (speaking of Gypsies) that their language was the last remaining unrecorded language. In other words, only spoken by them and not written down anywhere. But I fully admit that might be crap and I am remembering wrong.

Posted by: Pat on April 12, 2006 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

There is nothing offensive about the expression "spaz." People don't use it to refer to the disabled, but to a socially awkward adolescent.

But then, what do I know?

Oh, and William Burroughs is very much UNDER-rated as a writer.

He once said that

"The British would make terrible space travelers because they would land on another planet, climb down out of their spaceship, and start desperately trying to find someone to look down on.

Posted by: SombreroFallout on April 12, 2006 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

I remember Burroughs being outraged by an astronaut who claimed not to be too proud to get down on his knees and say a prayer now and then. Are we to entrust future space travel to such people?! Burroughs fumed. I'm paraphrasing.

Several members of Storey Musgrave's family are evangelicals (or something), come to think of it. I wonder which astronaut it was who made Burroughs so mad.

Posted by: Lucy on April 12, 2006 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

if you read some of the articles on this "offense" they tend to interview representatives of organizations for handicapped..even they didnt seem to really care that much.

Posted by: supuri on April 12, 2006 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

I always thought Yahweh, like God and Lord, was just a euphemism. The true unspeakable name of the Hebrew god is Jehovah.

And with regard to the previous post, Amy Sullivan is an insensitive spaz. What's her problem? Doesn't she know that using the offensive words like "lame" makes her look like bigoted cunt whore?

Posted by: FXKLM on April 12, 2006 at 11:35 PM | PERMALINK

That is not the real FXKLM!

Posted by: Lucy on April 12, 2006 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

Oh please. Whatever associations "spaz" may have had with the disabled - oops, _differently abled_ - they have long since faded away in America. Today it's just a harmless expression that is not meant to insult or demean anyone.

Posted by: Peter on April 12, 2006 at 11:47 PM | PERMALINK

Now I'm bewildered (I was going to say dumfounded but that may also be a bad word.) What did Carlin say about bad words something like 'There are no bad words just bad actions'. So now when I pop in my DVD of Meatballs I'm supposed to cover my ears every time someone yells 'SPAZ'. WTF!!

Dumb ass stupid motherfuckers! We have much bigger issues than whether one sorta silly word that Tiger Woods used to describe not someone else but to describe himself might offend someone.

Posted by: CJ in Wisconsin on April 12, 2006 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

"Dumb ass stupid motherf******"

You can't say that either. It's insulting to people who enjoy incest.

Posted by: Peter on April 12, 2006 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

"Spaz" degrades someone?

Now they tell me.

So, OK, where's the official, up-to-the-minute list of de-dignifiers? Or is it kept secret so that they can pounce on you to get maximum effect?

Posted by: frankly0 on April 13, 2006 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

In every society, there develops, and continually evolves, a somewhat arbitrary list of things you aren't supposed to say. It gets on my nerves, but I mostly accept it; even though I subscribe in principle to the George Carlin school of thought on slurs and profanity, I still won't say 'nigger' or 'retard' or a lot of lesser slurs, even in a neutral way, as in commenting on the word itself. I even feel strabge typing them.

But each society is going to differ, and if it's silly to go after someone for using a word that the society doesn't 'agree' is bad, by and large, it's asinine to go after someone from a different country, in a different country, who uses such a word. Spaz was never a common word even when I was a kid in the U.S. (or Wisconsin in the 80s, at least), but I would have taken it to mean a hyper kid, not a disabled kid. Or maybe a nerd or geek, words that probably will be verboten in another decade. Last I checked, Tiger is an American, and was golfing in the U.S. When the British stop calling cigarettes 'fags', maybe we can agree on a trans-Atlantic politically correct dictionary.

Posted by: ChiSox Fan in LA on April 13, 2006 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

lupe: "Many people with spinal cord injuries, nerve injuries, and some neurological diseases have no control over their own muscles... People who suffer from spasticity are subjected not only to pain and injury, but they also get made fun of. People used to call them "spaz.""

As one of those people (C/3-5 tetraplegiac), I'm just not feelin' the outrage.

Posted by: chaunceyatrest on April 13, 2006 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

Self-censorship = (moneybags + shylocks + Ashcrofts) * (number of people actually conceivably offended or pretending to be offended * 1000) / any remaining semblance of common sense anybody still possesses in this ridiculous society.

Posted by: brooksfoe on April 13, 2006 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

All other particulars aside, the expression of most epithets don't include "I am one of you." Not nigger, not faggot, not neocon. In the thoughtlessness and offense of what (this time) Tiger Woods said was also, however flippantly and temporarily, "I am you."

Posted by: sjslide on April 13, 2006 at 12:43 AM | PERMALINK

I'm no fan of Tiger Woods, but in this case I have to support him. I have never heard "spaz" used as any sort of derogatory term for a disabled person. In fact, until this happened, I'll bet I hadn't heard the word since I was in junior high school. And then it meant, yep, awkward, inept, etc. People got called a lot worse in my school. And I'm a Californian, damn it. If there's a word out there that might give offense to anyone, anywhere, we're the first to hear about it and pass a law against it. So far as I know, there is no law against using "spaz" in California.

Isn't this all getting a little out of hand? What's truly funny is that words formerly considered verboten in polite societyfuck, etc.are now acceptable everywhere, yet many people take offense at perfectly good English words such as "handicapped, blind, deaf," etc. I think some of these people pull rules out of their asses, with gullible media types and frightened government bureaucrats ready and eager to broadcast new offenses to the world.

Posted by: Nixon Did It on April 13, 2006 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

It's Yahweh or the highway.

Posted by: Libby Sosume's evil self on April 13, 2006 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

Dee Dee Dee!

Posted by: Carlos Mencia on April 13, 2006 at 12:57 AM | PERMALINK

I like it in Canada, where they print the word as-is, no hangups.

In Canada the word fuck is allowed on TV after 10 pm. So when they play a movie at 9:00, the first hour is bleeped and the second hour is unbleeped. You'd be watching Lethal Weapon 2 (or 3?). The bleeping would stop at 10, and right then Joe Pesci would be in the back seat complaining about his sandwich, like, "They FUCK you in the drive-in, they always FUCK you in the drive-in!" yadda yadda.

And you'd fall right out of your chair.

I miss Canada. I wish I'd stayed. (Sigh.)

Posted by: Libby Sosume's evil self on April 13, 2006 at 1:04 AM | PERMALINK

So what I'm saying is in Canada they would print the "spaz". Like, fuggit, man, we report, you decide, and let Tiger take the heat.

Posted by: Libby Sosume's evil self on April 13, 2006 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

(Apologies to any spazzes here who may be offended.)

Posted by: Libby Sosume's evil self on April 13, 2006 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

Phil notes: The UK's Spastics Society only changed its name to Scope in 1994.

Why? Did they think the term "Spastics" was somehow derogatory or offensive? Did the Society come up short on "Spastic Pride"? Methinks the Society doth reeketh of hypocrisy.

Posted by: Zandru on April 13, 2006 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

I had no idea that was a bad word. "Spaz" is an old term we used to say about someone who was acting too high-strung, or was just generally more hyperactive than most people.

Posted by: Jimm on April 13, 2006 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

Upon first reading I found it rather endearing that Woods said this. It just sounded so 4th grade that I kinda felt like he was showing a sort of self compassion as well as frustration by time warping back to being a kid.

I am suprised that this was found unprintable!!

I sort of get how insulting it could be, but I came from a place where it wasn't cool to make fun of the lame (the halt maybe, but not the lame) so I never thought about the term meaning anything but what Jimm said " too high-strung, or was just generally more hyperactive than most people." Except maybe with a little "faggy" thrown in with some drool and maybe not wiping. Holy cow. We really were prejudice little 4th graders weren't we?

Posted by: ChetBob on April 13, 2006 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

Nobody believes Tiger meant to offend anyone, but some people were offended. If Tiger is sorry to have offended them, then he's right to apologize.

All other particulars aside, the expression of most epithets don't include "I am one of you." Not nigger, not faggot, not neocon. In the thoughtlessness and offense of what (this time) Tiger Woods said was also, however flippantly and temporarily, "I am you."

What if someone said of their bad performance in a round, "I was a total gook today."

Posted by: Boronx on April 13, 2006 at 2:49 AM | PERMALINK

Boronx, if such a golfer said " I was a total gook today," I would kindly remind him/her that since Korean women are dominant force on the LPGA (that includes Michelle Wie), they must have meant they played well today. Then I'd step on his Samsung or LG cellphone.

Posted by: gyp on April 13, 2006 at 3:00 AM | PERMALINK

Language evolves. In my day, and Tiger's, when someone "spazzed out", it didn't mean they were unable to control bodily movements, but instead were either flying off the handle (mad) and/or being totally hyperactive.

Posted by: Jimm on April 13, 2006 at 4:22 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, for God's sake. I am SO sick of everybody being offended by every little thing. And frankly, I don't care if it is offensive. It's a stupid flap about absolutely nothing.

Posted by: susan on April 13, 2006 at 6:58 AM | PERMALINK

Spaz has been deemed offensive now too?

Geez, next thing you know, they'll get all up in arms about Gimp!

I didn't realize spaz referred to gimps. Now I guess when I trying to find a parking spot, I'll be able to interchange "I can't park there, it's gimpified" with "can't park there, it's spazzeriffic"

Life is starting to suck if the gimps and spazzes have so much control over everyday chit chat.

Posted by: ernie on April 13, 2006 at 7:23 AM | PERMALINK

Toast, Indian Giver is "one who ask you to return the present he has given you."

Did Indians do this? I don't know, but that was the steretype when I grew up -- the only reference being the term.

There was a song about 1960 where the singer calls his ex-girlfriend an Indian Giver for taking back her heart.

Not too pc now, but I heard it a month ago. :-)

Posted by: Bob M on April 13, 2006 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

In Mumbai a few months ago, I saw a sign for the Spastics Society of India. I thought it was the local Audio-Visual Club until I saw the smaller signs, Resource Center for Inclusion and Center for Special Education.

Photo available.

Posted by: anandine on April 13, 2006 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

What he should have said was...

"because I felt so in control of my ball from tee to green, and once I got on the green I was like a democrat in the last 2 months of a crucial national election."

Posted by: Red State Mike on April 13, 2006 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Did they take Tiger away in the tard cart?

Posted by: Seamus on April 13, 2006 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

My vote for most ridiculous term - Mental Health Consumers - found as a term for mentally ill on a site for a program to train police officers to deal with "mental health consumers."

The image that popped into my mind was some wraith-like thing whipping through the night, eating people's mental health while they sleep.

Which makes me a spaz, of course.

Posted by: NotThatMo on April 13, 2006 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

Yes Bob. We had the same meaning for "Indian Giver" on the west coast.

But all through school in history class they told us about the treaties we had with native americans where we allowed them to have land "forever" and then we discovered it was valuable for gold (Black Hills), oil (Oklahoma), timber (Oregon), etc. and decided we didn't really want to give them that land forever after all.

The real etymology has to do with potlatches among natives in the nortwest. This was a sort of gift economy where there was a strong social expectation of an equivalent reciprocal gift. Fur traders without an understanding of the culture would piss people off by not reciprocating and were shocked when after a time natives demanded the gifts that they received be returned.

So in the traditional understanding someone who uses the term is basically some sort of cultural boob or perhaps is making a profound statement about the cultural divide between themselves and the person they are describing. In the "neotoastian" interpretation the original meaning is retained but the historical origin is reversed.

Posted by: toast on April 13, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

I'm glad to know your perspective, chaunceyatrest.

Posted by: lupe on April 13, 2006 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, it never even registered with me that spaz was short for "spastic." It was just a word in and of itself.

Posted by: DanM on April 13, 2006 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Bakho says: "I would be all for sports pages refusing to print racist sport team names."

My local rag NEVER prints the name of the Newport News Frogs or the Charlotte Kikes.

Wait, can I say "rag"?

Posted by: Bob on April 13, 2006 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Whoops - I thought from the headline that this was going to be about the latest version of Mac OS X...

Posted by: Adam Piontek on April 13, 2006 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Indian giver be the name of the Lord.

Posted by: Again with the Bob on April 13, 2006 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't the point here that the newspapers changed Tiger's quote to protect him, instead of reporting the news accurately?

Tiger had no business being in the news at all. He was one of the also-rans. Our local station frequently reports Tiger's scores first, no matter what they are, then shows the amazing shot of the tournament, then finally, if there is enough time, mentions the name of the actual winner or leader. This is idiotic. So, if the question is whether Tiger gets special treatment and serves some other function beyond being a golf player, the answer is yes, and the media is not only complicit, it is causal.

As a golf fan, I find this maddening. My husband now refers to PGA golf as "Tigerball."

Tiger does worse stuff than this (from a golf perspective) and they regularly cover it up, including throwing his clubs, using profanity, treating fans poorly and snubbing others. The media treats him like the great guy they wish he were. I'm sure they wanted a statement that he was playing this for Dad and was heartbroken he couldn't deliver. But instead they got a self-deprecating acknowledement that he played poorly. If he said he putted like a sea turtle would it have changed anything?

Posted by: Nancy on April 13, 2006 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

"I even feel strabge typing them."

This is offensive to the Strabge people. They are the only culture whose writing was based on pieces of fruit and vegetables, and whose name became synonomous with "unusual and misspelled". (have you ever tried to write with a piece of cucumber? Their spelling was atrocious.)

Fight the power! Save the Strabge!

Posted by: StrabgePower on April 13, 2006 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

a man who came east for medical school at johns hopkins in 1940 told me that motherfucker was a word that he had never encountered in montana where he grew up.

whites in baltimore told him that only blacks used the term and as a white he was under no circumstances ever to say it.

motherfucker, he said, has nothing to do with incest.

it refers to blacks and their, um, loose family and marital arrangements -- that many women who were mothers but not wives were available to other men. and that there was a category of low and loose men called motherfuckers who enjoyed dating such women.

Posted by: auto on April 13, 2006 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

For those who asked when did "spaz" become offensive:
My Californian mother yelled at me circa 1957 (in Costa Mesa)for saying spaz. She informed me that it referred to people afflicted with "spastic paralysis", a condition I should be thankful not to have.

Posted by: segi on April 13, 2006 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

although spaz does carry a different connotation in the UK than in the U.S....I still think it's P.C. run amuck.

I'm part Romany (Gypsy) and use "gyp" as an expression...big deal.

Posted by: Nathan on April 13, 2006 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Good Lord! He had to apologize for that? He was describing how he felt, and whether the term is offensive or not (never occurred to ME that it was), it provided an accurate description for how it must have felt for him. Isn't that the point of language, to convey as accurately as one can how one thinks and feels?

Posted by: mackdaddy on April 13, 2006 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Tiger didn't lose the Masters to Phil Michelson.

Phil Michelson beat everyone else in the field. Tiger Woods included.

Posted by: snark on April 13, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

I had no knowledge that "spaz" was considered offensive or even what it refered to. I don't think its utterance is anything to spaz about though.

Posted by: sedated on April 13, 2006 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, any possible reference to being less coordinated, clumsy, stupid, or slow is an insult in the 'disabled community'.

But honestly...

I don't see blond jokes going out of style, for however much I dislike them.

Posted by: Crissa on April 13, 2006 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

I always thought Yahweh, like God and Lord, was just a euphemism. The true unspeakable name of the Hebrew god is Jehovah.

Hebrew doesn't even have a "J" sound, but you're right that it's not "Yahweh" - not definitely, anyway. It's written as "YHVH," without vowels, so nobody knows exactly how to pronounce it.

Posted by: Viserys on April 13, 2006 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Since classical Hebrew is consonantal, it's actually YHWH that you are not supposed to say. Of course YHWH is in the Latin alphabet, the Hebrew looks sort of like HlH', read right to left.

Isn't "Gypsy" itself a non-PC word? It suggests that whoever they are came from Egypt, which is not true.

These discussions always remind me of Blazing Saddles when Mel Brooks, playing the governor (the "leading asshole in the state")abruptly realizing he is speaking to a black man, says, "The new sheriff is a nih..."

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 13, 2006 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Does that mean we can't use the term "stupid" because it's offensive to Republicans?

Posted by: buck turgidson on April 13, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

If it's written YHVH in Hebrew, is it pronounced Y-H-V-H (left to right) of H-V-H-Y (right to left)?

Or is it H-V-H-Y in Hebrew and written (and pronounced) Y-H-V-H in English?

Posted by: anandine on April 13, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK
Tiger didn't lose the Masters to Phil Michelson.

Absolutely right--he lost to Phil Mickelson.

Posted by: eric on April 13, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Travelling with some friends in England when I was much much younger, we stopped and took a picture of each other "spazin" out in front of a large "The Spastic Society" sign outside one of their offices. I was (obviously) clueless at the time as to what it meant. Thankfully, they were closed at the time, and there wasn't anyone hanging around on the street.

People get too freaked over this shit. I mean, once I knew, I wouldn't do something like that again. But I also wouldn't jump all over someone who didn't know. The list of unwitting potential offensive remarks is so long that I think people need to basically chill the fuck out.

At least we got The Spy Who Shagged Me, instead of Singapore who briefly forced a title change to "The Spy Who Shioked Me." ("Shioked" means "treated nicely.")


Posted by: E. Henry Thripshaw on April 13, 2006 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

YHWH is pronounced, more or less, no one really knows, "Yahweh." Sometimes in the Hebrew Scriptures, God is simply "Yah.""Jehovah" is a word made by inserting vowels into "YHVH", another transliteration of the Hebrew letters.

Posted by: Ace Franze on April 13, 2006 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Sheesh, I think the last time I actually heard someone say 'spaz' was when I watched Meatballs on TV as a kid, probably circa 1981.

I did know that scumbag meant a condom. Dan Burton, idiot congressmen from my home state of Indiana (R-of course) called Bill Clinton a scumbag and then had to apologize. Idiot.

Posted by: Rich on April 13, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

My arthritis qualifies me for a handicapped parking permit, and I consider "spaz" to be an accurate description of my motor skills some of the time, not an insult. BTW, that's "motor skills", not "motoring skills".

Posted by: YetAnotherRick on April 13, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

It's a good thing he didn't say he putted like a nigger.

Posted by: Pechorin on April 13, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

"I putted atrocious," he said. "As good as I hit it, that's as bad as I putted and it's frustrating, because I felt so in control of my ball from tee to green, and once I got on the green I was a spaz" -Tiger.
A very intense individual, Tiger doesn't seem to take the time to utter adverbs ,talking more like a every-day jock than one might expect from a Communications graduate from Stanford. But the world hasn't made him its highest earning athlete because he is ultra- sensitive to the language and to those with physical disabilities. And if he said "he putted like an idiot" ..that may have raised the hackles too from some who were once so-described.."Putted like a duffer." might have more apt.. Most of us can relate to that.

Posted by: Steve Crickmore on April 13, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

As long as something or someone is considered objectionable, the words used to refer to it or them will also become offensive over time, and new euphemisms will come into favor. Thus:
toilet, bathroom, restroom;
shit, crap, feces
died, deceased, passed
idiot, moron, retarded, special.
crippled, handicapped, disabled, differently abled
negro, colored, Black, African-American
queer, homosexual, gay.
Spastic is merely another of these euphemisms. It was already starting to turn bad in England in the sixties, when I was growing up. These sorts of changes are inevitable, until we no longer feel a need to resort of euphemisms.

The fact that this political correctness / euphemism creep happens with gays, blacks, disabled folk, and so forth is actually good news in a way, because it means that we are at least conscious of treating them shabbily, and therein lies some hope for improvement.

Posted by: N.Wells on April 13, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Is there a list of offensive terms somewhere?

spaz: "a clumsy or inept person"

Hmmmm. Nothing about disabled in there.

Can we use "dimwit" for the persons who objected to that term, or is that an inappropriate albeit unintentional reference to those with mental retardation?

Posted by: Advocate for God on April 13, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Absolutely right--he lost to Phil Mickelson.

You were bullied as a child weren't you?

The putts that Woods would have needed to make to get himself into the lead were by no means gimme putts. He missed them closely which is to his credit but he missed them because he didn't leave himself easier putts. His approach shots were not as good as Mickelson's were.

Posted by: snark on April 13, 2006 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Is there a list of offensive terms somewhere?

Maybe George Carlin knows?

Posted by: snark on April 13, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Mark,

We never cuss in my family, but "suck" is an everyday term. Apparently, it bothers some people.

It bothers me, but I'm the guy to ask "sucks what?"

I've gotta feeling I know the answer to that one and you must admit it is a vulgar phrase.

But my otherwise prim and proper wife doesn't mind the word crap. She didn't even know it referred to excrement. She grew thinging it meant "junk."

Posted by: Tripp on April 13, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Susan,

Oh, for God's sake. I am SO sick of everybody being offended by every little thing. And frankly, I don't care if it is offensive. It's a stupid flap about absolutely nothing.

Shut up you stupid c*nt!

Oh, sorry. Was it your ox getting gored this time?

On a different subject "idiot, imbecile, and moron" once had specific medical meanings. Ah the good old days.

Posted by: Tripp on April 13, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Nancy at 10:43 and her husband re Tigerball and the media's fascination with everything he does. Very infuriating to a golf fan.

Must say I was watching the Masters, reveling in Michaelson's win, and saw Tiger make the comment live.

Maybe it's just my age (remembering the polio epidemic and all) but I was clearly aware that "spaz" is short for "spastic," and I think Tiger is/was, too. After all, it would be pretty hard for a spastic (as we used to call them) to putt. Tiger was not saying he putted like a "dork"--why couldn't a dork putt just as well as anyone else? He was saying he putted like his arms and hands weren't working right.

He is not a warm and fuzzy person. He was not making a cute, self-deprecating remark. He was being hard on himself, which he often is. Which anyone who watches golf has seen many, many times.

Not that I think "spaz" is such a bad word that it needs to be euphemized in a news report. Why print the comment at all if you're not going to print it as it was said? But "spaz" was both an apt description and a bad choice of words.

Posted by: Cal Gal on April 13, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Advocate for God,

Can we use "dimwit" for the persons who objected to that term?

I'm pretty sure it was somebody with cerebal palsy or MS but you are allowed to call him whatever you like of course.

Posted by: Tripp on April 13, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

From Wikipedia:

"The term spastic has different meanings.

The Definition in the United Kingdom

Spastic has three meanings in the English language:

An adjective referring to spasticity, a condition in which the individual has spasms. Spasticity is most commonly associated in the public mind with cerebral palsy. It is derived from the Ancient Greek verb root spas- = "pull".

A sufferer of spasticity. This usage is generally believed to have been popularized from its use in the name of The Spastics Society. As a result of the next listed usage, this usage has become offensive to many.

A term of abuse, e.g. you're such a spastic (also colloquially abbreviated to "spazz", "spack", "spacko", "spanner" and "spacker"), derived from a popular misconception that those with any physical disability resulting in spasticity would necessarily also have a mental or developmental disability. When a "spacker" has a fit, it is often referred to as a "spack attack."

In the mid-1980s, some people with Cerebral Palsy attempted to "reclaim" the term. This is the meaning in the Ian Dury and the Blockheads song: "Spasticus Autisticus", and it is also used in the Ben Elton book Gridlock.

The Spastics Society, a UK charity for people with cerebral palsy, is now named SCOPE, leading to the colloquial use of the expression Scoper or Scopers to be used in place of sense three."

Didn't we do this very same dance with "shag" a few years back?

Posted by: bobby on April 13, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Now now bobby, you are spoiling the fun. It's much better to make fun of a person with a medical problem. Don't be giving people guilt trips, they'll get all huffy.

Ignorance is bliss.

Posted by: Tripp on April 13, 2006 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

It bothers me, but I'm the guy to ask "sucks what?"

I always understood it as "sucks air". Like something being totally spent.

I've gotta feeling I know the answer to that one and you must admit it is a vulgar phrase.

You mean a blowjob? In that connotation why would saying something "sucks" be a bad thing? Is it the whole oral sex is dirty thing?

Posted by: snark on April 13, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Hey I've got an idea!

What if the media were to take the bold step and report what actually happened rather than what they think their readers would like to be told? Whether "spaz" is derogatory or not, it is what Tiger Woods said. By editing his statement, the media propagated false information.

I know this particular incident is just just a minor issue, but if we can't trust them in the small things, how can we trust them in the big things?

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 13, 2006 at 3:50 PM | PERMALINK

As a couple of people have already pointed out, euphemisms come and go, as one becomes develops negative connotations, it is replaced with a fresh term. Over time, through misuse, the new term becomes derogatory and a new term is coined.

The Soviets used to do the same thing; once the Cheka became notorious for human rights violations, it was renamed the NKVD. In time that became infamous and was renamed the KGB. Different names, but with the same people, same attitudes and same crimes, nothing ever changed except the company letterhead.

My point is that it doesn't matter what we call a thing so much as what our attitude towards the person it describes. Any term, however inoffensive becomes instantly derogatory when used with intent to demean. Conversely, Tiger Woods' admittedly insensitive use of the word "spaz" was clearly not meant as a commentary on physical infirmity, but as an expression of frustration with his own performance.

For all of it's good intent, politically correct rewriting of our language in an effort to expurgate the offensive attitudes of bigots is merely "painting the roses red." The issues aren't the words we use, but the thoughts we think.

Posted by: Chesire11 on April 13, 2006 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Most important issue of this sort - those girl scout cookies - samoas. Now, I understand that people from samoa have a lot more invested in this, and I'm find with them changing the name, but couldn't they have chosen something with a similar ring or something? Or at least something that wasn't just descriptive - caramal yada yada or whatever. And, couldn't they label them so you could identify them as old samoas. I'm fine with dropping the name, but I want to be able to remember the new name of my favorite girl scout cookie.

Posted by: MDtoMD on April 13, 2006 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

What's so bad about having a cookie named after you?

Posted by: snark on April 13, 2006 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

One of the things I like about golf is that everyone starts out even at the beginning of each year. Aside from endorsements, there are no guaranteed salaries and each player is only as good as his or her last performance. The PGA money list rankings change dramatically based on who has new equipment, surgery, the yips, or a new attitude. That's why the continual fascination with Tiger's game, whether he is doing poorly or well, is contrary to the nature of the sport. There are as many, if not more, Mickelson fans out there, but he is only in the news when he wins, and only on TV when he is in contention. It should be that way for every player, but Tiger is in the spotlight no matter what he does. The irony is that Tiger clearly does not like to be the focus of so much attention -- perhaps because he knows it is unwarranted.

A guy who wins the Masters (akin to the SuperBowl, World Series, or Kentucky Derby) deserves to have his name spelled correctly.

The person who was treated improperly by the press during this tournament was Fred Couples. He might have taken legitimate pleasure in finishing so high (3rd I believe), but instead the commentators built him up as potentially the first old guy in decades to win and created an unrealistic expectation. He had a great time and a great game and if he didn't win, he did a terrific job. Why should that be treated as a failure instead of a triumph for him? I think some sports should be watched with the TV sound turned off.

Posted by: Nancy on April 13, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

The irony is that Tiger clearly does not like to be the focus of so much attention -- perhaps because he knows it is unwarranted.

He should have thought about that when he was signing all those endorsement deals.

A guy who wins the Masters (akin to the SuperBowl, World Series, or Kentucky Derby) deserves to have his name spelled correctly.

Do you think Mickelson was offended by my mistake? [Rolls eyes.]

The person who was treated improperly by the press during this tournament was Fred Couples. He might have taken legitimate pleasure in finishing so high (3rd I believe), but instead the commentators built him up as potentially the first old guy in decades to win and created an unrealistic expectation. He had a great time and a great game and if he didn't win, he did a terrific job.

How nice of you lower Fred's expectations for him.

I think some sports should be watched with the TV sound turned off.

Most these days.

Posted by: snark on April 13, 2006 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

And for what it's worth.

The guy who cleaned the clubhouse toilet, after the guy who finished last in the Masters Tournament took a crap, deserves to have his name spelled correctly too.

Posted by: snark on April 13, 2006 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Do you really think he was expecting to win, much as he (or anyone) would like to have done?

Posted by: Nancy on April 13, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

snark:

The guy who cleaned the clubhouse toilet, after the guy who finished last in the Masters Tournament took a crap, deserves to have his name spelled correctly too.

I happen to know that guy, and his name is Spazzola "Spaz" Spazzicoli.

Posted by: Anthony Cartouche on April 13, 2006 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

Do you really think he was expecting to win, much as he (or anyone) would like to have done?

Are you kidding? He started play in the fourth round in the final pairing. He's only 46. The week before the Masters he was ranked 27th in the world. Do you think he is the 27th (now 21st) ranked player in the world because he goes out there every week believing he can only hope to finish third?

And you're chastising the media for treating him unfairly?

Posted by: snark on April 13, 2006 at 10:22 PM | PERMALINK

I happen to know that guy, and his name is Spazzola "Spaz" Spazzicoli.

From what I hear that guy can't putt worth a crap.

Posted by: snark on April 13, 2006 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

Toast, that "neotoastian" remark was great! It stopped me cold for a few minutes.

This was an interesting thread. My final contribution: There is a great animator named Steve 'Spaz' Williams. Maybe animation can handle these things better than golf.

Posted by: Bob M on April 14, 2006 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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