Thursday, October 2, 2008


By Jim Heffernan

When Minnesota Public Radio contacted Sen. Amy Klobuchar this week to ask which way she’d vote on the bailout bill, she said she’d vote “yes,” but implied great reluctance.


“Because I’m (rhymes with kissed, but involves a different part of the human anatomy) off and the people are (same rhyme) off,” is a pretty fair quote drawn from memory. MPR broadcast the brief interview on Wednesday, Oct. 1, on “All Things Considered.”

Seldom do we hear politicians invoke vulgar phrases in public, much less for broadcast. I’m so accustomed to writing for a “family newspaper” (most newspapers consider themselves family newspapers, like restaurants that don’t allow dancing are family eateries) I feel I must write around or insert rhyming words or euphemisms for harmless vulgarities even here on the Internet.

A brief history of the phrase she used: As a youngster, I thought we made it up -- we being my peer group at the time. When I got into the wider world, I realized that the term, meaning “very angry”, was universal in English. I’m not sure what they say in France -- don’t know much about the French I took.

But the words were filed in our young brains along with other, mostly scatological, terms like bull (what the farmer hauled another load of) and son of a (rhymes with ditch), harmless enough but not qualified for use around adults without risking the threat of soap in the mouth.

Who’d have thought a United States senator would someday utter this vulgar term for “very angry” on the radio, for heaven’s sake. Well, maybe not heaven’s sake, but it least it doesn’t take anybody’s name in vain.

There are also sexism implications here. In my experience, going way, way back, women were not expected to “swear” as much as men, and I think that still is the case to some extent, although it’s fading fast in the 21st century. When I was a child, my family knew a widow woman who smoked and “swore like a trooper,” and she was a subject of great dinner table controversy. She was the only woman anybody knew who could swear and smoke at the same time.

Moving on once again to the 21st century, on the same day that Sen. Klobuchar so frankly described her anger at the need to bail out Wall Street in alley-above-Main Street language, the New York Times reported on a similar somewhat vulgar utterance from the lip-glossed mouth of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the Republican choice for vice president.

Oh, I know some might say, “yeah, that’s the liberal New York Times again,” but the quote was pretty well authenticated after the reporter viewed a video recording of a Palin debate when she was running for governor of Alaska against two men (a Democrat and an Independent).

Having survived a primary in her own party, Palin responded to a charge from a general election opponent that she hadn’t attended enough debates by pointing out that she’d been running for more than a year, and adding: “You know, you’ve got to have the (English for cojones) to take it on in the early part of a campaign, and not just go right to the big show.”

An avowedly religious candidate, Palin must have been referring to the Biblical great cojones of fire, don’t you think? Of course, I don’t know much about the Spanish I took either.

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