Sunday, August 25, 2013

Not AGAIN!?! The WORD Escapes Again

Criminy! The WORD Is Back for Season 18

“No, no no no NO!!” shouted Dr. Con Jugate, all in a furious lather.

For the 18th straight August, the international pest known as Today’s WORD on Journalism eluded the inept attendants at St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose, where the recidivist journalistic gadfly is regularly incarcerated for treatments.

Jugate, the sanitarium’s superintendent, was frothing.

“Those $%^&#*^%!!@ boneheads!” he yelled, spitting and kicking the furniture. “He told them he was going to buy a pizza, and they just let him go.”

The WORD, whose daily doses of “wisdom” on matters journalistic, political, social and cultural have afflicted decent folk on five continents since 1995, had been a, er, “guest” at St. Mumbles since May, when white-jacketed attendants collected the blathering serial quoter from a freshman dorm at Utah State University.

He has spent the summer convalescing at the remote coastal rest home, playing Scrabble, lounging on the porch and secretly collecting new quotes on the press to torment a troubled media world.

“We thought he liked it here,” said Steve, one of the Scrabble regulars, laying down C-A-T on a double word for a whopping eight points. “I really thought he’d stay this time.”

The WORD was first admitted and first escaped from St. Mumbles in 1995 after his opening season quoting wise guys on journalism. Since then, the WORD’s, um, “influence” has spread worldwide, and last year the International Bloviaters League and Tribune of Hairbrained Editors & Reporters (IBLaTHER) honored the serial email pest with its coveted Junkmail Award.

Anyway, the WORD is out again, gentle and unsuspecting readers. Brace yourselves.

As usual, we launch this season with the ever-useful wisdom of the genial former colonial Royal High Pontentate of the Virginia Colony, whose high regard for both education and the press rings with an increasingly popular fervor today. Enjoy!

• • •

TODAY’S WORD ON JOURNALISM—The Perennial Season Opener
“I thank God we have no free schools or printing, and I hope that we shall not have these for a hundred years. For learning has brought disobediences and heresy and sects into the world; and printing has divulged them and libels against the government. God keep us from both.” 

—Sir William Berkeley 
Governor, Virginia Colony, 1671

• • •

Back-story: The WORD was originally concocted (“conceived” is, I think, altogether too grand) as a way to get journalism students to pay attention to their email. Strange as it may sound, email was a new and unpleasant disturbance of the general peace back in 1995, and many students did not then spend 16 hours a day online. As a professor hoping to get and keep their attention while also instructing them, my object was that the WORD would give them something to think about before class. Hope, like the WORD, springs eternal.

I think it’s fair to say that this strategy was a dismal failure. Most of my students continue to ignore their daily WORDs and gaily accept point reductions on their quizzes for not knowing the day's wordish wisdom from philosophers ranging from Soren Kierkegaard to Brian Williams to Lisa Simpson.

But the WORD has become rather frighteningly popular with non-students—purported grown-ups, mostly, who actually ask to be afflicted or who send email addresses of unsuspecting friends/colleagues/parents/bosses, so that they might be victimized as well.

When the WORD was trundled by those nice white-jacketed men into St. Mumbles last spring, about 1,800 (mostly volunteer) victims subscribed to the direct email WORD list. More got the WORD by checking the website, whence it was linked and Tweeted and forwarded like a pox to many more unsuspecting victims by so-called “friends.”

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“Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” —Tom Stoppard

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