February 20, 2012

"The ESPN editor fired Sunday for using 'chink in the armor' in a headline about Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin..."

"... said the racial slur never crossed his mind - and he was devastated when he realized his mistake."
[Anthony Federico] said he has used the phrase "at least 100 times" in headlines over the years and thought nothing of it when he slapped it on the Lin story.

Federico called Lin one of his heroes - not just because he's a big Knicks fan, but because he feels a kinship with a fellow "outspoken Christian."
Swift move, playing the Christian card. I'm sure the right-wing commentators will now be super-motivated to defend this poor man.

But let me say something cold-hearted: This is what happens when you use clichés. George Orwell told you long ago — in "Politics and the English Language": "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print." Not only did you use one, your defense — other that that Christian business — is that you've used that same tired old figure of speech over and over and over again.
A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed...
... and chink in the armor.

Nobody even wears armor anymore, and the word "chink" is only used — other than in its moronic racial denotation — in that dying metaphor. Here's my rule: No one should ever use the expression "chink in the armor" again. Fire everyone who lets it go out in a final draft of anything.

102 comments:

AJ Lynch said...

So I guess you have not been watching the Spartacus TV series on the Starz channel. It's good and they use a lot of armor in it.

Nathan Alexander said...

Heck, I'm right wing and I'll defend him:

Contextually and historically, the phrase made sense.

It makes no sense to consider it as any sort of insult, in the context it was used.

Has anyone done a simple search to see how often the phrase has been used in the past for non-Chinese athletes? Was it ever used for Yao Ming?

Over-reacting to its use is silly, and makes us all worse off.

Let it go.

Ann Althouse said...

My point is it's bad writing.

His job is writer.

Bad writers don't deserve jobs as writers.

That said, plenty of bad writers have writing jobs, and I feel sorry for this hapless man. He's getting singled out in an extremely unpleasant way. But it would never have happened if he'd taken the trouble to write decently.

shu said...

basically, i'm gonna say it. What skyrockets must spiral - literally.

ricpic said...

I heard this guy Frederico is married to a chink...so what's the problem?

Rob said...

I propose we all just lighten up and not worry so much. I hereby grant any and all the freedom to describe me as a Honky, redneck, nerd, geek, etc.... When I was in Law School some drunken grad student in a dark room, apparently thinking he knew my ethnic derivation, called me a "Chonger" when he was angry with me. (I have been asked on more than one occasion if my family was partly Asian) One of the most hilarious moments in my life.

To me, this "Chink in the Armor" thing is almost as stupid as the "niggardly" controversy several years ago.

Skyler said...

When I was wearing all that armor in Iraq and Afghanistan I didn't realize that no one was doing it anymore.

rastajenk said...

Where would sports journalism be without overworked cliches? Probably in a much better place.

My current least favorite that I've been hearing much too much is The Dagger: "There's the dagger to the heart!" Or, "They just can't seem to twist the dagger," or just "Whooaaaa!!!! The DAGGER!"

Why can't announcers get back on the civil discourse page and step back from The Dagger!!! ?

Anyone who has ever listened to a whole post-game interview session knows that sports reporters aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer.

JAL said...

Seems like the racists are everywhere. Who noticed it again?

I guess there are no editors anywhere now, are there.

Not a defense of his defense (although at least he sounds believable, unlike the "I'm sorry if you were offended crowd") but it doesn't sound like the was "playing" the Christian card. You seem to think if someone brings it up it's something being played, when, unlike the "some of my best friends are ____" it would be something known to his co-workers at the least, and could very well be part of his not so private identity.

There -- jump in and "defend" him enough?

Obama "plays" the Christian card.

jimspice said...

I used the term "cotton pickin'," as in "get your cotton pickin' hand off that pizza" for years without realizing it's SCREAMINGLY obvious racist nature. Thankfully I never used it in an awkward situation, and the person who pointed it out was very understanding (I think the size to which my eyes expanded drove home the point that I was clueless).

Bender said...

Swift move, playing the Christian card. I'm sure the right-wing commentators will now be super-motivated to defend this poor man.

I'm sure people will run to defend him just as much as everyone did to defend that overt, "hey look at me," Bible-carrying Bill Clinton.

If he is sincerely contrite and acting in good faith, there is an obligation to forgive, but not if he is using God as a prop. I don't see any contrition by Federico quoted here or apology or any acknowledgement of wrongdoing, only excuses.

Bretos admits that the "phrase was inappropriate," but Federico takes responsibility for nothing, not even carelessness for not thinking through all of the implications of his copy.

Since Federico does not admit that he did anything wrong, even if unintentionally (at least in this news story), there is nothing upon which to forgive.

As for right-wing commentators generally, they remember the Rush Limbaugh treatment, so they probably think that anyone who works for ESPN gets what he deserves.

Rob said...

Ms. Althouse is a far better writer than I. However, I think "chink in the armor" conjures up a nice image of something very strong that has a definite weakness.

Hagar said...

So, if Althouse had her way the print media would already be dead, since all the writers would have been fired long ago.

Personally, I think "chink in the armor" in this case was halfway clever and a little amusing.
It's the wailing and handwringing over a "racial slur" I can't stand.

Jay said...

Swift move, playing the Christian card. I'm sure the right-wing commentators will now be super-motivated to defend this poor man.


Um, not really, no.

bgates said...

But let me say something cold-hearted

About 4,260,000 hits in Google.

'Hotbed' has about 4,690,000.

Original Mike said...

Absolutely ridiculous.

Ann said...

And never, ever, use "organ" in a headline.

X said...

But it would never have happened if he'd taken the trouble to write decently.

or been black. then you are allowed to say he has a rice dick.

S said...

When I saw that headline, I thought it was hard to believe that it was an accident, but even harder to believe that it was intentional. It would be harder yet to believe that the guy who wrote it would admit that it was intentional.

Patrick said...

"He's getting singled out in an extremely unpleasant way. But it would never have happened if he'd taken the trouble to write decently."

True. But he was fired not "because he was a bad writer," but because he wrote something that allow some to call him a racist, without regard to whether that is true. Because that accusation is so toxic, and in all probability misplaced, the firing is ridiculous and not justified. If they wanted to fire him because he was a bad writer, they could have done so long ago.

By the way, have you read any sports writing lately? It's largely atrocious and these cliches are the rule to which there are almost no exceptions. I would guess the editor who fired him has no idea whether or not he is a bad writer.

furious_a said...

Dr. Lewis, our Sr. (high-school) Honors English teacher, would red-line "CLICHE!!" or "TRITE"!!" over every mixed metaphor in our assignments. It's been 30+ years, and those dread red letters are seared, seared into my memory.

Agreed, lazy and hackneyed indeed, grounds for dismissal for a professional writer (as well as their editor[s]).

DADvocate said...

Complete over reaction. The media never fired anyone callinmg us teabaggers.

Robert Cook said...

"To me, this 'Chink in the Armor' thing is almost as stupid as the 'niggardly' controversy several years ago."

Absolutely!

The phrase may be a cliche and thus a poor choice for a professional writer, but this wasn't why he was fired...he was fired because apparently many people today don't know the phrase and thus assumed he was using a racist term. (In the same way that the earlier hullabaloo arose because few people today know the word "niggardly.")

When one considers the implications of being fired--loss of income, loss of healthcare benefits, potential for being unemployed long-term and consequently for potentially losing his home--one has to see this as an inhumane overreaction by the cowardly morons who head ESPN.

chickenlittle said...

chink in the armor

What about "ink in the charmer"?

Is there no room for enlivened cliché?

Steve Koch said...

Cliches aren't that bad. They are short hand expressions that are well understood. Most cliches are probably going to be more understandable than the "creative" and original replacements that writers are forced to create when they are not permitted to use cliches.

kcom said...

The only thing he did "wrong" was the sin Althouse accused him of, being a sports reporter and endlessly recycling the same tired cliches that all sports reporters recycle. But it's practically in their contracts. The rest was just bad luck.

If you want to notice something that's not there, it's easy. Just look at all the "phallic" symbols out there. But, in the words of another old cliche, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Robert Cook said...

"The media never fired anyone callinmg us teabaggers."

For one thing, "teabagger" is not directed at a specific racial group, and, for another thing,
"teabaggers" was the term the Tea Partiers first used for themselves.

John Stodder said...

My point is it's bad writing.

His job is writer.


Yeah, but... He's writing for a sports website. If your standard is "no cliches" then pretty much they have to fire everybody.

You're kind of evading the point, aren't you? He was fired because he was using a racial slur, allegedly, and not because he used a cliche. If he had no racism in his heart and was simply using a commonplace cliche that would not have caused his firing if it was used against, say, LeBron James, does that still justify his firing? Not in my book.

Incidentally, "not in my book" is another cliche, which will soon be just as mystifying as "chink in his armor," once books disappear.

Nathan Alexander said...

If you think bad cliches have no place in sports writing, you need to watch Bull Durham (again?).

The sports world thrives on overusing cliches...it's almost the most basic form of sports expression.

I think the notion is that by constantly recycling cliches and old saws, once in a while you hit on one that, in context, transcends its hackneyed origins and becomes sublime.

Or something.

John Stodder said...

"teabaggers" was the term the Tea Partiers first used for themselves.

Uh, no. It was a term coined by Anderson Cooper, who was in effect winking to his gay friends, among whom the term is used to describe an oral sex technique. It caught on by the opponents of the Tea Party because it seemed to demean them. I've never heard it used by anyone except in mockery, derision or worse.

rhhardin said...

There's the galvanic stirrings of dead metaphors, though, in the right context, which is an amusing effect.

See Fowler 2nd ed., Metaphor.

I wonder when chink became offensive.

Webster's VII New Collegiate doesn't mention it as denoting a people, offensively or not. As slang it means only coin, money.

Chink prob. alter. of ME chin crack fissure, maybe is its origin.

Chinaman however in the same dictionary means a native of China, with a note often taken to be offensive. I never took it as offensive.

It seems like interest group politics to me, not linguistics.

The language doesn't really go that way.

traditionalguy said...

The poor guy thought he was writing a witty headline at a ESPN where their schtick is to say witty things every other sentence.

But he stepped on newly forbidden speech bomb and was scapegoated for it by ESPN.

"Asians" have not been historically discriminated against, except in California and Hawaii. Has it become a civil right now not to be identified as "Asian", whatever that connotes?

BTW, Many Koreans and the Taiwanese are the most faith filled Christians we see.

Bob_R said...

Firing a sportswriter for using cliches?! Time to watch Bull Durham.

Judith said...

Ordinarily I would agree with you, but we're talking about headlines here, the last refuge of the Cliche Expert. Remember "Wall St. Lays an Egg"? "Ford to NY: Drop Dead"? A headline writer wants a familiar hook to grab the reader's eye and reel him in, and what better than a cliche for that? (Oops, there's a cliche right there!)

rhhardin said...

Cliche is a metaphor, by the way. It's actually part of a printing press.

The English for the same thing is stereotype.

Rob said...

Robert Cook:

I have seen that repeated many times by those on the left, but I am not aware of the tea party crowd ever using the term. No doubt someone, somewhere, did. There is no question that it was generally used to be (scare quotes) "clever" when criticizing the tea party movement.

BTW: Cut spending now.

JAL said...

Like Rob's comment on the controversy over a word supposedly offensive to blacks.

And hats off to Skyler (as usual). Maybe a "chink in the kevlar" would work?

Wait. No chinking here.

None of these!

STOP building that racist log cabin!

Synonyms
1. breach, rent, cut.

Example SentencesLight, portable and easy to lay, sticky bombs are tucked quickly under the bumper of a car or into a chink in a blast wall.

But nor have they found a chink in the armour of relativity that they could use to prise the whole thing open.

But there is one organism that seems to have found the chink in the prion's formidable armor: the lowly lichen.



Did anyone fire ths chimichanga twins, Milbank and Messina?? That was the WaPo and the 2012 Obama campaign honcho (<-- oops! a racist term!?), remember? *That* was specifically a racist jab, and not an accidental one.

You say this guy Frederico is a bad writer. (I see he is / was an editor.) Is he? What is his other writing like? One headline makes a bad writer? You write blogs and law articles. Journalism / news writing is a whole different world, and the snappy short headline has to do it.

It is interesting that the PC crowd gets him fired and the WH & its minions laugh off their jokes..

The purity is killing us.

(I do sorta like Rob's idea -- the way to get rid of it is to embrace it. Kill insulting names by overuse for everything. (Except of course the n word.) Loses its power. That's why Christians are called Christians.

MadisonMan said...

It's hard to be a Sports Writer and not use cliches since Sports Writers all think in cliches -- at least the ones I have interacted do. The cheap pun or cliche is like, um, mother's milk to them.

This merited an eyeroll, at best, if Lin himself was outraged. But I suspect outrage was only felt by those who make it a profession to feel that way.

John Lynch said...

Without cliches sports talk couldn't exist.

The ratio of sports talk to actual sports is about 20:1. And 15 of that is cliche padding. The only thing more boring than sports talk is business babble- what you see on Bloomberg while the tickers are running across the bottom of the screen.

I don't see how it's fair to end this man's career simply for doing what everyone else does.

Curious George said...

Pekin, IL's high school team was called the "Chinks" until 1980. Their mascot was "a student dressed as a Chinaman wearing a coolie hat, who struck a gong when the team scored."

Kind of a "Hoosiers" thing when they won the state champioship in basketball in the mid-60's.

Now, to tie all this back (sort of) to the topic at hand, the the Chicago Sun Times had in huge letters on the top of their paper “CHINKS WIN.”

No one was fired.

Synova said...

How many people did that headline have to pass? I suppose there's a good reason for "the buck stops here" to center on one guy, but really... no one else noticed?

"When I was wearing all that armor in Iraq and Afghanistan I didn't realize that no one was doing it anymore."

Heh.

And then there's "armor" like tanks and what-not.

Saint Croix said...

Fire everyone who lets it go out in a final draft of anything.

Don't be so niggardly, Ann. Fire anybody who puts it in a rough draft!

Synova said...

"
"teabaggers" was the term the Tea Partiers first used for themselves.
"

I think this is *sort of* right. I don't think that someone decided "this is our official name" but I do think that there was an extremely brief amount of time where the vast majority of people in this country thought in the terms of tea coming in bags.

We all very quickly learned better. (I knew the term only because I knew that "teabagging" was a rude animation one could do to defeated players in some first person shooters.)

I'm certain that the vast majority of folks would just as soon still believe that tea comes in bags.

None of that excuses the Beavis and Butthead sniggering of supposed media professionals or the claim that "they chose the name themselves" by our resident lefties.

It's not hard to know who has the moral high ground on the issue.

Synova said...

"Cliche is a metaphor, by the way. It's actually part of a printing press.

The English for the same thing is stereotype.
"

I had heard this before, but forgotten it.

I was thinking, though, that if there was a legitimate place for cliche, it was probably in headline writing.

It's a way to signal a larger meaning that is widely understood.

Jay said...

Curious George said...
Pekin, IL's high school team was called the "Chinks" until 1980. Their mascot was "a student dressed as a Chinaman wearing a coolie hat, who struck a gong when the team scored."




Holy cow! Just imagine trying to do that now. The response would be full SWAT.

By the way, there is definitely a chink in the verifcation word processs.

Bender said...

My mistake. I see that Federico did, in fact, say that he was sorry.

Lin has accepted the apology and forgiven. Although he does not speak for all Asians, if he has forgiven, there is little reason to not do the same.

That said, aside from the moral issue, there is the issue of judgment and recklessness and lazy writing. From a purely quality-of-work perspective, letting this guy go is entirely defensible.

traditionalguy said...

We need a new National Holiday called All Cliches day to honor and practice the mental images of days gone by.

I propose a special award for "Achille's heel."

Homer's Illiad, like Bob Dylan's lyrics, should never go out of usage.

Geoff Matthews said...

And bgagte points out that AA writes in cliches, yet she's casting stones from her glass house?
Bad form, professor.

traditionalguy said...

Holding the Moral High Ground means you don't fire your cliche until you see the whites of their eyes...oops, that may be racist too.

Ann Althouse said...

"I used the term "cotton pickin'," as in "get your cotton pickin' hand off that pizza" for years without realizing it's SCREAMINGLY obvious racist nature."

This is how you get in trouble trying not to say "fucking." Just say "fucking" and you'll never blunder into racism.

Ann Althouse said...

I know there are some currently applicable uses for "armor" -- including the military gear cited in some comments, but the idea of having a "chink" does not apply to this armor. It's not the relevant image. But that's the nature of the "dying metaphor" problem that Orwell wrote about. You've lost touch with the image (even though you're supposedly using it for vividness). The block quote in the post continues:

"Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning withouth those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase."

David said...

This guy was not fired because he made (or inadvertently allowed) a racist statement. He was fired to protect ESPN from being labeled racist, and perhaps boycotted. He was fired because he was weak and powerless and ESPN is strong and powerful and will trample its employees if it has to.

Nice network you have there, Disney.

John Stodder said...

"Asians" have not been historically discriminated against, except in California and Hawaii.

Well...no.

The period you're probably referring to, the anti-Asian panic of the early 1900s, also encompassed Washington, Oregon and Nevada.

But the big thing you're ignoring was the internment policies during WWII, which while limited in effect to the West Coast, was federal policy, thus implicating the whole nation. FDR wasn't just president of California.

By the way, who was the biggest political booster pressuring FDR to sign the order for the internment camps? None other than Gov. Earl Warren.

rastajenk said...

Federico's immediate future will be a tough road to hoe.

Saint Croix said...

How many people did that headline have to pass?

I believe it was thrown up online at 2:30 in the morning and taken down half an hour later. So, one, maybe?

Althouse-with-tenure is being a little glib about firing people, in my opinion.

The guy lost his dream job, and he's publicly labeled a racist?

He's probably too devastated right now, but he should think about suing. I would sue for defamation of character. His corporation is maligning him in public as a racist while the alleged victim of the remark recognizes its innocence. He can sue for wrongful termination, too, but the defamation lawsuit will win more money.

And the idea that he's being fired for being unimaginative or a bad writer is horseshit, of course. Althouse is just being snarky today.

This is like the guy at the Boston Herald who was fined for saying the "pussy" word in the newsroom (when referring to another man). He was forced to pay a fine. Now we fire people?

Saint Croix said...

"Ford to NY: Drop Dead"?

That's not a cliche. That's awesome.

My favorite headline: "Headless Body Found in Topless Bar"

Methadras said...

At least he didn't say, "A zipper-head in their armor." or "A slope in their armor." or "A slant in their armor."

Now that would be really bigoted.

William said...

Lots of luck getting through the day without using any cliches. Even writers as elevated as Shakespeare used such tired phrases as "to be or not to be" and "all that glitters is not gold". Shakespeare would have been a much better writer if he hadn't used all those cliches....I would think that innocence is an affirmative defense. If he was going for the the racial slur about the improved defense against Lin, the correct phrase would have been armor against the chink, not chink in the armor. I can't believe that this was done intentionally. OK, it's a cliche, but one doesn't watch ESPN captions for the great writing. I would say that the neural shortcuts involved in cliches make them ideal for caption writing.

Skyler said...

Ann "but the idea of having a "chink" does not apply to this armor."

A claim made with little to support it.

But this is a silly point that I mentioned for humor, but the weakness of your premise about writing style is causing you to flail and grasp at straws to stress a point with even less to support it.

I don't know anything about Lin but the only reason to react, let alone terminate the writer, is if it was an intentional slur.

Telling sports writers to forgo cliches is like asking birds to stop using their wings.

traditionalguy said...

John Stodder...The 1942 internment was a War maneuver because the Japanese were so feared/respected.

The west coast discrimination was against laborers , because the white workers feared/respected the superior Chinese workers getting their jobs.

By far the greatest American discrimination against Asians was our military's colonial suppression done in the Philippines after we took over Spain's colony.

edutcher said...

Waiting for the new generation of John Edwards-type ambulance chasers to find a way to sue over something like this and get big settlements.

That will end PC faster than anything.

PS The Blonde has cousins who live in Pulaski TN, where Bedford Forrest formed the KKK - there's a plaque there to honor the even.

Every couple of years earnest PC types come down demanding it be covered up.

They're usually ignored.

O2BNAZ said...

“Chink in the armor” has nothing to do with race. To suggest otherwise is to affirm the mindless pseudo intellectualism that has infected the left in its entirety and apparently Mrs. Althouse as well. Nothing but the complete and overwhelming defense of this man should prevail. We should never accept a world dominated by fascists, who manufacture whole reasons for subjecting us to their wretched whims.

Peter said...

I guess I'm missing something. "Chink" is a perfectly good word; it's not a figure of speech.

Chink:
noun:
1. A crack, cleft, or fissure.
2. A narrow opening.

verb:
3. To fill up chinks in.


Is this not the same as someone's taking offense at the use of the word "niggardly."

furious_a said...

Stereotyping is faster.
--George Clooney, "Up in the Air"

ElPresidenteCastro said...

Just one more bit of proof that racism is no longer a problem in the United States.

Good writers are not writing headlines for a sports website at 3AM. He's a hack and they got what they paid for. He admits that "he has used the phrase 'at least 100 times' in headlines over the years." Maybe he should be fired for that.

ElPresidenteCastro said...

Being a bit niggardly in your defence aren't you?

I thought the Norte Americanos were allowed to be prejudiced against Asians. If not, how do medical schools get away with it?

The ignorant and the officious are offended by the headline.

Icepick said...

David gets closest to the mark: He was fired to protect ESPN from being labeled racist, and perhaps boycotted. He was fired because he was weak and powerless and ESPN is strong and powerful and will trample its employees if it has to.

Nice network you have there, Disney.


The guy was fired for making his company look bad. That's all there is to it. If he is truly a bad writer, then he was a bad writer before this phrase made it into print for this story. If he is blatantly racist, it is unlikely this is the first time it has come to anyone's attention at ESPN, even if this is the first time it made it into print.

And Disney (and most other large organizations) operate like this all the time. It's organizational self-preservation. It's thoughtless, but it is how it's how things are done.

Mitch H. said...

Thirty years ago it was true that nobody wore armor. That changed radically with the introduction of Kevlar vests. Nowadays, plenty of cops go about in the modern version of chainmail, and the poor bloody infantry are as heavily-burdened as the Norman chevaliers of Outremer.

I know there are some currently applicable uses for "armor" -- including the military gear cited in some comments, but the idea of having a "chink" does not apply to this armor.

Tell that to the kids who have caught a bullet in the inevitable gaps in kevlar armor, or a heavier round in the spaces in between the ceramic plates inserted into the kevlar armor to provide improved protection. There's no such thing as an armor without chinks - unless your "armor" is a jointless egg of steel.

I didn't read/see the original offending story. *Why* was he using that particular metaphor? It doesn't seem appropriate to the subject of a not-particularly-tall Asian basketball player.

Joe Schmoe said...

Telling sports writers to forgo cliches is like asking birds to stop using their wings.

Skyler, too funny. I love sports, and there are a few good sports writers out there, but by and large most are pretty bad writers and unoriginal thinkers, to boot. Wait, that sounds like most op-ed writers too...

Carol said...

I'm tired of headline clichés like "nix" for reject...or "threw out" a case for dismiss. But at least they don't use that bloody awful "solon" for legislator anymore.

Or in other contexts, "cup of joe." Who actually calls coffee a cup of joe?

Saint Croix said...

If Wisconsin was as efficient as Disney they would fire Supreme Court Justices who make them look bad.

Pragmatist said...

Chink in the armor proved to be the chink in his armor. I think in reality he just could not help himself.

Amartel said...

He was fired for being the chink in ESPN's PC armor. Hur hur.
Now that he's out ESPN can continue to stand in judgment of Tim Tebow and anyone else who doesn't follow the party line without any blowback from the proles about hypocrisy and double standards.

The writer says he used the phrase a lot, 100s of times, and didn't think about it in the context of Lin. I believe that. Sportwriting is a festival of cliches, occasionally deployed in a witty way, usually not. It is writing to convey a lot of information in a small amount of space and cliches are a short cut or a code. (Not racial code, ya raaacists.) It's not "creative" writing like "oh let's think deeply and write meaningfully about a flower" creative writing. This is understood by the people who read the sports page or listen to its equivalent on TV. Maybe he's a bad sports writer but it's not because he used a cliche.

ElPresidenteCastro said...

You need a Chink tag:

http://althouse.blogspot.com/2006/08/democrats-claim-to-be-more-community.html

t-man said...

I always thought it was a "tough road to ho," some lonely, dead-end street where only a few cars pass by each day on their way to the Shaker church at the end.

t-man said...

And Spartacus is terrible this season, AJ. Unwatchable with the sound on.

t-man said...

I always thought it was "a tough road to ho" -- some lonely, dead-end street where only a few cars pass each day on their way to the Shaker church at the end.

Amartel said...

And now we pause for a Teachable Moment.
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0212/73077.html
And now you know. (Not to use the word "chink". FYI.)

This is insane. This kid Lin is phenomenal, and celebrated and compensated for being phenomenal. If his feelings were hurt by this headline, assuming he even saw it, he can soak them in a pool of liquid gold and glowing praise, maybe get a minion to issue a cutting admonition about the dangers of overreliance on cliches. Instead there's unseemly wailing, teeth gnashing, and hair rending over the mere possibility of the mere appearance of racism. It's almost like they want to emphasize racial divisions.

bgates said...

"teabaggers" was the term the Tea Partiers first used for themselves.

Nigga, please.

Robert Cook said...

I object to ESPN's firing of this man for using a cliche, but I also object to the various defenses offered here, to the effect that "cliches are the lingua franca of sports writing," etc.

Anyone paid to write should always strive to rid his or her writing of cliches. While one can expect and accept the occasional slip--and one will see cliches in the prose of even the best writers--for Federico to say he had used this phrase 100 times reveals that he is a hack. Even if a phrase is not a cliche to the world at large--which "chink in the armor" certainly is--if one finds oneself using pet phrases over and over, it's time to start bringing a blue pencil to work. Federico's lack of awareness that using a phrase so often is lazy and sloppy writing tells that he is a bad writer.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

In our era of hypersensitivity this would never pass as a mistake or an error.

What I'd like to know is - is there no copy editor?

It should have never made it to a web page.

prairie wind said...

The guy was fired for making his company look bad.

You know what would have made ESPN look good? If they had said, "'Chink in the armor' does not refer to Asian characteristics in any way. Stop imagining racial slights where there was none."

Firing the guy makes ESPN look stupid.

Synova said...

"Anyone paid to write should always strive to rid his or her writing of cliches."

I disagree.

It's as silly to say so as to insist that a good writer, without fail, avoids adjectives, Mary Sues, and the passive voice.

Icepick said...

If Wisconsin was as efficient as Disney they would fire Supreme Court Justices who make them look bad.

You must have never worked for them. Large segments of that company are inefficient by design. You can probably find Michael Eisner comments online somewhere explaining WHY the company is designed to be inefficient.

Can't speak to the ESPN branch, though. But based on the 37 studio analysts they bring in for every NFL pregame show, I don't think efficiency is their strong point either.

praire wind, organizations aren't about looking good at moments like that, they're about getting rid of people that make them look bad. Looking good is something only considered after millions of dollars get spent (and millions of brain cells die) creating the latest PR campaign.

Joe Schmoe said...

Cook, you're neglecting the number one rule of writing, which is to know your audience.

If ESPN ran their network like English Lit 101, they'd be out of business by now. This guy probably knows how to write short, concise prose, including contemporary idiomatic usage and common vernacular, that works well as an accompaniment to video footage.

But hey, let's treat all writing by the same rules. No wonder we have communication problems in this country.

Dan said...

"Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning withouth those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase."

The problem here is just people misunderstanding metaphors and using them ignorantly.

The solution is not banning metaphors, but criticizing ignorance.

Accurate hammer & anvil metaphors shouldn't have the hammer breaking either, that's still totally wrong. Whatever is *caught* between the immense, immovable anvil and the swift, powerful hammer is what gets battered. The hammer & the anvil come out basically intact.

I would rather we challenge people to remain knowledgeable about history and etymology, and be able to understand and correctly use metaphors for outdated activities, rather than simply declare that such metaphors are bad writing because many people are too lazy to care about what they're saying.

Robert Cook said...

Synova said,

"It's as silly to say" (writers should try to rid their work of cliches)"as to insist that a good writer, without fail, avoids adjectives, Mary Sues, and the passive voice."

While a skilled writer will know when to break rules for best effect, and will often be able to make even "bad" technique work, it remains good advice to any careful writer to avoid bad habits, which includes use of cliches, excessive adjectives, and defaulting to the passive voice.

Why would you think it silly for a writer to try to avoid cliche?

William said...

Am I the only person in the world who frequently watches the ESPN highlight reels with the sound muted? I don't particularly root for any of the teams or players, but I like to watch spectacular plays. The background info and bad jokes of the analysts are just static anyway......I'd like to see Althouse spontaneously come up with a thousand fresh and interesting ways of describing the thousandth three pointer from the outside. And come up with a thousand new phrases the next night and the night after. The plays the thing. Description of the plays needs must be repititious and cliched.

Blue@9 said...

I'm an Asian-American and I'm not particularly offended by it, apart from the fact that it's an overused cliche (the guy used it at least a hundred times?).

IMO, one of the reasons Asians have easily integrated into American society is that we don't do Sharpton-esque grievance theater. I think most of us understand pretty well that being aggressively offended does nothing in the long run. Thus you see Jeremy Lin waving it off as no big deal.

I can see why there's an uproar though: we've become conditioned to look for racist speech. Ask yourself, when's the last time you saw a writer use "dark horse" or "calling a spade a spade" in reference to a black person?

T J Sawyer said...

At the end of the day,
nothing's worse
than an overused cliche.
- Burma Shave



"At the end of the day" - 109,000,000 hits on Google.

bandmeeting said...

the word "chink" is only used — other than in its moronic racial denotation — in that dying metaphor

It was a chink in the great machine;

Pas exactement. The above is from page 230 of "All That I Am" the recently released novel by Anna Funder. I don't think that it is that great of a book but her previous effort, "Stasiland" was wonderful.

Francisco D said...

Ann,

I fully agree with your bad writing point and use of George Orwell (a wonderful choice) to support it.

However, you appear disingenuous in claiming that was your main point. Surely you knew that a shitstorm about political correctness was to follow. It's a cheap and somewhat insulting trick. I hold you to higher standards because of my respect for you.

PaulV said...

Hope and Change is just as bad

William said...

The poetry of sport is in the moves of the players, not the words of the analysts. And some cliches are like Homer's wine, dark seas. They establish a familiar, comfortable rhytmn to a story that's been told before. "Going, going gone" "yesssss" "Let's go to the videotape" "He's in the catbird seat, now"

AJ Lynch said...

The Philly Inquirer reported this story but avoided using the word "chink" in its online story.

There is a cheesesteak shop in Philly called "Chink's Steaks" which advertises quite a lot on the radio. Supposedly, its founder, a white guy, had slanted eyes and his nickname was Chink. [I do not make this stuff up].

DEEBEE said...

The pnly chink in the armor of your niggardly post is that context is everything.

Robert Cook said...

"...some cliches are like Homer's wine, dark seas. They establish a familiar, comfortable rhytmn to a story that's been told before. 'Going, going gone'
'yesssss' 'Let's go to the videotape' 'He's in the catbird seat, now'"


Unless I am mistaken--not being one who cares about or watches or listens to sporting events--the cliches you quote above seem to be things that are said by sports announcers during broadcast of live sporting events. While spoken cliches are are also better avoided, they can take on the incantatory effect of a religious ceremony or the drama of theater. They're part of the performance, and they act as cues for the crowd's (or watcher's) reaction. They're of the moment and, as Eric Dolbhy said about music, "When you hear music, after it's over,it's gone,in the air.You can never capture it again."

In short, spoken cliches are not as egregious as written cliches, and, in fact, may serve the purpose of trying to echo or recapture that which is gone, reviving memories of those moments of elation experienced during previous sporting events. However, written cliches--being written--are not transitory, and require some minimal effort to put down. As such, they should be dispensed with, as they serve no purpose but to reveal the writer's lack of care or craft.

Writ Small said...

You know what would have made ESPN look good? If they had said, "'Chink in the armor' does not refer to Asian characteristics in any way. "


That's right. No one would have cared if ESPN had told Asian groups to stop being sensitive.

The editor offered his company a chance to show everyone that they could not care less about racial insults and ESPN squandered it.

Unknown said...

So, shall we ban any word that someone somewhere finds offensive?

Several years ago, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs held a "name the mascot" contest. The announced winning entry, "Pork Chop", was walked back several days later after two people claimed "pork chop" to be a slur on Puerto Ricans.

So, shall we ban "pork chop" from the English language?

ken in sc said...

'Cup of Joe' is a Navy term. It comes from Josephus Daniels, Wilson's Secretary of the Navy. He replaced the daily rum ration with coffee.

Orion said...

As others have pointed out, I wore armor when I was in Iraq and I was VERY concious of the chinks in that armor. Same with the chinks in the armor protecting my helicopters and their crews. In fact, several rounds found their way through those chinks on one of our birds.

Why does it seem to be mostly supposedly post-racial leftists who are so spastic about seeing everything and anything in terms of race and racial slurs? Wait...is slur racist somehow? Isn't there some old term that meant something negative about some other race that sounds kinda like that? I should probably be beaten for using it.

Orion

Beorn said...

My favorite headline: "Headless Body Found in Topless Bar"

My favorite headline describing an escaped mental hospital patient, who went on a raping rampage:

NUT, BOLTS, AND SCREWS!