Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Rough Language


IT was a beautiful fall day, a warm breeze wafting through the trees, a golden sun making its journey across a brilliant blue sky.

It was good to be alive.

So I took a deep breath of fresh air and, like millions of others of my fellow Americans, promptly ducked indoors to watch football on TV.

Before you jump to any conclusions, let me explain something about football. Despite grumblings to the contrary, you don't have to be a slack-jawed dimwit to enjoy the game.

Quite the contrary, football is theater, a four-act morality play on grass. There is good vs. evil, mano-a-mano combat, drama, truth, beauty, love - the whole nine yards.

So why in the middle of this extravaganza would I start thinking about oxymorons?

It was because a player was penalized for "unnecessary roughness."

I played enough organized football in my youth to understand that roughness usually decides the outcome of a game that has been described as controlled violence. There may be speed, skill and strategy involved, but the overriding aim is to put your opponent on his rear end. It's much easier to score that way.

So how can its violent nature be "unnecessary"? Talk about a classic oxymoron.

An oxymoron, a figure of speech that combines two normally contradictory terms, has been used for centuries in literature. Comedian George Carlin made them a pop culture staple with a routine that skewed "military intelligence" and "jumbo shrimp."

My personal favorite is a message I once saw scrawled on a Hollywood wall: "Anarchy rules."

But there are others that deserve a mention: airline food, athletic scholarship, business ethics, civil servant, government efficiency and porn actress come to mind.

Not to mention rap music, tight slacks, boxing ring, brief speech, common courtesy, customer service, free love, preliminary conclusion, fresh frozen and anything that is "new and improved."

Some might add "clever columnist" to that list, but we'll leave it alone for the time being.

Moving along to a completely unrelated topic, I read a story in the New York Post this past week that reflects on the state of politics as it is practiced in the United States in the 21st Century.

It involves Ann Coulter, the conservative (to put it mildly) columnist and hell-raising pundit who wishes death and destruction on all who disagree with her.

According to the Post story, "There's a good reason why the four authors of the upcoming book `I Hate Ann Coulter!' are remaining anonymous - they're afraid for their safety. `None of us want our real names in the hands of gun-toting, abortion clinic-bombing, self-proclaimed `wing nuts,' who follow Coulter,' one of the scribes tells us.

"Coulter , who called 9/11 widows publicity-loving `harpies,' is shown with a devil's tail and horns on the book's cover. It's only the second time in Simon & Schuster's history that an author's identity has been kept secret, the first being, `Go Ask Alice,' a teen drug addict's diary, published in 1971."

Maybe it's a publicity stunt. But why do I get the feeling it isn't?

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