Thursday, January 31, 2008

Malaprops by Journalists

In Quill magazine, Paula LaRocque noted a handful of bloopers bouncing around the media world. All of them come from not really knowing what a word or expression truly means.

1) "honed in" -- as in the police honed in on a suspect. Oops -- to hone is to sharpen. They meant to say "homed in on."

2) without further "adieu" -- adieu means good-bye (literally, "to God"). They meant to say without further "ado," meaning fuss or bother.

3) "one of the only." Only, like "unique" means "one," so you can't be one of the one, just as you can't be a little bit unique. You should really say, "One of the few...."

4) "He cut off his nose despite his face." The expression is "to spite" his face.

5) Using "suspect" as a synonym for "suspicious" -- as in, "He learned to be more suspect of those who were misinforming him."

6) "She was at his beckon call." It's supposed to be "beck and call." Beck is an archaic verb referring to a mute signal or gesture, so the expresson means that a person will obey every command, even unspoken.

7) "It's a doggy-dog world." This may be true for Calvin Broadus (formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dog), but the expression should be "dog-eat-dog."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Naive meets vapid -- jejune


"But Obama’s outrage makes him seem a little jejune." from Maureen Dowd's column in today's Times.

je·june [ji-joon] – adjective
1. without interest or significance; dull; insipid: a jejune novel.
2. juvenile; immature; childish: jejune behavior.
3. lacking knowledge or experience; uninformed: jejune attempts to design a house.
4. deficient or lacking in nutritive value: a jejune diet.

[Origin: from the Latin jéjūnus "fasting, hence hungry, hence scanty, meager, weak."]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Like John McCain: a phoenix


This one is used so often that it verges on a mythological cliché, perhaps because there are always so many celebrities rising from the ashes.

phoenix (FEE-niks) noun
1. A person or thing of unparalleled beauty or excellence.
2. A person or thing that has regenerated or rejuvenated after a great misfortune.

[After a fabulous bird of great beauty in Egyptian mythology. It lived to 500 years and burned itself on a funeral pyre to be born again from the ashes.]

"[Oprah Winfrey] is a phoenix who rose from the ashes and became self-sufficient and highly respected."
-- Beverly Stewart; Small Business Spotlight; The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware); Mar 31, 2005.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Parallelism -- a very sneaky SAT question!

You've got to be on your toes to smoke out the following
SAT Question of the Day™:

The following sentence contains either a single error or no error at all. If the sentence contains an error, select the one underlined part that must be changed to make the sentence correct. If the sentence contains no error, select choice E.

From its modest beginnings
as a series of brief vignettes to
its establishment as the longest-running
prime-time animated series on television, The Simpsons
transformed the way
both the audiences and television programmers
view the animated sitcom.
No error

The error in this sentence occurs at (D), where there is an improper idiom. What follows each part of the "both . . . and" construction must be grammatically parallel, but here "both" is followed by the article "the" while "and" is followed by the noun "television programmers."

Good grammar begins with the abs

Click here to see a Knoxville magazine review of four good exercise classes.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Like politics and sulfuric acid -- vitriolic


vitriolic (vi-tree-OL-ik) adjective
Extremely caustic; bitterly scathing.
[From Latin vitrum (glass).]
Sulfuric acid, a highly corrosive substance, was formerly known as oil of vitriol or simply vitriol. It was named vitriol owing to the glassy appearance of its salts.

Today's word in Visual Thesaurus.

"Unlike many other districts in Ventura County, Simi Valley has suffered a steady diet of noisy board meetings, vitriolic letters to the editor and name-calling directed at board members."
-- Mack Reed; Simi Schools in Throes of Tumult, Hope; Los Angeles Times; Jun 2, 1996.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bon Mots By the Avon Bard

William Shakespeare coined words and phrases the way most of us eat pistachio nuts. Thousands of his turns of phrase not only survived, but also became the stuff our language.

Here is just a sampling, compiled by the late English journalist Bernard Levin:

If you cannot understand my argument and declare, “It’s Greek to me,” you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare.

If you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare.

If you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked, or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort, or too much of a good thing.

If you have seen better days or lived in a fool’s paradise—why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare.

If you think that it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe the game is up and that the truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then—to give the devil his due—and if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare.

Even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing-stock, the devil in incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then –by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! For goodness’ sake! What the dickens! but me no buts—it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Wall Street -- a metaphor for moolah and a real place


Wall Street noun
U.S. financial world.
[After a street in lower Manhattan, New York City, that was once home to most of the major investment firms, banks, analyst firms, and theNew York Stock Exchange. The street got its name from the defensive wall that the Dutch colonists built in the area in 1653 to protectagainst the British and Native Americans.]

Counterparts of Wall Street in other countries are Bay Street (Toronto, Canada), Dalal Street (Mumbai, India), and The City of Londonor The Square Mile (London, UK).

"Eighteen paintings [of Alan Greenspan] were sold to mostly Wall Street types for $1,000 to $4,000."
-- Zinie Chen Sampson; Fed Chairman Inspires Virginia Painter; Associated Press; Aug 12, 2005.

Note: Though its meaning transcends place, the reality of Wall Street is brought home when you visit Trinity Church, at one end of Wall Street, and see in its graveyard, among others, Alexander Hamilton, the architect of the U.S. financial system, Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat, and John Jay, one of the nation's first diplomats and the 1st chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
St. Paul's Chapel, nearby, was where George Washington prayed after his first inauguration.
Trinity Church was narrowly spared in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers and became a headquarters for relief and recovery efforts that followed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Biography of Charlotte Cushwa Clark

Click here to access A Lifetime of Total Recall: The Biography of Charlotte Cushwa Clark by Brooks Clark.
At right, Charlotte and her best friend since 1925, Lucy Richardson.

Use adverbs to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs

A headline from Saturday's Knoxville News Sentinel about UT post player Duke Crews: "Crews cleared to play, views game different."

In fairness to the headline writer, he was using Crews' quote from the story: "I look at basketball a lot different. You never know when it could be all over." [A few weeks ago, an echo-cardiogram had picked up a deficiency in Crews's heart, but the deficiency turned out to be not as life threatening as first thought.]

Last March, the News Sentinel commented on UT hoops coach Bruce Pearl's efforts to improve the Vols' 8-percent graduation rate: "Pearl's formula has been to let the players know he takes their studies serious."

Harbrace Rule 4a: Use adverbs to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs

NOT Leela played her part perfect.
USE Leela played her part perfectly. [The adverb perfectly modifies the verb played.]

NOT The plane departs at a reasonable early hour.
USE The plane departs at a reasonably early hour. [The adverb reasonably modifies the verb early.]

Most dictionaries still label the following as informal usage: sure for surely, real for really, and good for the adverb well.

INFORMAL The Broncos played real good during the first quarter.
FORMAL The Broncos played very well during the first quarter.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Collective nouns -- plural in U.K.; singular in U.S.

One curve ball cropping up more and more in sportswriting and sports announcing is that collective nouns, when they refer to the group as a unit, as in "the team," have always been singular in American English. So sportswriters quickly learn that "the Lady Rebels" are plural, while "the West High girls' team" and "the Utah Jazz" are singular.
In UK English, however, collective nouns are plural. So you hear English announcers say, "The team are fired up today," Or "Manchester United are one of the finest teams anywhere."

Here in America, Harbrace 6a(8) says, "Collective nouns and phrases denoting a fixed quantity take a singular verb when they refer to the group as a unit and take a plural verb when they refer to individuals or parts of the group."

Singular (regarded as a unit):
The committee is meeting today.
Ten million gallons of oil is a lot of oil.
The jury convenes today.
The number is very small.

Plural (regarded as individuals or parts):
A number were absent.
Ten million gallons of oil were spilled.
The majority of us are in favor.

Although the use of data and media as singular nouns (for datum and medium) has gained currency in informal English, most writers still use data and media as plural nouns in formal written English.

FORMAL The media have shaped television.
INFORMAL The media has shaped television.

FORMAL The data are in the appendix.
INFORMAL The data is in the appendix.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Hey, paisan" -- How Tony Corapi Got His NYC Apartment


paisano (py-SAH-no) noun
1. A pal, buddy.
2. A fellow countryman; a compatriot.
[From Spanish paisano, from French paysan, from Latin pagus (district). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pag- (to fasten) that is also the source of peace, pacify, pact, travel, compact, pagan, and peasant.]

"Scott Spinelli has landed another paisano. Michael Smith, a Bronx, N.Y., point guard, signed a national letter of intent to join Nebraska basketball."
-- Dirk Chatelain; NU's Spinelli Gets N.Y. Guard; Omaha World-Herald; May 11, 2005.

Back in the disco era, Lou Miranda was the super of our building on East 75th St. between 1st and 2nd Avenues. He was also the super of a building on the same block of East 25th St. Once, an apartment opened up in the 25th Street building. There was a line 10 or 12 deep, but Tony Corapi, who now lives with his wife, Annie Krueger, in Knoxville, said to Lou, with appropriate hand gestures, "Hey, paisan." He and Annie got the apartment. (Lou also helped several of our friends get apartments.)

Lou used to let us have parties on the roof and keep our bicycles in a room in the basement. One day, Karen's bike was gone. I said, "Hey, Lou, Karen's bike is missing." Without missing a beat he replied, "Those guys." The bike was back the next day, with a little bag attached to the seat. Lou once shot himself in the foot and got booked for carrying an illegal handgun. Once, we had to go to Washington, D.C. Lou said, "You should have told me. You could have driven down in a limo with Uncle Lucky [Luciano]!"

Long after we left the building, Lou got mad at his stock broker, Thomas Vigliarolo, who'd lost $150,000 of Lou's money. Lou employed a hooker to lure Vigliarolo into a Bronx apartment. Lou tied him to a bed, burnt him with cigarettes for a few days, and finally put him in a trunk and had a 420-pound woman named Selma sit on it. Lou died in prison a few years ago.

Click here for a cool Psychology Today article about the whole sordid affair.

And here's a note from The New York Times of April 8, 1985:
7 Held in Slaying Of Man in Trunk
Seven people were in custody yesterday on charges of second-degree murder and kidnapping in connection with the death of a Long Island real- estate broker whose body was found locked in a trunk in a Manhattan apartment Saturday.
The police said the victim, 60-year-old Thomas Vigliarolo of Jericho, had been missing since March 20, when he left his home to meet a client in New Jersey.
On April 2, his business partner received a ransom demand for $435,000, according to a police spokesman, Sgt. Diane Kubler.
An autopsy yesterday found that Mr. Vigliarolo had died of asphyxiation, said Dr. Beverly Leffers, a deputy chief medical examiner.
Mr. Vigliarolo's body was found in an apartment at 115 West 142d Street. Those charged were Selma Price, 46, of that address; Rita Peters, 20, and Donna Hilton, 20, both of the Bronx; Maria Talag, 24, of Queens, and Woodie George Pace, 40, Louis Miranda, 64, and Angeles Marlano, 62, all of Manhattan. The police said Miss Talag had been a friend of Mr. Vigliarolo.

What are editors for? Advice from Times news editor Richard Berke

Today, wise words from the The New York Times's "Talk to the Newsroom" feature by Richard L. Berke, the Times's assistant managing editor for news.

Who Needs Editors?

Q. Why do stories written by reporters need editing? Editors are in a
newsroom, not in the field. Why would an editor know better than a
reporter what is true and correct about a story? Yes, I know, stories
need to have correct spelling and grammar, but beyond that it seems
editors should keep their hands off the material. If editors are so
important, why isn't their byline on the story too?
--Alex Newberry, Sarasota, Fla.

A. Many reporters here would say, Amen! Some reporters pride themselves
on filing their stories so close to deadline that editors are left with
no time to meddle with their work. (It's not a practice we encourage.)

When I was a reporter I would sometimes chafe at what seemed like
batteries of editors trying to tamper with my prose. But usually I was
grateful for the help. If really smart people can weigh in and make
suggestions that improve your article -- and make you look smarter --
you'd be foolish not to appreciate the help.

Now that I'm an editor, I have an even clearer perspective. First off,
while some reporters produce perfect copy that barely needs editing,
you should see some of the drafts from other reporters. I won't name
any names, but let's just say that some of our most enterprising and
dogged reporters aren't necessarily as talented in the writing
department, while some of our most skillful stylists aren't always the
most successful reporters. Not everyone can do it all, especially since
the reporting and editing process is demanding work under intense
deadlines. (Plus, the workload is only getting more challenging, with
reporters contributing to our Web site around the clock.)

Editors can bring a fresh eye to an article. They can remind a reporter
to step back, and explain to readers why the particular story is
important. They can prod a reporter to do a little more interviewing
and a little more work to make sure they get the full story. They can
tell reporters who are in love with their own prose that actually, if
you trim 200 of their precious words out of an 1100-word story, it
might actually make the story tighter and easier to read. They can
suggest to the reporter that maybe the anecdotal opening is a little
slow and that they should come up with something snappier. While most
of the best ideas come from reporters -- they are the ones out in the
field, talking to people -- editors can sometimes see a bigger picture
and suggest ideas that aren't as obvious to reporters in the thick of

Broadly speaking, editors can also be advocates for a particular story
to actually get published, and try to cheer on the reporters, while
pushing them to do their best work. But successful editors know not to
go overboard. Even when changes are necessary, they know to work with
the reporters to retain as much of their writing styles as possible.
And they need to trust the reporters and give them the freedom and
encouragement to do their best work.

That said, I don't want to overstate the role of editors. One some
articles, we don't need to do a thing.

So if the effort is often collaborative, why don't editors get bylines?

Because for all that we do to try to make pieces even better, the heart
of the story -- the reporting, the writing -- is the work of the
reporter. Maybe the byline is in a part a reward for dealing with all
the torment from editors!

You give up that instant ego gratification when you become an editor.
But you learn to live vicariously though others. This may sound silly,
but sometimes I still run to the front door to pick up the morning
paper when one of our reporters has a story on A1 that I particularly
liked or that I in some way helped to get out front. Even without my
own byline, I can still get a thrill out of seeing a terrific story pop
up on A1. (And as an editor, I don't have to actually report or write
the story, only to be tormented by demanding editors. It's easier being
the tormenter!)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Like Felix Unger -- punctilious


punctilious (pungk-TIL-ee-uhs) adjective

Extremely attentive to minute details of action or behavior.

[From Italian punctiglio, from Spanish puntillo, diminutive of punto (point), from Latin punctum (point).]

See punctilious in the Visual Thesaurus.

"However earnest his aims and punctilious his language, Fowler had not found his genius in schoolteaching, and he did not find it in his essays."

-- I. Shenker; For the King's English, Fighting the Good Fight; Smithsonian (Washington DC); Nov 1990.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"The reason is that" not "The reason is because"

From Ruge Rules

Incorrect: The reason I am late is because I had an accident.

Correct: The reason I am late is that I had an accident.

Why? Because an adverbial clause (a word or group of words answering the question "How?" When?" "Where?" Why?" or "To what degree?") cannot be used as a predicate nominative (a noun or pronoun or a group of words used as a noun or pronoun and answering the question "What?" or "Who?").


Incorrect: Scarlett O'Hara's dirtiest trick was when she lured Frank Kennedy into marrying her.

Correct: Scarlett O'Hara's dirtiest trick was luring Frank Kennedy into marrying her. (A gerund, or a verbal noun, phrase can be used as a predicate nominative.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Here is a profile of University of Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl. It's from 2005, Pearl's first season at UT.

Is this new coach poised to lead the Vols out of the wilderness?
by Brooks Clark

In the beginning (1987), there was a void.
And that void was Thompson-Boling Arena. And that void held 25,535 seats. And that was good, because it was bigger than Rupp Arena in the land of basketball to the north.

But the people of the land of Orange were jealous, because they thought their leader, Don Devoe, could not fill the void.
So the call went out into the land of the north for a great prophet—but the best they could do was Wade Houston, an assistant at Louisville, who at least had a son who was a mighty warrior who could smite a foe every now and then.

But Wade was too smooth a man, and he had many losses.

So he begat Kevin O’Neill, who (though balding) was too hairy a man, whose Yankee mouth spake many an epithet, who gave lip to John Ward (gasp!), and whose boring offense caused the angels and everyone else to fall asleep.

So Kevin O’Neill begat Jerry Green.

Jerry Green four times took the people of Orange to the Land of Milk and Honey (the NCAA tournament).  But in a Sweet 16 game against the land of basketball to the East, the Vols blew a 10-point lead with five minutes remaining, and the people said it was not good. And Jerry was surly to the local media and boosters. And the people were sore annoyed.

So Jerry begat Buzz, who had been suckled in the land of basketball to the East, where he had been best friends with Michael Jordan, the mightiest warrior of them all. And Buzz was a great guy. But his teams were like lost sheep. 

And so the call went out again for a prophet to lead the people of the Orange out of the wilderness, to fill the void of 25,535 seats the way Pat Summitt can, to recruit the top players the way Kentucky and North Carolina do.

The tale of Tennessee basketball has become a Biblical epic, with each chapter telling a different tale of human failing and foible—and at its root a massive inferiority complex to the Kentucky and North Carolina programs on our northern and eastern flanks. 

“Yeah, maybe the Vols should have simply counted their blessings back when they had Don DeVoe,” says Sports Illustrated senior writer Alexander Wolff.
Now, after these 16 years of wandering, Tennessee basketball has chosen another prophet to lead it out of the wilderness.

This is a prophet who went to a Jesuit college to convert the Catholic masses to the idea that Jews are cool, too.

On blown-out knees, in college he worked every angle of learning the game at the highest levels—selling radio ads, even dressing up in the Eagle mascot outfit when the regular mascot was sick.

As an assistant at Iowa, this prophet took a stand against sleazy recruiting by turning in a corrupt Illinois program to the NCAA.

In the eyes of many, he was sent into the wilderness for his act of coaching suicide, but after nine years and a Division II national title as head coach at Southern Indiana and four at the commuter school Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he was on the short list of top young coaches in the country.

Then his name was underlined on that short list when his spunky, aggressive Wisco-Waukeeans upset Alabama in the NCAA tournament and beat his alma mater, Boston College, before losing to top-seeded Illinois in the Sweet 16.

Throw It Up Before You Throw It Away
In the coming weeks UT fans will truly get to meet Bruce Pearl and see whether he can coach the Vols to run a relentless fast break and play full-court defense the way his team did last March.

“The style he coaches is a polar opposite of O’Neill ball,” says Wolff. “In fact, this figures to be the most entertaining brand of ball to hit town since the days of Ray Mears.” Pearl is going to run and gun, and it’s going to start right now. His system is about making plays and making a commitment to the up-tempo game. 

“You throw it up before you throw it away,” Pearl says, quoting a Lou Holtz laugh line. Pearl admits that it takes time to learn to play the up-tempo game. “It will look undisciplined at times, but our opponent is also going to go faster. The only way to learn to play that game is to play that game. At Milwaukee, we really got it in our fourth year.”

Last spring, right after Pearl was hired, sophomore guard Chris Lofton, who made 93 three-pointers as a freshman, gave some thought to switching schools. But Lofton looked at the films of Pearl’s teams and decided that the style of play was to his liking. “Throw it up before you throw it away” sounds just fine to a 46.5-percent three-point shooter. “We’re going to get him open,” says Pearl, “and when he gets open, he’s going to make shots.”

That’s pretty much how it went in an 86-78 pre-season exhibition game victory last week over Southern Indiana, as the Vols forced 27 turnovers and guard C.J. Watson and Lofton scored 27 and 26 points, respectively.

Pearl says the Vols will attack the ball from one end of the floor to the other. Pearl’s favorite press is a 1-2-1-1, with one man on the ball, the next two ready to trap the first pass.

“It’s controlled chaos,” says Pearl. “It’s taking on our opponents to open up the court.”
The average basketball fan might ask “Why would you play that way when your numbers are down and your talent is, well, rebuilding? 

“An up-tempo style increases the number of possessions in a game,” says SI’s Wolff, “which in turn gives superior talent a chance to win out. That may have worked at Wisco-Waukee; my question is whether to play that style in the SEC, when you have second-division talent, is a sign of a death wish. BP has to be hoping that the style will deliver better talent than anyone at Tennessee has been used to.”

I Can Do It
Pearl grew up in the suburb of Sharon, Mass., next door to Foxboro. He even played a football game on the old AstroTurf of what was then Schaeffer Stadium, in the days when the turf was just a carpet laid on top of asphalt. “It’s amazing how hard it was,” recalls Bruce.

His parents, Bernie and Barbara, had lived across the street from each other in hardscrabble Dorchester-Mattapan, Mass., from the time Barbara was three years old. 
“Bruce comes from a very, very close-knit family,” says Barbara. Her parents, Jean and Hyman  Rosenberg, were the children of Russian immigrants. Hyman was an accountant for the state of Massachusetts.      Bernie’s mother had immigrated from Russia. His father, Jack Pearlmutter, a plumber, had immigrated from Austria in the 1920s.

Bernie shortened the name after working in a busy Robert Hall retail clothing store, where—rather than shout out “Bernie Pearlmutter” every time they called for him, they shortened it to “Pearl.” Bernie and Barbara changed it legally before Bruce was born and moved to Sharon when Bruce was three.

Bernie was a housewares and hardware manufacturer’s rep. “We represented many  factories,” says Bernie. “If you had an order, we could fill it.”

Bernie and Barbara brought up Bruce and his sister, Lauren, as reform Jews, following the modern movement that embraces innovations while preserving Jewish traditions.

Now retired in Boynton Beach, Fla., Bernie and Barbara recently spent several post-hurricane weeks in Knoxville. Lauren, an occupational therapist in Boca Raton, was still waiting for electric power as the month of November began. 

Young Bruce played football, basketball and tennis. Then, his freshman year in high school he tore up the cartilage on both sides of his knees playing quarterback in Pop Warner football.

“My whole identity was athletics,” he says. “While I was still a good athlete, I was never the same.”    

His doctor was Arthur Pappas, the orthopedic surgeon for the Red Sox. “When Bruce knew he was done with sports, he wasn’t doing well healing emotionally,” recalls Bernie. “Dr. Pappas took Bruce down to a ward where patients had lost limbs and told him, ‘You’ve lost the ability to play sports. These people have lost their ability to do much more than that.’”

“Things happen for a reason,” says Pearl. “I was the best athlete in town, but I don’t know that I was the best person. It changed my life. I ran for student government and was senior class president. I met different kids than I was running around with in athletics. It made me kinder.”

When he couldn’t play basketball his sophomore year in high school, Pearl was in a play, “a British comedy,” he recalls, “I was the straight man.”

“He was the butler,” recalls Barbara. “It opened with him fixing a light bulb and saying, ‘I can do it.’” 

“Since I couldn’t play, I decided to coach.” He coached fifth-grade baseball, football and basketball teams.

If Pearl needed preparation for the frustrations of UT basketball, he got plenty as a Red Sox fan. He shared the regional brain aneurysm of watching a hobbled Bill Buckner bend over and miss the ground ball that could have won the 1986 World Series against the ill-mannered Mets but instead extended the curse of the Bambino another 18 years.

“And don’t forget Bucky Dent” he’s quick to add. “A 315-foot line drive, that’s what it was.” In 1978, in an end-of-regular-season playoff game, Dent, the Yankees’ shortstop, hit a ninth-inning homer that nestled into the net just atop the Big Green Monster in Fenway Park. Even after the catharsis of last year’s World Series win, Red Sox fans still feel the pain of these things.

After high school, Pearl chose Jesuit Boston College, because it had a big-time sports program as well as big-time academics—“not quite Ivy League, but just a hair below.”
“He could have gone to Boston College and support himself,” says Bernie, “or he could have gone to UMass, and we’d buy him a car. He chose to support himself. He had the maturity for it.”

“Since most of the population was non-Jewish,” says Pearl, “I went there to BC to convert the masses—to make them see that Jewish people could be cool, too.”
The result: “They thought I was Italian,” he says.

“I wore a Chai [a small ornament made up of the two Hebrew letters that spell the word for “life”]. I still wear it on my sleeve.”

“Bruce is not what you’d call a religious Jew,” says his Father. “But he’s a very ethnic Jew. He says, ‘I was brought up Jewish. It’s an important tradition. It’s an important part of my identity…’”

Adds Barbara, “He’s a person who might say, ‘I’m not necessarily going to go to temple all the time, but I’m going to make sure anyone who wants to can always have the opportunity.”

“Being Jewish and being an athlete,” says Pearl, “I was big on breaking down stereotypes.”

Pearl grew up near Boston around the era of forced school busing, when passions had spotlighted racial divisions—between Catholics and Protestants, blacks and whites, let alone Jews—on the national stage. “With Boston’s diversity within religions and within ethnicity and within neighborhoods, there can be a lack of tolerance,” says Pearl. “It bothered me to my core. I’ve always tried to try to show people that we’ve all got so much more in common than we do apart.”
Where Eagles Dare    
Pearl didn’t make coach Tom Davis’ BC basketball team as a walk-on, but he practiced with the team, refereed practices, and did whatever he could to be helpful.
Since Pearl was a marketing major, Davis, now the coach at Drake, asked him to put together a program marketing the BC basketball program.

Pearl formed the Courtside Club, sold ads for radio broadcasts and, famously, for a 1981 first-round NCAA tournament game against Ball State, once wore the Eagle mascot outfit when the regular mascot was sick. Over time, Pearl became Davis’ right-hand man.

At one point, Pearl was working on a project with his best friend and suitemate, Rich Shrigley, a four-year starter on the BC basketball team whose uncle was the late Norm Sloan, the longtime Florida coach who won a national title in 1974 coaching the great David Thompson at North Carolina State.

Pearl needed to get his part of the project typed. Shrigley said his sister, Kim, who worked in Boston, typed papers. Pearl brought the paper over and met Kim for the first time, but not the last, as they began to see each other. “Rich wasn’t real happy about it.”

Being the niece of a high-profile basketball coach was probably helpful preparation for Kim’s future life. Says Pearl. “She would understand what a ridiculous life she would lead should she choose to marry a coach.”

Nearing graduation, Pearl, a business major, had tempting job offers in sales, including one as district manager for men’s toiletries for Procter and Gamble. 
But Davis, who’d been hired by Stanford, offered Pearl a job as personal assistant, to try out coaching to see if he’d like it. Pearl took a chance. The position evolved into assistant coach at Stanford (1982-86) and then at Iowa (86-92), when Davis moved there.       

Call Me Ishmael
Pearl knows what it is to be sent into the desert.
In December of 1988, as an assistant at Iowa, Pearl was recruiting Deon Thomas, a 6’9” Chicago high school and an Illinois “Mr. Basketball.” Early on Thomas said he wanted to come to Iowa. But then he started to change his mind. In extended notes, Pearl wrote that Thomas told him that Illinois assistant coach Jimmy Collins told Thomas that his grandmother could move to a nicer building if he signed with the Illini. When Thomas told the Illinois assistant that his grandmother didn’t want to move, the coach offered to have her place fixed up.
Over the next few months Pearl taped conversations and kept track of what he heard. On Feb. 1, 1989, Thomas told Pearl he’d been offered $80,000 and a new Blazer if he would sign a letter of intent to come to Illinois. This was the most Illinois had—to that point—offered a recruit.

Pearl wrote it all up and turned it in to the NCAA, which started a huge, nasty fracas.
None other than TV commentator Dick Vitale said it was “totally unethical” to tape the phone call and said he had committed “professional suicide,” but Pearl got supporting letters from such eminences grises as Lute Olson and Dean Smith. Some of the accused parties started a ridiculous campaign saying it was Pearl who had done the offering.
Although these specific allegations were never proven, Illinois was nailed on other infractions and placed on probation in 1991. 

Pearl was as popular with Illinois as Phil Fulmer is with Alabama. You can still find a blog on the Internet entitled, “Bruce Pearl: Get ready, rat, because the Illini are coming.”

Pearl’s head-coaching job opportunities were narrowed to Division II Southern Indiana (1992-2001), where he won a Division II National Title in 1995, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2001-2005), a commuter school where he managed to do well on the national  recruiting scene despite being generally overshadowed in the state by Wisconsin-Madison, Marquette, and Wisconsin-Green Bay. In those 13 years, Pearl reached the 300-win level faster than any coach in NCAA history except Roy Williams of Kansas and North Carolina.

“Some say I committed coaching suicide by doing what I did,” says Pearl. “Well, I’m here.”

“I’m an idealist,” he continues. “As a teacher, as an educator working with young people, I’ve got to do the right thing. It’s taught me to handle adversity in my life as a coach and a teacher. That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” In practical terms, says Pearl, his experience handling adversity means, “We’re never out of a game.” 

Genesis to Exodus
So let’s review once more the Old Testament saga that led Tennessee to Bruce Pearl.
Back in the 1980s Don Devoe was a good man and a solid coach who in 1989 was thrown into a pit and sold to camel caravan. As Joseph did in Egypt, DeVoe ended up thriving at Navy before retiring in 2004.

In his place came Wade Houston, a man whose boss at Louisville, Denny Crum, once worked for John Wooden at UCLA.  In college basketball, this is the equivalent of having worked with Moses. Houston came from Maryville, which was nice. He was also the SEC’s first black coach—a positive for Tennessee that Doug Dickey ruined by making it clear he wouldn’t enjoy the standard membership to Cherokee Country Club that was part of every coach’s package. 

Houston had a son, Allan, who was a great college player and recently retired from an amazing NBA career. But Houston the elder let the workers in his vineyard toil as they pleased, and he wasn’t much of a recruiter, and the basketball was ugly, and UT let him go after five years.

Tired of the gentlemanly Houston, UT sought out Kevin O’Neill, a foul-mouthed, no-nonsense, defense-oriented Yankee whose aggressive recruiting exploits became national legends. He once dressed up in a gorilla costume to impress a recruit and bugged recruits’ rooms to find out what they were thinking. If a recruit said he thought the girls weren’t good looking on a campus, O’Neill would make sure the impression was remedied. Like King David writing the Psalms, O’Neill introduced UT athletics to some choice New York State vocabulary. “How else is an Irishman supposed to express himself?” asked his own mother about O’Neill’s salty expletives.

When O’Neill first beheld living-legend-Voice-of-the-Vols John Ward, he said, “I’m going to mess with that guy.” Soon after, he uttered a “p” word during a post-game show.

 O’Neill’s recruiting brought plenty of talent, but O’Neill is said to have shared a particular weakness with King David. When cell-phone records indicated not one but several Bathshebas around town, O’Neill departed for the NBA.

Maybe Jerry Green was Lot. He won 20 games and made the NCAA tournament four straight years. His team once got to the NCAA Sweet 16, but they blew that 10-point lead to North Carolina and Green turned into a pillar of salt, like Lot’s wife.

Buzz Peterson was Job, in a way--such a nice guy, who kept having rotten luck. In his first weeks, his two experienced guards came up positive for smoking dope. With savvy, sharp-shooting guards, basketball teams tend to look pretty good. With the loss of those two Peterson lost his best chance of starting out on a good foot, and it went downhill from there.

After all that, we know what we don’t want—all of the above.
But what do we want?

Family Life in Knoxpatch 
Pearl certainly has a better PR sense than a couple of his predecessors. 
 “Culturally, BP is a bit like O’Neill, in that he’s a direct northeastern guy and would seem at first glance to be an odd fit in K-ville,” says SI’s Alex Wolff. “But his personality is much more positive than KO’s, and my sense is that he’ll wear a whole lot better. Which wouldn’t be all that hard, of course.”

O’Neill was from upstate New York, a few miles from the Canadian border, and went to college at McGill, the Harvard of Canada. Where O’Neill didn’t care what anyone thought and happily said so, Pearl has spent much of his life trying to influence what people think, from being a jock with compassion to wearing his religious faith on his sleeve.

That contrast was clearest in the last few minutes of their respective welcome-to-town interviews, when the reporter asked each new coach how he and his family like their new home.

O’Neill answers, “I don’t care where I am as long as we’re winning. If we lose, we’ll go somewhere else.”

The question is posed again, with a hint: “Does your son like his new school?” A shrug.

“Do you like the trees and mountains?” Nothing. An opportunity to make polite compliments, but O’Neill won’t bite. 

Asked the same questions, Pearl gushes. “We were surprised at how much we felt right at home. We feel very comfortable at Heska Amuna Synagogue. We feel welcome. Our kids have more friends than in four years at Milwaukee.” 

His son, 6’5” Steven, likes West High, where he is playing on the basketball team and has a chance of being recruited by a Division I basketball school.

“He’s worked at it and really gotten better,” says a proud Dad.
Daughter Leah likes sixth grade at Bearden Middle. Son Michael likes fourth grade at Rocky Hill Elementary and Pilot football. Older daughter Jacqui, a sophomore at Wisconsin-Madison, is transferring to UT. “We’re a close family. We want to be together.”

Kim got the courses she needed in Wisconsin and recently took her nursing boards to become a nurse practitioner.  
Hunger for Knowledge; Fear of Failure
At the Division II level, Pearl says there were so many excellent outside shooters that he had to learn to be a better teacher of man-to-man defense, and studied under the venerable Bob Huggins of Cincinnati, who was mentioned briefly for the UT job last March.    

While at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Pearl got to know and learn important hoops wisdom from the legendary George Karl, then the coach of the NBA Milwaukee Bucks. For example? “Help defense is overrated and don’t give away the threes,” says Pearl. In Milwaukee, Pearl also met and befriended a fellow Jew and former UT All-America Ernie Grunfeld, who was working in the Bucks front-office. Grunfeld later put in a good word to the UT Athletic department. That helped speed along the hiring process last March.    

Pearl recently sat down for five hours with Pat Summitt talking Xs and Os. “What makes Pat the best college basketball coach, man or woman, is her hunger for knowledge. She thinks she doesn’t know it all, even though she does. She thinks, ‘Someday, I’m going to be a good coach.’”

So what keeps Pearl going?  “Fear of failure,” he says. “I’m afraid to fail. Nobody likes to win more than I do. And Jewish guilt. I just can’t feel like I can do enough for my players. I feel inadequate as a coach, as a father, as a husband. I feel like I have 25 pounds of problems to fit in a 10-pound bag every day. There are so many people that I’ve got to work for. That’s why I have the team over to our house so much. My team is part of my family. I have the kids travel with me on the road sometimes. My job is such a big part of my life.”

Pearl took one cue from Summitt and gave his team the Performance Plus personality assessments. Summitt started using them a decade ago on the suggestion of Knoxville auto dealer Bill Rodgers, who found them helpful in motivating his staff to sell Cadillacs—every salesman’s motivation is different, and Rodgers wants to get the best out of each of them. 

The assessments’ potential value on the basketball floor was brought home quickly to Summitt. She had been butting heads with her too-flashy point guard, Michelle Marciniak, when the Performance Plus results came back and gave them both a surprise—in many ways they were very much alike, especially in their intense desire to win. The insight helped them sort out their sources of friction and win the 1995 national title.   

Jerry Green, who arrived in town just three years later, said he didn’t believe in such things—that an educator should know his players without the help of tests. Yeah, yeah. But in hindsight, Green could probably have benefited from any numbers of tools or gimmicks in sorting out the problems he faced in trying to turn unbridled point guard Tony Harris into a team leader, to mold super-talented Vincent Yarbrough into a polished player and to inculcate his team with the mental toughness and discipline to hang onto 10-point leads in the last five minutes of Sweet 16 ballgames.

The anti-Green, Pearl is eager to learn and to try anything to get an edge. He says he got mostly what he expected from the results of the Performance Plus tests, “with a few surprises.”  For example?  “One of my better players was not as confident as I would have assumed he was about getting criticism publicly. According to the test, he can handle all kinds of criticism privately, but he’d prefer it not be in front of others. So I’m careful about expressing that in front of his teammates.” 

Pearl might have figured that out, or he might have burned a bridge to a player without knowing it.  When you’ve got nine scholarship players, you can’t really afford to alienate any of them.

Pearl emphasizes strength and fitness. Playing an attacking game with limited numbers, they have to be fitter. “We’re bigger and stronger than we were last spring.”

He is known to work out with his team and reportedly bench-presses 300 pounds.
When Jemere Hendrix, who had earlier been charged with possession of marijuana and driving without a license, threw a punch at a football player at a party, Pearl threw him off the team and put wrong-man-in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time Andre Patterson, a senior forward, on probation. 
“We’re going to have discipline in the program.”
Relentless Positivism
Pearl is working tirelessly to recruit the talent that will make the program successful in the long term. “I’ve taken two or three days off since April.”

 He’s already signed three of the top 50 prospects in the nation—Marques Johnson, a 6’6” forward from Ft. Wayne, Ind.; Wayne Chism, a 6’8” power forward from Bolivar, Tenn., and Duke Crews, a 6’7” forward from Hampton, Va. It’s worth noting that only one of those signees is from Tennessee. To compete at the national level, you’ve got to recruit at  the national level.  

Pearl is selling recruits on Tennessee. He tells recruits, and anyone else who will listen, that a team that lives up to the potential here can fill up that arena and beat Kentucky. “Nobody has greater potential in the SEC with the exception of Kentucky.” No excuses, just a positive vision of the possibilities. “We’ve beaten Kentucky 62 times. Vandy is next in the conference with 39.”

In a ticket-sales letter to the “UT Faithful” in the Nov. 2 News Sentinel, Pearl wrote, “Tennessee is the crown jewel of all universities, and my staff and I are thrilled to be a part of the UT tradition and heritage…I can promise you that my team will give their all every night on both ends of the floor. You will see players diving for loose balls, playing in-your-face defense, banging bodies for rebounds and leaving every ounce of energy on the hardwood. We will compete and compete hard! 

“Someday soon, I envision a packed Thompson-Boling arena, similar to how things were in the old days of Stokely. We will feed off the crowd’s energy when C.J. [Watson] makes an incredible dish, hear the crowd roar when Major [Wingate] slam dunks or listen to a rain of ‘threeeeeeeeees’ when Chris [Lofton] hits one from downtown.”

 Pearl’s relentless positivism extends to avoiding the news coverage: “I’m upset reading the papers because of the criticism of the football program. That hurts us in recruiting. Our competition tells recruits that the media [here] will be so critical of you when you lose. But when we win, it will be off the charts. Our following will rival Kentucky’s.”

Effete -- like cultures gone to seed


We sometimes read that the Roman Empire in its latter days was "effete." Roman culture, in particular, gets this tag from the idea that it was mostly an ersatz (inferior, from the Greek word for "substitute") emulation of Classical Greek culture in the first place.

In latter days of the Empire, the Romans were literally "effete," that is, "worn out from bearing young", in that the higher classes had very low birth rates (as some European countries do today).

It can certainly be confusing for young students that "effete" sounds so much like "elite" (the choice part, a socially superior group, or a powerful minority group), although both words are often delivered with a similar sneer, as if to say, you may be "elite," but you're probably "effete."

effete (i-FEET) adjective
1. Worn out; no longer fertile or productive.
2. Weak, ineffectual.
3. Marked by decadence or self-indulgence.
4. Effeminate.

[From Latin effetus (worn out from bearing), from ex- + fetus (bearing young).]

Click here to see effete in the Visual Thesaurus.

"Many people who have grown up in socially, deeply conservative societies have a very hard time coming to terms with the freedoms available in liberal countries. Indeed, they take this personal liberty as a sign of decadence, and often despise Westerners as effete and irreligious. Unfortunately, they have no idea of the centuries of strife and struggle that have gone into attaining this level of secularism and freedom from the church, society, and the state."
-- Irfan Husain; Existential Dilemma Forced by Clash of Civilisations; Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates); Dec 2, 2004.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Chandler wrote images the way Etta James sings songs

With his earthy similes and metaphors, Raymond Chandler hewed images that -- once you read them -- you never shake them out of your mind.
And that makes you remember you have one.
And sometimes that hurts.
Like when you turn on Fox News.

"It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window."

"I lit a cigarette that tasted like a plumber’s handkerchief."

"Dead men are heavier than broken hearts."

"To say she had a face that would have stopped a clock would have been to insult her. It would have stopped a runaway horse."

"She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket."

"I felt like an amputated leg."

"His smile was as stiff as a frozen fish."

"The voice got as cool as a cafeteria dinner."

Click here for more Chandlerisms.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pesky Plurals of Proper Nouns

from Ruge Rules

The Rule: To form the plural of a proper noun (regardless of what letter it ends in), simply add s or es.

Never form the plural by adding an apostrophe and then an s.

So: Let's take a family named Hardy.

Wrong: The Hardies are having a party.
Wrong: The Hardy's are having a party.
Right: The Hardys are having a party
Right: The Hardys' house is the last one on the right. (Note the possessive plural of Hardy.)

Or: a family named Jones.

Wrong: The Jones's are having a party.
Right: The Joneses are having a party
Right: The Joneses' house is the last one on the right. (Note the possessive plural of Jones.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Megilla -- that story again (from the Book of Esther)

from Maureen Dowd's column in yesterday's New York Times:

"Now that [Sen. Clinton] is done with New Hampshire, she may distance herself from him, realizing that seeing Bill so often reminds voters that they don’t want to go back to that whole megillah again."

Me·gil·lah (m-gl) noun.
1. Judaism The scroll containing the biblical narrative of the Book of Esther, traditionally read in synagogues to celebrate the festival of Purim. [from the Hebrew mgillâ for scroll, from the root glal, to roll,]
2. Slang A tediously detailed or embroidered account: told us the whole megillah.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Include me out" -- Goldwynisms to live by


Goldwynism (GOLD-wi-niz-em) noun (akin to a Yogism)
A humorous statement or phrase resulting from the use of incongruous or contradictory words, situations, idioms, etc.
[After Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974), Polish-born US film producer, known for such remarks. Born Schmuel Gelbfisz, he changed his name to Samuel Goldfish after he went to UK, and to Samuel Goldwyn after moving to the US.]

Here are some examples of Goldwynisms:
  • "Include me out."
  • "When I want your opinion, I will give it to you."
  • "I'll give you a definite maybe."
  • "If I could drop dead right now, I would be the happiest man alive."
  • "Anybody who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined."
  • "I may not always be right, but I am never wrong."
  • "In two words: im-possible."
  • "I want everybody to tell me the truth, even if it costs them their jobs."
  • "A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on."
  • "They stayed away in droves."

This continues the tradition of such eponym words as malapropism, Spoonerism, and Yogism.

"[Gregory] Peck also came up with a great Goldwynism [really a borrowed Yogi Berra-ism]: 'If they won't go to the box-office, you can't stop 'em.'"

-- Iain Johnstone; Waxing Not Waning; The Times (London, UK); May 24, 1992.

"There was an air of Goldwynism about the row over Sinn Fein's proposals, which Bairbre de Bruin, following her leader's example, thought too delicate to be committed to print. (The unionists, reasonably enough, thought Gerry Adams's verbal commitment wasn't worth the paper it was written on.)"

-- Dick Walsh; All Roads Lead Back to Belfast Agreement; Irish Times (Dublin, Ireland); Jul 3, 1999.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

"Very unique" -- please kill me now

The Rule: Choose words that are exact, idiomatic and fresh. (Harbrace 20, Exactness)

When we write and speak, we must be aware of what words mean. The word "unique" comes from the Latin word "unus," meaning one. E pluribus unum means "out of many, one."

Unique means "being the only one, being without like or equal." A person or thing is either unique or not. You can't be "very unique." You hear it all the time, but this expression doesn't reflect the uniqueness of the word unique.

Another commonly cited word like this is "pregnant." A woman is either pregnant or she is not. She can't be "very pregnant." She can certainly be very far along in her pregnancy, but not "very pregnant."

Monday, January 7, 2008

Comes back every year --perennial


perennial (puh-REN-ee-uhl) adjective
1. Lasting for a long time; perpetual.
2. (of a plant) Living several years.
3. Recurrent.
1. A perennial plant.
2. Something that continues or is recurrent.

[From Latin perennis (through the year), from per- (throughout) + annus (year). Ultimately from Indo-European root at- (to go) that is also the source of annual, annals, annuity, and anniversary.]

"The city is mounting an unprecedented war on the perennial plague."
-- Brian Bergman; Mosquitoes to Bite it in Winnipeg; Maclean's (Toronto, Canada); May 20, 2002.

"Summer harvests of vegetable and fruit crops are maturing quicker and cropping later, while spring-flowering shrubs, annuals, and perennials are growing faster through the winter and coming into bloom sooner."
-- Paul Healy; A Warming Welcome; The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania, Australia); Jun 8, 2002.

Friday, January 4, 2008

James Webb, the Ulster Scots, and Red State voters

With politics on our minds, and our eyes turning to New Hampshire, let us revisit the political insights of Senator James Webb (D-Va.). Webb (right) was a decorated Marine in Vietnam and an assistant secretary of defense and secretary of the Navy under Reagan before carrying out the political upset of the Millennium in 2006 by defeating a popular incumbent, George Allen.

Webb has written many novels, but his 2004 non-fiction book, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, was especially thought provoking in its insights into the influence of Scots-Irish culture on the American political climate of recent years.

In an editorial in The Wall Street Journal several years ago, Webb wrote that Scots-Irish voters line up fiercely behind God, pride in the flag, honor, no taxes and no gun control---all of which are based on hundreds of years of history and deep-seated culture.

The character traits of the Scots-Irish, writes Webb, are loyalty to kin, mistrust of governmental authority, fierce independence and military readiness. Another trait is the tendency of Scots-Irish culture to absorb members of other groups, which enabled it to become the dominant culture of the American South (see also: country music and NASCAR) and "the heart and soul of working class America."

Webb does not like the term "redneck," but that is a term that has accompanied Scots-Irish people for nearly four hundred years --- long before Jeff Foxworthy and Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby.

The word redneck was first cited in 1638, when Scots -- riding the wave of the Protestant Reformation -- adopted the Presbyterian Church (in which each church is run by its own Presbyters, or elders) and rejected the Church of England and its episcopacy (rule by bishops). Scots signed a National Covenant, often using their own blood. Many wore red pieces of cloth around their neck to signify their position to the public. Hence, they were referred to as Rednecks.
(Of course the idea of choosing to govern one's own religion led directly to the idea of choosing one's own government. This latter idea was carried over from Scotland, planted in America and brought to flower in the American Revolution.)

It was back in the 17th century that a large group of tough, independent "rednecks" migrated from their lowland Scottish home to Northern Ireland, where they lived for a few generations.
When the English began to abuse them in Ulster, they migrated to America -- notably Appalachia and the South. There they provided a buffer between the Indians on the frontier and the more gentile settlements in the coastal regions.
Many Scots-Irish also ended up in the mountains of New Hampshire, which helps explain the state's low taxes; its motto, "Live Free or Die;" town names like Derry, Londonderry and Keene; and the descriptions we'll hear in the next several days of "fiercely independent" voters.
The Scots-Irish were the fiercest fighters in the Revolutionary War and have remained so in every American conflict. It was their eagerness to fight in the Mexican-American War (and the Alamo) that gave us the term "Tennessee Volunteers."
Their version of Presbyterianism morphed in to fundamentalist strains of Protestantism that dominate the South. (In part this was because Presbyterian higher-ups might have at some point tried to tell individual churches what to do.)
In colonial times, the hardy, sharpshooting Scots-Irish were also called "crackers" by English neighbors, from a Gaelic word "craik" meaning to boast. As one Englishman wrote, "I should explain ... what is meant by Crackers; a name they have got from being great boasters; they are a lawless set of rascalls on the frontiers of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia, who often change their places of abode."

The Scots never bowed to Rome or to the English kings. The Scots-Irish have never bowed to anyone. Webb once asked one of his uncles -- who was near the end of his long, tough, life of hard work and few rewards -- what he was proudest of in his life. The older man responded, "I never kissed the ass of any man."