Monday, August 1, 2011

Pus-sy Galore Surrounds Irabu Death

I'm not here to make fun of Hideki Irabu. Suicide is awful in every way, and worse still when you leave children behind.

But an interesting linguistic angle popped up out of the former Yankee hurler's death. Ask any baseball fan which two words come to mind when they hear "Hideki Irabu" and the answer is, inevitably and
unfortunately, "fat toad."

Nearly every Irabu obit mentioned "fat toad," as George Steinbrenner infamously--and inaccurately--was said to have called his pricey eastern import after Irabu failed to cover first on a ground ball during spring training in 1999. Here's MLB.com--baseball's mother ship--using the quote, and here's CNN borrowing the wrong quote from MLB.

Kudos to the NY Times for being perhaps the only major outlet to check its facts and get them right: Steinbrenner, in fact, called Irabu a fat pussy toad, and any publication saying the quote is "fat toad" has quoted Steinbrenner inaccurately. Wikipedia too has "fat pussy toad," to their credit.

Yet even "fat pussy toad" may not be entirely correct. The Times actually had the quote as "fat pus-sy toad," as in, a fat toad that's full of pus. (Sorry, not the most pleasant of images here.)

But here's a theory: the NY Times initially reported The Boss saying "fat pussy toad," and the Yankees did some damage control, because you can't have your owner, this conservative champion of clean cut living, say the word "pussy" in family-read newspapers nationwide. So the Yankees' PR wing went at it, saying that George actually said "pus-sy"--again, filled with pus, instead of the racier "pussy." Could the reporters really argue?

I reiterate that it's just a theory. But it sounds believable, doesn't it?

Back when Steinbrenner used to be his own beat--have a few dozen reporters hanging on to him, hoping he'd say something that would fill the back page of a tabloid paper--one can imagine that 30-40 scribes heard "fat pus-sy toad" firsthand. Could they say for sure whether he said "pus-sy" or "pussy"? Say both of them to yourself, preferably without female coworkers around. The difference is subtle.

Either way, somehow both "pussy" and "pus-sy" got edited out of the phamous phrase, and countless media outlets--perhaps censoring it for the perceived good of their readers (and advertisers)--incorrectly reported the quote. If they published the quote as "fat...toad," that's journalistically sound. If they ran it as "fat toad," like AOL and countless other publications, it's wrong. (Alas, even the NY Times at times got it wrong.)

The New York Daily News even added another wrinkle by moving the hyphen one space to the right to turn Irabu into a "fat puss-y toad." Not sure how they came up with that one.

In a statement, the Yankees said "Every player that wears the Pinstripes is forever a part of the Yankees family."

And sometimes family members call each other mean names.

[image: NY Times]

2 comments:

Joe said...

It's hard to get a smile out of such darkness but you made me smile on this one. What other pussy's are there out there beside pussy galore? The only other one I can think of is Big Pussy from Sopranos fame.

In any case it was a sad day indeed.

Susan said...

I dunno. "Pus-sy toad" doesn't make ANY sense. Are toad full of pus? Not that I've ever heard. If he said "warty toad" it would've made more sense (even though toad don't actually have warts, they ARE bumpy). I'll bet it WAS "pussy" and they did damage control. Pretty funny to think about, actually.