Snap! Network News Rocks the Slang
RACHEL MARTIN, host:
Hey, who knew the presidential primary race would last this long? Conventional wisdom: Super-duper Tuesday would wrap things up. But as the fight continues, so do the cycles and cycles of news coverage.
ALISON STEWART, host:
With so much time to fill in the air and much of it unscripted, several media blogs have noticed buttoned-up newscasters tossing gravitas out the window as the long nights of coverage continue. Some of them are attempting to inject some pop culture into their reports with hilarious, cringe-worthy and downright career-crushing effects. Here's veteran NBC correspondent, 61-year-old Andrea Mitchell.
Ms. ANDREA MITCHELL (NBC Correspondent): I think the real story out of Virginia, if you look at the exit polls, is that Obama has made these amazing in-roads among white men. He proved that white men can jump to a black candidate. Pete?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Unidentified Man #1: Superb, superb. Thank you, Andrea. It's very…
Unidentified Man #2: Woody Harrelson was there.
STEWART: Yes, thanks (unintelligible).
RACHEL MARTIN: Yeah. First, she's Mrs. Alan Greenspan for - decency, woman. Secondly, "White Men Can't Jump" came out 16 years ago, in 1992, when the other Clinton was running.
STEWART: Okay, not to be undone, Dick Cheney look-alike, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider offered this assessment of the electorate.
Mr. BILL SCHNEIDER (Senior Political Analyst, CNN): Those voters who were in the Republican primary were seniors, age 65 and older, those are McCain's peeps.
STEWART: His peeps? Yeah, boy. So is Schneider technically, if not uncomfortably, correct? Yes, says Jesse Sheidlower, an editor-at-large at the Oxford English Dictionary.
Mr. SCHNEIDER: Those voters who were in the Republican primary were seniors, age 65 and older. Those are McCain's peeps.
MARTIN: It's so good, we had to play it again.
STEWART: Yeah, can we get the Jesse clip up? Jesse, by the way, says - here we go.
Mr. JESSE SHEIDLOWER (Editor-at-large, Oxford English Dictionary): Words change meaning over time, and the sort of connotations they have also change over time. So there have been a number of new senses of pimp that have developed in recent years…
STEWART: Ooh, that's the wrong sound bite, you guys.
Mr. SHEIDLOWER: …or to pimp any sort of possession, you know, to make it customized or…
STEWART: Hey, let's drop out of this for a second. You guys, can you get the Chris Matthews one up, the Brian Williams, Chris Matthews, so we can deal with that? Okay.
Sheidlower says peeps actually has been around since 1947. It's actually in the dictionary and that, well, Schneider was technically correct.
MARTIN: Who knew? Just trying to be cool. Then there are the big guys, the anchormen, who like to yuk it up, occasionally getting a little bawdy, even. Here is "Hardball's" Chris Matthews.
Unidentified Man #3: …saying well, even though that sense it not offensive, it comes from this other sense.
MARTIN: Just kidding, it's not. But…
Mr. CHRIS MATTHEWS (Host, "Hardball"): Brian, we haven't spoken to you tonight. Simply on the results here, are we clearer about where each of these primaries are going? We're out soon, we will get to the nominees in both cases?
Mr. BRIAN WILLIAMS (Anchor, "NBC Nightly News"): Well, let's talk about the feeling. Chris gets up his leg when Obama talks, for starters.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. MATTHEWS: No, no, no, no, no, no.
Mr. WILLIAMS: That seems to be the headline of this half-hour.
Mr. KEITH OLBERMANN (Host, "Countdown with Keith Olbermann"): Well, let it stand, then. Don't tread on it, Brian, if it's a good line.
STEWART: Oh, my gosh, that was "Hardball's" Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Brian Williams.
MARTIN: Okay, but what happens when the cheeky meets the colloquial, and you're a youngish reporter, maybe subbing in an anchor chair?
STEWART: Ask the now-suspended MSNBC's David Shuster, who posed this question about the Clinton campaign's deploying daughter Chelsea.
Mr. DAVID SHUSTER (Reporter, MSNBC): Bill, there's just something a little bit unseemly to me that Chelsea's out there calling up celebrities saying support my mom, and apparently she's also calling these superdelegates.
Mr. BILL PRESS (Radio Talk Show Host): Hey, she's working for her mom. What's unseemly about that? I mean during the last campaign, the Bush twins were out working for their dad. I think it's great. I think she's grown up in a political family. She's got politics in her blood. She loves her mom. She thinks she'd make a great president.
Mr. SHUSTER: But doesn't it seem like she's being…
Mr. PRESS: Michelle Obama's out there for her husband, so…
Mr. SHUSTER: But doesn't it seem like Chelsea's sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?
STEWART: Pimped out.
MARTIN: The Clinton campaign did not like that. Shuster was told to apologize on-air by his parent company, and many people under a certain age yawned and wondered what's the big deal? TV shows pimp people's rides, houses. Guys compliment each other for showing their pimp hand. Is the word pimp universally offensive, or is it a generational thing? Here's Sheidlower's opinion.
Mr. SHEIDLOWER: Words change meaning over time, and the sort of connotations they have also change over time. So there have been a number of new senses of pimp that have developed in recent years, you know, to pimp one's car or to pimp any sort of possession, you know, to make it customized or, you know, highly modified in a pleasurable way. Or, you know, big pimping, meaning, you know, after the Jay-Z song from 2001, meaning you're living out of, you know, a fancy lifestyle - things like this, which are not offensive at all. I mean, these are, you know, pretty much divorced from the sexual sense. But in this case, that really isn't the issue here, because he was not using some sort of modern sense that is not offensive. And people are saying well, even though that sense is not offensive, it comes from this other sense that is offensive, so you shouldn't use it anyway. And that's not what was happening here. He was using it in the prostitution sense.
STEWART: Had David Shuster used the words trotting-out or used or objectify, would it be any more or less offensive? Who can say? But with 265 days until the election, will anchors button back up, or will they hear CBS' Bob Scheiffer discussing a crumped-out convention or Obama shorties? Stay tuned.