Words That the New York Times Will Not Print

By Jeffrey Goldberg

I've been taking a fair amount of both "ribbing" and "joshing" from friends who objected to the use of the word "tush" in a quotation I gave to the New York Times' Helene Cooper (author of a wonderful book about my third-most-favorite country, btw) for an article she wrote in the Week in Review section on Sunday. The quote reads as follows:

"I don't necessarily believe you solve all of America's problems in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen by freezing settlement growth. On the other hand, there's no particular reason for Israel to make itself a pain in the tush either."

When Helene first interviewed me, I actually used the word "tuchus," rather than "tush," but she phoned back a couple of hours later to tell me that the newspaper's Special Committee for the Proper Deployment of Yiddishisms ruled that "tuchus" is insufficiently elegant, and so could I please offer a substitute. I asked Helene for a suggestion, and she came up with "tushie." I responded by questioning whether the word "tushie" could be considered more elegant than the word "tuchus." I also told her that I could not allow myself to be quoted using the word "tushie" because I am no longer four years old. But because I am a prone to compromise (witness my position on the issue of the two-state solution, as well as on the theoretical idea of sharing Jerusalem), I agreed to substitute "tush" for "tuchus," which I came to regret when Helene's colleague, and our mutual friend, Mark Leibovich, used a non-Yiddish vulgarity, namely, "pussy," by way of denouncing me for my use of the word "tush" in a sentence.

Leibovich also forwarded me a story he wrote in 2002, while still at the Washington Post, which led with this:

Joe Lieberman is too polite to complain, but the Gore questions are getting to be a pain in the tuchis. Will Lieberman keep his pledge not to run for president if Al Gore runs again?
Yes, nothing has changed," Gore's former running mate says.
If Gore runs again, will Lieberman be disappointed? "The short answer is, I don't know."

Though Leibovich's copy editors allowed tuchus to be spelled incorrectly, the Washington Post is obviously more tolerant of Jewish flamboyance than is the Times (which should not be considered surprising, given, among other things, the Times' intitial editorial position on Israel's destruction of Iraq's Osirak nuclear complex).

Because I hope, in the future, to avoid such contretemps, I have decided to make a list of other Yiddish words I will try not to use in the New York Times. So far, the list includes: putzmamzer, shlong, shtup, knish (in its gynecological, rather than culinary, connotation) and shvantz. I am happy, of course, to hear other suggestions from Goldblog readers.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/06/words-that-the-new-york-times-will-not-print/57884/