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The Wonders Of Email

I got this email the other day. Man, this dude is easy to please. I think this guy had been busting my chops lately via email, then,. I go and drop a "penultimate" bomb in a Mark Brunell story the other day, and he's my biggest fan. If only I'd known sooner.

Okay, so here's the email, verbatim:

Mr. La Canfora,

Perhaps about 2 weeks ago I wrote you about your mis-conjugation of the present perfect tense, thinking that maybe today's writers were more worried about the razzle dazzle storyline than the simplistic beauty of basic sentence structures. However, despite reading your work every day in the post, it was Sunday's "2 Minute Warning" article in which my opinion of you changed forever. In the 7th to last paragraph, when describing Mark Brunell's injury in the Giants game, you throw out what could be the greatest word of all time. PENULTIMATE! Wow. The excaliber of the English language. The John Lennon of words. Vocabulary's George Clinton. You get the point. Sir, I had no right to criticize your butchering of the English language. If you can work penultimate into any article, you have mastered English. You can write the same way Stuart Scott talks for all I care, you are the master! You could even fit in with your British contemporaries over there covering the EPL. Sir, you bow down to no one. But if it is possible, could you work penultimate (sounds so romantic) into another story this week? It may sound crazy, but that word could define who you are as a writer. Thank you, and keep writing with your fancy toungue!

A Sir Jason La Canfora fan,
Mike from Herndon, VA

What do you think he'd do if I worked "fortnight" into a story? How many Olde English words can one man stuff into the average football story? (How many cans of Olde English can a man drink and still write a coherent story? But I digress).

So at this point, I'm taking requests. Throw out an obscure word, and then a matching story idea, and I'll try to accommodate (let's keep it semi-clean and at least somewhat feasible). It's like playing reverse mad libs! Then, when I actually pull it off (assuming my editor Cindy doesn't work secretly behind my back to kill all such references), the first person to point it out gets a prize. So bring on the suggestions.

By Jason La Canfora  |  September 7, 2006; 1:00 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Quote Of The Season (So Far)
Next: Here's Your Portis Update


Jason - can you give us an update about CP, please? Is he practicing today? You are the only one "in the know." Please keep us plebes informed of CP's status as much as possible leading to kickoff.

As exciting as the backup QB battle is to read about, us die-hards are shvitzing like crazy over this one.


Posted by: Scott | September 7, 2006 1:12 PM | Report abuse

For the love of god can we get back to football. THE SEASON BEGINS TODAY. This isnt English class. Whats the latest on our injured players.

Posted by: Rob | September 7, 2006 1:39 PM | Report abuse

"I believe it was Plato...No, excuse me, I mean Play-Doh...who stuck to the wall when he said one must not put one's transvestite in jeopardy if one is to become a cunning linguist"

-- Oswald Bates, In Living Color

Seriously though: Use "obfuscate" in an article about gDub's complex defense.

Or how about using "practicing," "impressive" and/or "healthy" in an update about Clinton Portis?

Posted by: Bucktown Skins Fan | September 7, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Here's my suggestion for the obscure word: verdant. Definitions are "Green with vegetation; covered with green growth," "Green," and, more promising, "Lacking experience or sophistication; naive." I'm thinking it would work with any story about rookies.

Posted by: John | September 7, 2006 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Please use the word "troglodyte" which means: cave dweller, recluse, primitive. I suggest using it in an article about Bill Parcells. Or Philly fans.

Posted by: Joe in Raleigh | September 7, 2006 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I have two word for you....liminal and dichotomy. Use those in the same sentence and you are indeed the champion.

Posted by: Chris | September 7, 2006 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to back "troglodyte", especially if you can pull it off in an article about Parcells.

I think it would also be fun to ask a player a leading question using one of those words, just to get a quotation that includes the player's use of the word.

Posted by: Phil | September 7, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

"ensconced in the exurbs of DC"

Story - where do our football players reside and commute?


Posted by: X.Hog | September 7, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I second "liminal", that should be a good one. Also, "septuagenarian" shouldn't be too hard, how old are most of our coaches these days anyway?

Posted by: Pike | September 7, 2006 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I am an English Teacher and I have SAT words for my class to learn and define. I could've chosen several, but with the terrible play of the first team offense in the preseason, how about ameliorate?

Posted by: CY | September 7, 2006 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else catch that the same guy who is criticizing Jason's "mis-conjugation of the present perfect" misspelled "Excalibur"?! Jeez...

Please, guys, no mas on the spelling/grammar. Be grateful than Jason's doing this at all.

Jason, if CP still looks banged up, could we maybe get a question into St. Joe about how Ladell/T.J. have been looking in the past few days? Worried about the running game, man.

Posted by: PJ | September 7, 2006 2:42 PM | Report abuse

In response to "Joe in Raleigh," thank you. I live in Philly and am subjected to the many "troglodyte"s day in and out, and you gave me a good laugh. Much to the chagrin of my colleagues.

Posted by: Skins fan in Philly | September 7, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

I'll increase my odds of winning the prize (which is what? a year's subscription to by submitting several suggestions:

Posted by: David | September 7, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

smarmy...effusively earnest or unctuous.

Posted by: Ben | September 7, 2006 3:22 PM | Report abuse


could be worked into almost any game writeup I would think.

Posted by: dale hunter | September 7, 2006 3:27 PM | Report abuse

retromingent - a polite cuss word, last used that I know of by Jack Kilpartick of Richmond Times-Distpatch fame. It means to *** (oh, go look it up).

Posted by: Bridgewater, VA | September 7, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

How about Macaca? That's a funny word that makes my face all wiggley when I say it.

Posted by: Felix | September 7, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Here's a great word that my editors threw out of my last report: serendipitous

Let's see if Cindy is more tolerant...

Posted by: Tom | September 7, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Damn, you guys rock. That's some funny stuff. A few of my favorite words listed there. Macaca is classic, but I don't see it getting by my editor Cindy given it's prominence in the local lexicon these days.

Rob, hold your horses. They don't practice til 2; I can't tell you what's going on until it happens, bro. In the meantime, lighten up and enjoy the vocab lesson, bro.

Liminal would be tough (Howard and I had to look that up).
Verdant has some promise.
Too many of you guys failed to tell me how to use the words, though.
I'll come up with something.

Posted by: Jason La Canfora | September 7, 2006 4:00 PM | Report abuse

If this was a George Will story I would say drop the "v" bomb. As in the "verdure" fields of Fed-Ex Field . . . .

But I think this word would take things to even higher level:


Definition: a humorous theory that inanimate objects display malice towards humans

As in: "The football demonstrated a resisentialistic attitude as Ryan Longwell's kick veered wide right."

Source: The "International House of Logorrhea

Posted by: Arlington, VA | September 7, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Haven't really seen many articles about Andre Carter yet this season. Since he's supposedly in quite good shape, how about "callipygian".

Posted by: Aaron | September 7, 2006 4:04 PM | Report abuse

If you can work "Barno" into a story about Chris Cooley, I'll be the one giving YOU a prize...

Posted by: Barno | September 7, 2006 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Here are a few ideas:

(1) Describe Gibbs' speech as TAUTOLOGICAL or PLEONASTIC-- Gibbs apparently once famously said, (I'm paraphrasing) "Everything starts with our defense, because IF THEY DON'T SCORE, WE CAN'T LOSE!"-- that's a tautology, since obviously, if they don't score, you won't lose ...

(2) use HOI POLLOI when describing the crowd at FedEx field ... "the rabble rousing HOI POLLOI at FedEx field roared in approbation after CP's electrifying sprint into the end zone"

(3) INKHORN. Describe Saunder's playbook as an "inkhorn playbook" (synonym for pedantic, which itself might be a good word).

(4) MORPHOLOGY. Describe Williams' defensive alignments as having a "complex, confusing morphology".

(5) LAMBADA. Describe the battle between the offensive and defensive lines as "dancing the lambada". (A Brazilian ballroom dance in which the partners press against each other tightly and gyrate sensually.)

(6) UGLILY. work in UGLILY in a sentence, as an adverb-- "they played uglily"-- then INSIST it stand. If your editor suggests you rework the sentence to something like, "they played in an ugly manner", complain that this would be CIRCUMLOCUTION.

and, just for you, Jason, as a fan of the EPL, since it is from Liverpool:
(7) Gobsmack or gobstruck. E.g., "The double-reverse flea-flicker left the defenders completely gobstruck: they watched helplessly as the pass floated over their heads and into the arms of the racing tackle-eligible Chris Samuels, who barreled into the endzone untouched for the winning score ..."

Posted by: Mike Barnes | September 7, 2006 4:47 PM | Report abuse


This one should not be too challenging to use appopriately, and it can have some nuanced meaning -- rudimentary, incipient, disorganized. Let's hope it will be best applied to our opponents. I'm thinking Week 3.

Posted by: wordsmith | September 7, 2006 4:58 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Btdome | September 7, 2006 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Liminal means to be inbetween two states (i.e. a teenager is in a liminal state since he is not a child and not quite an adult) I'm sure you can find some usage when discussing CP and whether or not he is going to be ready to play Monday.

I also really like juxtaposition. It sounds like two linemen slamming into each other. I'm surprised John Madden doesn't use it. WHAP!!

Posted by: Chris | September 7, 2006 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Man, this might be my favorite thread yet.
I have a lot of work to do.
I will be writing about Andre Carter very soon, so maybe I'll start there.

Posted by: Jason La Canfora | September 7, 2006 5:17 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Wei | September 7, 2006 6:19 PM | Report abuse

Gotta work "Ovaltine" into your blog.

I hear its Gold, Jason. Gold!

Prize should be a good meal...

Posted by: Bania | September 7, 2006 6:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm fixated on the words "wombat" and "jackalope" today, so look for those soon in Jason's copy. He never notices when I sneak those things in.

Posted by: Jason's editor | September 7, 2006 6:35 PM | Report abuse


The word is RUTABAGA. All other words pale in comparison. Football is rife with troglodytes, liminal moments, verdant grasses, tautologies, kerfuffles and the rest. But rutabagas? It would be the consummate achievement.

You'll probably have to use it in a story about what Jon Jansen ate for Thanksgiving. But if you sneak it in more cleverly, you are a stud.

Also: My dad once told me about having attended an academic conference (on city planning or something) where every speaker used the word 'rutabaga' in his or her presentation. So there's a track record here.

Posted by: Dave | September 7, 2006 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, the word has to be "germane". As in, "this conversation is germane to the subject of football". :-)

Posted by: P Diddy | September 7, 2006 7:48 PM | Report abuse

I'll throw out two words for you piffle and elemossynary. The former was used often by the late great Shirley Povich to describe something that was nonsense.

The latter of course, you know, since -- but it once had Len Shapiro running to his dictionary to decipher. Good luck on both.

Posted by: Davis Love III | September 7, 2006 8:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm brimming with approbation at the trenchant response. A piffle kerfluffed at the misspelling of eleemosynary, but hey.

I'm casting a vote for sybaritic, describing either Daniel Snyder's off-season approach or the Redskin's play, depending on how the game goes.

Posted by: Mark Wilson | September 7, 2006 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Jason, how about "Halitosis" ?

You can use it in any article that mentions the Cowboys.

Posted by: Gmbrz | September 7, 2006 9:20 PM | Report abuse

how about Novak? can we work that into every entry?

btw, did GBP cut him or is he there?

Posted by: gordo | September 7, 2006 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Resplendent,used in any context with Cooley

Posted by: cosmofla | September 7, 2006 10:33 PM | Report abuse

"UNA"-a very obscure word indeed that would take yrs. to write about or evahhh understand-ha!

Pink C.C.-

Posted by: Pink C.C.- | September 7, 2006 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Mark Wilson? THE Mark Wilson!?! What have you been doing since the Skins cut you; besides taking some more English classes?

ha ha

Mark Wilson posted:
I'm brimming with approbation at the trenchant response. A piffle kerfluffed at the misspelling of eleemosynary, but hey.

I'm casting a vote for sybaritic, describing either Daniel Snyder's off-season approach or the Redskin's play, depending on how the game goes.

Posted by: Mark Wilson | September 7, 2006 08:36 PM

Posted by: Bucktown Skins Fan | September 8, 2006 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Dogsbody. meaning a junior lackey type -- a jock carrier to a first teamer in redskins vernacular.

Posted by: Freestyle | September 8, 2006 12:47 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: RP McMurphy | September 8, 2006 5:56 PM | Report abuse

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