Ed Rendell has pushed the word “wuss” way beyond its limits. He said it on the radio in 2010, got a reaction, and now he can’t stop himself. It appears that he wrote a book just so he can keep saying “wuss,” looking for a reaction every time.
Toddlers do this sort of thing. Not write books, but say the same things over and over if they know they’ll get a response. The nature of the response is immaterial; they just want attention. When my daughter was three, she went through a phase of calling people “poop” on purpose. Her grandmother made a Scarlett-O’Hara-get-me-my-smelling-salts major scene every single time Veronica said it, and do you think the child stopped?
“Is that how nice little girls talk? Santa Claus can hear you.”
“Poop.” (shifty smirk)
“Where did you learn that?”
“Poop.” (nose pick)
“You are grandma’s special angel. Angels don’t say that word.”
“Poop, poop, poop.” (to the tune of “Jingle Bells”)
Rendell is like a husky, persistent toddler who won’t stop saying “wuss.” There’s a mischievousness in his tone every time he says it, like here he is, being naughty again. Someone needs to tell him that, in the landscape of contemporary language, “wuss” is like “poop.” I thought Preston & Steve might allude to this when I heard him on their show a few mornings ago, morphing “wuss” into as many parts of speech as he could—wussification, wussify, wussy, wuss-a-mina, but they didn’t. He didn’t really say “wuss-a-mina” either; I made that noun up right now, but he’s welcome to add it to his word bank, maybe take it for a test-drive on NPR.
I’m all for the sparing use of made-up words, like “ginormous.” Sometimes the tone of what you’re writing calls for a casual, modern, non-thesaurus word. Maybe “behemoth,” or “gargantuan” is more than your audience can take.
What I’m not all for is parlaying one mediocre, made-up word into a book. Wimp + pussy = wuss, so say what you mean, Ed. Are we a nation of wimps or pussies? If we were more like those “butt-kicking,” human rights-violating Chinese that you admire, you would’ve been pushed off the side of a mountain just for being a lawyer. But not until you brokered a pay raise there for government officials in the middle of the night, while the citizens were sleeping because they’re exhausted from working so hard for so little. Then, over the edge with you.
That was a cheap shot. Rendell has owned his momentary lapse into wussdom. The same legislative pay raise that he signed in the middle of the night on July 7, 2005 as governor, he repealed by November of the same year. Still, I’m bitter that a weak word choice got him a book deal, the cover of Philadelphia magazine, and that everywhere I turn right now there he is, wussing it up, even on Face the frigging Nation.
Though he made the original wuss remark in the context of the NFL’s postponement of a playoff game due to a forecasted blizzard that never arrived, almost two years later, he’s still hammering and twisting it into a political, social and cultural commentary that doesn’t exactly fit. Are the wusses the NFL for not wanting to be sued? They know their fans; the guy who straps a turkey fryer to his back and skis to the game wearing underwear and body paint will make his stupidity someone else’s liability. Is that guy the wuss? Or is it the lawyer who will take his case? Or the person who decides to make it go away with a settlement?
Maybe it’s all the political players who write after-the-fact books and will do anything to stay on the radar—even peddle their own poop.