Why I Enjoy Reading Mike Royko

Back in the 90s, I used to read the Daily Globe. It featured great editorials and excellent writing from its staff of contributors. In 199551wPHZocaCL._SS500_ the Daily Globe  became Today. I stopped reading Today a few years after that and eventually began a “love-to-read” relationship with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a relationship that continues, uhm…well…today.

One of the examples of excellent editorials from the Daily Globe was Mike Royko. He was a newspaper columnist who wrote for the Chicago Tribune. Royko passed away in 1997 and was known as a person “with the incisive pen of a newspaperman and the compassionate soul of a poet” (The Best of Mike Royko, 1999). He was also known as the “best columnist of his time.” One of my favorite books in my library is One More Time,  a compilation of the best of Royko’s writings, with samples from the sixties to a little before his death. It is a humorous book, and it will leave you with a smile on your face whenever you read it.

One particular article that was not included in the book, but which should have been included in my opinion, is reprinted below. Read and enjoy. (Note, the article is a bit dated, from the time of the OJ Simpson trials, and contains a few uhm…risque “words.”)


Language reduced to just words, words

Originally printed March 17, 1995

Pointing at the TV set, Slats Grobnik said: “Hey, how come those a-words who keep talking about the n-word don’t use plain English. What the h-word is going on?”

Excuse me?

“The O.J. trial. They want to know if this cop ever used the n-word because if he used the n-word, it would mean he is a bigot and sure as heck planted a glove as evidence and that would mean that O.J. didn’t kill nobody and we’ll all live happily ever after.”

Now I understand. You are talking about the n-word.

“That’s what I said. What are you, one of those a-words, too?”

No, but I don’t understand why you are agitated.

“Because if what the cop said is so important, why don’t everybody on TV just come out and say it in plain English instead of this pussyfooting around and calling it the n-word?”

Many viewers might be offended at hearing announcers repeat the n-word on TV.

“Hey, that’s a crock of s-word. Americans are tough. We can handle it. Besides, how do you know there ain’t a lot of nice little old ladies who are confused about why there’s such a big fuss about a cop maybe calling someone a ninny, a noodnik, a nerd or a nincompoop? Those are all n-words, right?”

Yes, but I’m sure everybody understands what the real n-word is, and it was used in court, so there is nothing to be gained by newsmen repeating something so offensive.

“You know, sometimes you talk like a real j-word.”

A what?

“A big j-word. It’s pretty much the same as an a-word. You know, when someone is really stupid and obnoxious, you say: ‘He’s a reaaaaal a-word.’ Well, that kind of person you can call a j-word, too.”

Yes, I see what you mean.

“Of course, if you were fighting mad at somebody, then you’d probably call him a c-word. But you only call someone a c-word if you are really p-word.”


“Yeah, the one that means you’re mad. Not the other p-word, which you call someone if he is a real sneak or a mean rat. Then you say: ‘Hey, you are a big p-word.'”

Now I understand.

“But you don’t want to get that p-word mixed up with the p-word that a guy who ain’t a gentleman would use when he was talking crude about a woman.”

Of course not.

“It just shows how mixed up things can get if you don’t speak plain English. Here we got three different p-words, so how’s a person supposed to know what you’re talking about? You could be insulting somebody and he wouldn’t even know it.”

Well, maybe the answer is for everyone to be civil and not use such crude language.

“Hah. It’s way too late for that. I remember when you never heard the f-word anywhere but from guys in a saloon or a barracks. And never in mixed company. If you used the f-word around some guy’s wife or girlfriend, he’d start swinging and say: ‘What the f-word you talking like that around my wife? I’ll beat the s-word out of you.’ We had more chivalry in those days.”

Yes, there was such a time of innocence.

“But in the 1960s, all the young ding-a-lings said they couldn’t be truly free and happy and love their flowers and bring peace to the world if they couldn’t use the f-word in every sentence. So now you can turn on the movie channels and the f-word is used almost as much as the s-word. Sometimes I wonder what the f-word world is coming to.”

I suppose this gives some women a sense of liberation and equality.

“I’ll tell you what gets me the most, though. It is the mf-word and the way even respectable middle-class people have started to use it. Who’d have thought that people would talk about mom that way.”

It is exceptionally coarse.

“Just the other day, I’m in a restaurant and I heard a woman at the next table saying her boss was a real mf-word. I was so shocked, all I could say was the w-word.”

W-word? I didn’t know there was a w-word.





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