DEAR READER: Missourian drops team's nickname

Sunday, December 15, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:42 p.m. CST, Sunday, December 15, 2013

COLUMBIA —  The "Redskins" are gone — at least in print in the Missourian and online at 

That's the latest change to the Columbia Missourian Stylebook as determined by Tom Warhover, executive editor. Tom wrote about his thinking on this topic in his Dear Reader column for August.

As promised, he engaged two graduate students — Tim Maylander and Casey Bischel — to research the question. According to Tom's note on Monday afternoon announcing the change, "there was nothing there to suggest keeping Redskins had merit. And so, let's drop the word.

"Effective now."

And so we have.

From now on, except in direct quotes where the word is used, the Missourian will refer to the team as the Washington team, the professional team from Washington, D.C., or some such variation that works within the context of the story.

It's a change I heartily endorse.


Thanks to Monica Kwasnik, my colleague on the interactive copy editing desk, for posting an article about some common misconceptions about the lyrics of classic Christmas songs. Written by Arika Okrent, "6 grammar points to watch out for in Christmas songs" was published in the Dec. 6 edition of The Week. You might want to check it out before venturing forth for a night of caroling and hot chocolate. 

A few highlights:

Round yon virgin

"The 'round' in 'Silent Night' might call up imagery of the soft, maternal kind," Okrent wrote, "but in the phrase 'round yon virgin,' it simply means 'around.' 'Yon' is an antiquated word for 'that one' or 'over there.'"

Troll the ancient yuletide carol

"Trolling a carol might sound like some obnoxious attempt to undermine it," wrote Okrent, who noted that "troll" can also mean singing or chanting merrily.

The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head

"This line is a perfect storm of lay/lie confusion," Okrent wrote. "'Laid' is the past tense of 'lay,' which should be used here because the little Lord Jesus isn't simply reposing (lying), but setting something down (laying), namely, his head."

You better watch out, you better not cry

Is it "you better" or "you'd better"?

"In the 1800s, people started dropping the 'had,'" she wrote. "These days the bare form is considered correct, if a bit casual for formal contexts. Clearly, 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' wants nothing to do with fancy formality."

With the kids jingle belling and mistletoeing

"Many of our verbs started when someone decided to use a noun to stand for some verbal notion related to that noun," Okrent noted. "First we had 'hammer,' and from that we made 'hammering.' First we had 'message,' and now we have 'messaging.' … So verbs for 'ringing jingle bells' or 'kissing under the mistletoe' aren't so strange at all. At least no more strange than 'gifting' or 'dialoguing.'"

God rest you merry, gentlemen

"Notice the comma placement there?" Okrent wrote. "In Shakespeare's time, 'rest you merry' was a way to express good wishes, to say something like 'peace and happiness to you.'"

For November, nine participants submitted 22 entries in the Show Me the Errors contest. The winner is Jim Terry, one of our most steadfast contributors, which we greatly appreciate. He will receive a Missourian T-shirt and a copy of  "Yes, I Could Care Less" by Bill Walsh. We hope you'll join in the contest, too.

Maggie Walter is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and an interactive news editor at Kudos goes to Jordan Shapiro, Grace Lyden and Katie Yaeger, the trio of journalism students selected as winners of a prestigious Dow Jones News Fund editing internship.

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Ellis Smith December 15, 2013 | 7:05 a.m.

What could possibly be more correct than political correctness? No doubt the NFL's Washington, D. C. franchise will immediately rush to change its name.

Maybe we should tour the world's major zoos, at each stop politely inquiring of any Bengal Tigers present whether they object to some no-name college co-opting their species' name to describe that college's athletic teams. :)

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 15, 2013 | 8:00 a.m.

Well, this is just ridiculous.....

Perhaps you should also delete "Tennessee Volunteers" or "Ol' Miss Rebels" or....gasp!...."New York Yankees" from your lexicon. I'm quite sure each and every one of these team names rankles someone, somewhere. Why are you so selective?

Just being trendy and fashionable, are ya?


PS: Since you apparently dislike any visage of native Americans, I'm willing to take any-and-all buffalo nickels off your hands.

PSS: I laughed at the recent argument over the "Scalp the Redskins!" sign that was in the news. The interesting thing to me was that NO ONE bothered to wonder at the reaction if the sign had been put up by an Washington fan that said "Scalp the Eagles!"

I'm sure the Bethany College (Kansas) Swedes, Central Michigan University Chippewas, and Dickinson College Red Devils will be contacting you soon for PC protection.



(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 15, 2013 | 8:16 a.m.

I wondered why the Missourian never published the words to "Deck the Halls" anymore:

"Don we now our gay apparel
Fa la la la la la la la la."

Now we know.

Speaking of grammar in Christmas songs, why was this song not mentioned?

Too politically incorrect? Does it make you squirm with discomfort? Are you afraid someone will...gasp....correct and embarrass you? Do you have nothing else to do?

Ridiculous. The word "amok" also comes to mind.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 15, 2013 | 10:08 a.m.


Small correction. Both my late father and wife were from the (tonier) Philadelphia suburbs. The correct name of the Philadelphia NFL franchise is "Iggles," which is also how the name of that bird or prey is pronounced. Midwesterners, even NFL fans, are excused from not being aware of that. :)

Back to Bengal Tigers, print journalism and Native Americans. Bengal Tigers face possible extinction (it has already been said in the Missourian).

Does print journalism also face extinction? Probably not, but its future doesn't appear overly bright.

As for Native Americans, census data suggest that the number of Americans claiming some degree of Native American blood has been increasing in recent decades.

And so it goes.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 15, 2013 | 11:03 a.m.


Eagles....Iggles. What's the difference? They all have white heads.

Oops, did I just say an un-PC word?

I think you are absolutely correct about the increasing number of folks claiming native American (NA) kinship. Why, I'm at least 1:131072, the culmination of a chance meeting of a randy but hungry Clovis male with a rather voluptuous maiden during a tribal battle over who stuck the mammoth in the rear end first. Why do you think I learned to flint-knap? Red-skin, all the way, baby. Better red than dead, I always say!** To hell with those who are offended; it's their problem, not mine.

**Did I get that backwards?

(Report Comment)
Brian Brooks December 15, 2013 | 11:22 a.m.

Why ban Redskins when you allow something much more objectionable: Jayhawks. The Jayhawks were murderers, rapists, arsonists and thieves.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 15, 2013 | 11:31 a.m.

Brian: How about "teabaggers"? The Missourian allowed that derogatory word in this place for a very, very long time and...maybe...still does for all I know. Warhover was asleep at THAT particular switch for a whole lot longer than with the word "Redskins".

Of course, "derogatory" is in the eye of the beholder. Or executive editor. Or mission orders. Or talking points. Or the need to be trendy.

Next up: Obamacare....the new "O" word.

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates December 15, 2013 | 1:03 p.m.

Well, the Journalism students are learning what they need to do to get a job.....or, good grades. Pathetic!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 15, 2013 | 1:57 p.m.

Let's have one more, inspired by Michael's mention of the sports name for USC.

A Big Ten football trivia item is that Purdue has not won a football conference championship since WW II (a long time!) but, under a rule that existed for several years, it made a trip to the Rose Bowl as the conference runner-up, playing and actually beating USC. Shown, as perhaps an unintentional part of the TV broadcast, were some Purdue students hauling around a large sign which said, "Lubricate the Trojans."

My goodness!

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 15, 2013 | 3:46 p.m.

Ellis: "...were some Purdue students hauling around a large sign which said, "Lubricate the Trojans."

LOL. Somehow, I'm pretty sure THAT would have made this newspaper.

The issue is NOT the offense. With this newspaper, it's WHO is offended.

(Report Comment)
Victoria Guida December 15, 2013 | 6:39 p.m.

Not sure I get this. Presumably people offended by the name "Redskins" would be much more upset about the fact that the franchise is so named, rather than the fact that people correctly use its name. Plus you're just making articles more confusing. It would make MUCH more sense to call them something like the Skins, which is an accepted nickname.

I also think there's an argument to be made that this is kind of just trying to make a problem go away by ignoring it.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble December 16, 2013 | 2:38 a.m.

Good choice on the Redskins team name. Ignore the intellectually empty yammering by the naysayers; this is the appropriate choice for being on the right side of history. The team itself will catch up at some point. In the meantime, a public editorial choice by the nation's premiere journalism school is a meaningful statement.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble December 16, 2013 | 2:40 a.m.

(oops, that should be "premier" - I will claim diminished capacities due to the hour)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 16, 2013 | 5:44 a.m.


If Purdue University didn't exist, we'd be forced to invent it. Purdue is a poster boy for many of our nation's Morrill Act public universities: agriculture, technology, home economics. (Other examples would include Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M, Auburn University, Clemson University and, while its name is somewhat misleading, Virginia Tech. (Dispite their similar names, Georga Tech and Virginia Tech are very different institutions. No corn, beans, cotton or livestock at Georgia Tech!)

I have a life-long friend - Chemical Engineer - from Purdue. His wife is also a Purdue grad (Home Ec - what else?). At Purdue women who live in campus housing facilities have a sorority-like organization called "Purdue Independent Girls' Society" (PIGS). My friend's wife is very proud of having been a PIG. Surprising, since she is now an attractive elderly woman who appears not in the least bit "porcine."

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 16, 2013 | 7:50 a.m.

Ellis: "My friend's wife is very proud of having been a PIG."

Which is what this is all about.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 16, 2013 | 10:25 a.m.


Yes, and to alienate everyone associated with our so-called "flagship campus," perhaps some of those folks need to "get out a bit more often," as opposed to seemingly "endlessly contemplating their own navels."

Navel contemplation isn't considered a particularly intellectual exercise, worthy of a major public university; neither is it a recognized athletic event (men's or women's) by the NCAA.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz December 16, 2013 | 10:37 a.m.

Ridiculous. At least I don't read the sports stories and theoretically won't ever have to determine what team they are talking about. What happened to clarity in reporting?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams December 16, 2013 | 3:25 p.m.

John: "What happened to clarity in reporting?"

PC always trumps clarity.

I'm just glad I don't live at 1325 Redskin Drive, Columbia, MO. There'd be a riot.

Ya know sumpin'? It amazes me that our local, partly taxpayer-supported, newspaper makes an issue out of a non-local team name that has absolutely NO import here, yet it can't manage a story that impacts 2 of our big 3 economic engines hereabouts. It simply can't or won't assign a reporter (budding or not) to interview local insurance agents, hospital administrators, doctor's office managers, AND COLLEGE STUDENTS to find out what everyone is doing with the ACA. Is this topic NOT important? Locally?

Instead, Warhover spends part of his day deciding "Redskins" is a no-no.

Beats me!!!!!!!!

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates December 17, 2013 | 8:53 a.m.

Well, its no great secret that the folks over at MU's journalism school lean so far left they couldn't walk around a mountain clockwise without falling over......

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith December 17, 2013 | 10:45 a.m.

@ Skip Yates:

If your statemnt about walking around the mountain isn't copyrighted - or even if it is - I'd like your permission to use it at a future time.

Old Missouri Ozarks saying for today: "If the fox hadn't stopped to scratch his ass he'd a caught the rabbit." (That's not copyrighted.)

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates December 18, 2013 | 1:45 p.m.

@Ellis: You got it..just thought it up. I guess there was some value in learning physics and Cg at Clemson after all.

(Report Comment)

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