Tiger Woods’ Faux Pas - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-22-2006, 06:23 PM Thread Starter
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Tiger Woods’ Faux Pas

Tiger Woods landed in hot water after he made this comment in a post-round interview with CBS at the Masters Tournament:

I was so in control from tee to green, the best I've played for years... But as soon as I got on the green I was a spaz.

Tiger's use of spaz, an epithet derived from spastic, caused nary a ripple in the U.S., but when it hit British newspapers there was a significant uproar. "Extraordinarily insensitive," said Lewine Mair in The Telegraph. "Woods sure to regret remark," read the headline in The Scotsman. "Some interpreted this as a gri***us insult to handicapped people all over the world," said The Independent. "I don't think he meant to be that offensive but it's something nobody in his position should be saying," Paralympian Dame Tanni Grey Thompson told the BBC.

Tiger quickly apologized, saying through a spokesman that he "meant nothing derogatory to any person or persons and apologizes for any offense caused." But it's doubtful that he realized he had anything to apologize for until the firestorm in the British press. So how did the word spaz become innocuous playground slang in the U.S. but a grave insult in the U.K.?

There's no question that spaz is a shortened and altered form of spastic, a term historically used to describe people with spastic paralysis, a condition that disables the part of the nervous system controling motor coordination. (The congenital form of spastic paralysis is now commonly known as cerebral palsy.)

Spastic and its clipped form spaz (sometimes spelled spas or spazz but always pronounced [spæz], influenced by spasm and spasmodic) eventually developed a contemptuous sense to describe not just those afflicted with spastic paralysis but anyone who lacks coordination or physical competence. In the U.S., a verb form of spaz, also appearing as spaz out, came to refer to losing physical control or simply acting "weird" or "uncool."

It's unclear how long these derogatory senses have been kicking around, since they were evidently taboo from early on and considered unfit for publication. (As the erstwhile Oxford English Dictionary editor Robert W. Burchfield wrote in a note appended to the entry for spastic, the epithet "is generally condemned as a tasteless expression, and is not common in print.") Many people report that spaz, meaning a clumsy or foolish person, was in common use in the mid- to late '50s here in the U.S. In a discussion on the alt.usage.english newsgroup, Joe Fineman (Caltech class of '58) reproduced this journal entry he wrote in 1956, in a section on the language of Caltech students:

SPAZ, n.R (shortened from _spastic_) 1. _Obsolete._ A person lacking in the common social skills & virtues. See TWITCH. 2.
To surprise a person in a way that causes him to take some time to react. v.R

(The "R" means "regional or national" — i.e., I was aware at the time that this was not just Caltech slang. The noun was, of course, obsolete only at Caltech, where it had been replaced by the allusive "twitch".)

The term may have already been on its way out at Caltech, but both the noun and verb were catching on in various parts of the country in the late '50s. The earliest print reference cited by the OED is actually for the verb, even though the noun form must have come first:

1957 Hammond (Indiana) Times 6 Nov.B2/6 Jewelers, furriers, and furniture dealers go through similar merchandising tortures whenever Wall Street spazzes.

This usage may have been deemed acceptable by the Hammond Times editors because it doesn't allude directly to someone with spastic paralysis but instead figuratively extends the term to the uncontrolled ups and downs of Wall Street. And when the noun spaz finally began to be used in mainstream print publications in the mid-'60s, it was used in a sense well removed from spastic. Here is the earliest cite in the OED, from film critic Pauline Kael in 1965, along with another cite I found from that year in a New York Times column by Russell Baker:

1965 P. KAEL I lost it at Movies III. 259The term that American teen-agers now use as the opposite of 'tough' is 'spaz'. A spaz is a person who is courteous to teachers, plans for a career..and believes in official values. A spaz is something like what adults still call a square.

"Observer: America's New Class System," New York Times, Apr. 11, 1965, p. E14
Your teen-age daughter asks what you think of her "shades," which you are canny enough to know are her sunglasses, and you say, "Cool," and she says, "Oh, Dad, what a spaz!" (Translation: "You're strictly from 23-skidoo.")

Thanks, D.

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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-24-2006, 08:59 AM
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I don't think it will have any impact on endorsements. He will continue to make more money than half the countries in the world.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-24-2006, 10:31 AM
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Get over it you 'tards.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-24-2006, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Gregs300CD
Get over it you 'tards.
That's exactly what I was thinkin'. LOL.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 04-24-2006, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Jillian80
That's exactly what I was thinkin'. LOL.
Politically correct is bullshit, im not saying flight attendant anymore.
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