Here at The Mercury, we try to keep our coverage up-to-the-minute, or at least up-to-the-day. After all, what good is news that isn’t new?
Our reporting is modern, but our office, built in maybe the early ’70s, looks like it could be the set of “All the President’s Men.” You can imagine the typewriter-clacking and chain-smoking that once went on here.
But what I think is sorta funny is that sometimes we tend to use words or terms that sound like they come from even further back — like the ’30s — and would be more at home in a movie like “His Girl Friday.” You can imagine some guy in a trench coat and fedora with a “PRESS” card walking into to report his latest scoop.
My bosses, Ned Seaton (the publisher) and his father, Ed Seaton (chairman of the board), of course have long journalistic backgrounds. And while no one here is exactly speed-talking into a rotary phone or pasting up edits on drafting tables, they do tend to use some old-timey words that I think are funny.
Here are a few I can share in print.
Humdinger — This charmingly antiquated word basically means a really good story — one you almost can’t believe.
Tube-ripper — I’d never heard this term before working here. A tube-ripper is a story that makes you rip your newspaper out of the tube/mailbox. In a perfect world, we’d have one or more of those every day. And there are synonyms: Hey Martha — A story that makes you want to lean over and tell your spouse about it. Bacon-cooler — A story that’s so interesting you let your breakfast go cold reading it. (That one’s courtesy former news editor Greg Doering.)
Thumb-sucker — A slower, more in-depth piece that explains something in detail. Usually it’s a story people can read when they have the time. You’ll most often see this kind of story on a Sunday.
Stem-winder — Originally, the term meant a watch that is wound by turning a knob on the end of a stem. It’s supposed to be a entertaining story, especially one that is rousing or lively.
Puff piece — We use this term sometimes. We also say something is “fluffy” if it doesn’t have a lot of news or gravitas. It’s definitely not a compliment at a newspaper, although those feature-y stories have their place.
River City — For us, it usually means “Manhattan.” It’s an allusion to “The Music Man,” of course. If something newsy has happened, we’ll ask “here in River City?” Ed Seaton loves this one.
Gobbledygook — This is a word Ned likes to use. When something is unnecessarily wordy and/or doesn’t clearly convey a meaning, it’s gobbletygook. This is a word you don’t want to hear right before deadline.
Gauzy — Another word you don’t want to hear said about a story your wrote. Like gauze, it is something thin and translucent. Possibly unclear.
On the horn — On the phone, as in “Get Pat Collins on the horn.”
In the can — When a story or photos have been turned in and edited. It means they’re ready to go for future use.
Flimflammery — Something tricky or deceptive. I also hear “flimflam artist” once in a while.