Temper, temper

In the NYT on the 5th, a column by Michael Powell, “Wondering What’s So Novel About a New York Politician With a Temper”, about Christine Quinn:

You know the question is coming because it almost always does. A reporter or news anchor scrunches up his nose and peers at Christine C. Quinn, the long-serving City Council speaker and one shrewd pol, and inquires:

So Ms. Quinn, you, ah, yell a lot. Is your temper a problem?

Ms. Quinn, who has perfected a glazed-eye lobotomized smile when addressing this question, slowly, sweetly, carefully confesses that, yes, yes, she has been known to raise her voice.

So it was in the debate on Tuesday. A reporter asked her to address her “short temper.” “Look, I’m tough,” she responded. “If I have to make some people uncomfortable and occasionally raise my voice to get something done. …”

She was politic. But me? I wanted to throw my shoe at the television and ask (loudly, of course): Good God, a New Yorker with a temper? Knock me over with a feather.

… I’ve covered a few mayors as a reporter. As often, the highly effective ones (or at least the highly entertaining ones) hail from the “I’m-a-jerk?-No-you’re-a-jerk!” school of conversation. To dwell for a while in City Hall’s acoustically resonant rotunda is to hear sonic conversations larded with wonderfully inventive, not to mention poetic, unprintables in English, Yiddish and Spanish.

Quinn is taxed about her temper in a way that other politicians are not because, of course, she’s a woman, in a world that is almost entirely male — and packed with short-tempered, confrontational men.

I was taken by the reference to “unprintables in English, Yiddish and Spanish”. Men in many contexts are given to extensive obscenity, as displays of masculinity or dominance or both, and New Yorkers are stereotypically explosive (see Powell’s column), so we are hardly surprised to discover that NYC politicians are foul-mouthed, as least amongst themselves. It wouldn’t be news to hear that lots of them refer, probably frequently, to Christine Quinn as a bitch (and to Michael Bloomberg as an asshole).

But these count as generic insults. I very much doubt that targeted insults and slurs (nigger, kike, faggot) get bruited about much, even in the noisy rotunda of City Hall. There are lines you don’t cross.

2 Responses to “Temper, temper”

  1. Chris Waigl Says:

    I was thinking of slurs like putz, shmuck, schlemiel, klutz, meshugena and disrespectful remarks involving body parts such as toches, etc., maybe shiksa too, rather than anti-semitic slurs. I expect they are extremely common, as are similar English and Spanish ones, at least in small committees. The equivalent of Tony Blair half-apocryphally calling one of his cabinet ministers a twat.

  2. the ridger Says:

    I agree with Chris – I’m sure they meant obscenities IN Spanish and Yiddish, not anti-Semitic or anti-Hispanic slurs.

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