On the day this feature ran, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette executive editor David Shribman told his staff they could no longer use the word “jagoff.” His memo:
From: David Shribman
Subject: On jagoffs.
To the staff:
Yes, I know I didn’t grow up here; and yes, I know it doesn’t mean what some people think it means; and yes, I know this email will be circulated and ridiculed; but, still…
The word “jagoff” has no place in the Post-Gazette or on post-gazette.com.
Some people doubt whether Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. You now have conclusive proof that David Shribman was born in the Puritan stronghold of Salem, Massachusetts. (You could look it up.)
Even so, the ruling stands. No jagoffs in the newsroom, none in the paper and none online, please.
That said, let me add: Have fun making fun of this.
Chris Potter writes: “As Shribman’s email suggests, many people assume the word is a corruption of ‘jack off.’ …. In fact, jagoff has its roots in the northern British Isles, “where most of the original English-speaking settlers in this area came from,” says Carnegie Mellon University professor Barbara Johnstone, the foremost expert on local speech patterns. There, the verb “to jag” meant “to prick or poke” — which is why thorn bushes are called “jaggerbushes” hereabouts. A jagoff, similarly, is simply an annoyance.”