Peter Bromhead: The most sacred word

Cartoon / Peter Bromhead
Cartoon / Peter Bromhead

When an editor commissions work - even about subjects on which I have absolutely no knowledge - I do not hesitate.

"No trouble!" I respond, aware that opportunity rarely falls into one's lap.

These days, thanks to Google, I can expertly waffle away on anything from French existentialist philosophy to brain surgery.

"I'm looking for something on the Rugby World Cup - insight stuff, with a bit of humour thrown in ... you know the sort of thing - 400 words in your usual style," my editor concluded.

"No trouble!" I repeated, bravely hiding my despair on learning the subject matter.

"Deadline?" I asked. "Friday's edition," he responded.

"I'll have it on your desk pronto," I bravely replied.

As promised, I had the copy on his desk at the agreed time, and awaited an email acknowledgment.

Instead, I received a telephone call from the editor's secretary, requesting that I pop in to the newsroom, because the editor urgently wanted to see me.

"Your copy," he said, when I presented myself. "I don't get it," he murmured tersely, appearing mystified.

"You've written just the one word 'rugby,' 400 times. How the hell do you think I can publish that?" he asked.

"Sorry," I cautiously replied. "Haven't I broken up the sentences enough?"

"No, your grammar's OK - but you've just repeated the one word 'rugby,' without any other content."

"I thought I'd summed up the zeitgeist of the country rather succinctly," I said, defending my prose.

'But, but ... a whole column consisting of one repetitive word?" he spluttered.

"Ah!" I responded, smiling adroitly, "but what a word! When rugby hysteria rules, you cannot repeat it enough times - simply to keep up with the nation's overwhelming desire to swoon every time one mentions the most sacred word in our vocabulary."

"You're not waspishly suggesting rugby's a bit boring, are you?" suggested a sub-editor who'd joined the conversation.

"Hush! Wash your mouth out!" I scornfully protested.

"It's true, there may be a few mugwumps who believe all this World Cup stuff continuously bombarding our senses is excruciating torture, but such no-hopers are clearly a minority and should be dismissed without further thought," I suggested decisively.

"So, if we publish this, what are you going to write about next week?" my editor asked, pensively.

"What other word is there to repeat - ad nauseam for the next few weeks?" I asked.

- NZ Herald

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