Jagoff

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Jagoff or jag-off is an American English derogatory slang term from Pittsburgh English meaning a person who is stupid or inept.[1] It is most prominent in the Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania areas.[2][3] The Dictionary of American Regional English defines the term as a "general term of disparagement."[4] It is an archetypical Pittsburgh word, conjuring warm and nostalgic feelings among Pittsburgh expatriates.[5]

According to Barbara Johnstone, Professor of English and Linguistics at Carnegie Mellon University,[6] the term has its roots in the northern British Isles, an area that supplied many immigrants to Pittsburgh.[7] It is derived from the verb "to jag," which means "to prick or poke."[7] Johnstone said that "Nobody thinks of these derivatives of ‘jag' as obscene."[8]

Use in media as a typical Pittsburgh phrase

Michael Keaton, a native of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, just outside Pittsburgh, uses the term in his 1982 film debut, Night Shift, in a scene where his character, a towel-boy at an adult club known as Paradise Found, fights with his boss. He uses it again in Gung Ho, in the scene before Kazuhiro tries to drown himself in the river.

The term made an appearance in the 2010 Denzel Washington film Unstoppable as a nod to the fact that the movie was filmed in Pittsburgh.[9]

The term also appears in the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross. Dave Moss, the character played by Ed Harris, utters the phrase "...I get humiliated by some jagoff cop."

In the scene where he's negotiating the outside ledge of a high building, Bill Murray calls the man shooting at him a jagoff in The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997).

In Martin Scorsese's movie Casino the character played by Robert De Niro is being called a "fucking jag-off". An accident that results in a violent bar fight.

SNL writer/actor Seth Meyers (the son of a Pittsburgh native) used the term and a Pittsburghese accent during a sketch entitled "Bar" he also employed a Bill Cowher impression.[10]

The term also made an appearance in the AMC TV show Breaking Bad "One Minute" (Season 3, Episode 7). Drug Enforcement Agent Hank Schrader receives a phone call warning of an attempt on his life. After the disguised voice finishes the warning, Schrader states, "I don't get the gag jagoff, who is this?"

In the 2012 movie The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie studies at a Pennsylvania highschool. In the classroom, the girl sitting next to him notices he wears a new suit and tells him: "Nice look, jagoff!".

In the 1983 movie National Lampoon's Vacation, Clark Griswold used the term to describe cousin Normie after discovering he was in Flagstaff when he was supposed to be home.

Joe Mantegna (playing SSA David Rossi) uses the term "jagoff" in several episodes of Criminal Minds.

In the Community episode "Accounting for Lawyers" (Season 2, Episode 2), Jeff's former boss Ted (played by Drew Carey) refers to another lawyer, Alan, as "spineless trust fund jagoff".

The term was used in the 2013 film Grudge Match where Kid McDonough (played by Robert De Niro) called Razor Sharp (played by Sylvester Stallone) it in disgust. This film takes place in the Pittsburgh area.

On December 8, 2015, Mayor John Fetterman of Braddock, Pennsylvania declared Donald Trump a jagoff in a press release[11] after Trump called for a ban of all Muslims travelling to the United States.[12]

Controversies over the term

In 2010, Pittsburgh-native and coach of the Kentucky Wildcats men's basketball team, John Calipari raised hackles in the media when he jokingly referred to fellow Pittsburgher John Buccigross as a "jagoff".[13]

In 2012, David Shribman, a Massachusetts native and executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, issued a letter banning the use of the word "jagoff" anywhere in the newspaper.[7] The decision was mocked by Chris Potter of the Pittsburgh City Paper, noting that Shribman's letter belied an utter lack of understanding of the actual etymology and history of the word, as he had confused it with the more base homophone for masturbation.[7] In response The Beaver County Times used some form of the term 19 times in a single article, suggesting that Shribman has "Jagoffphobia."[14]

References

  1. Johnstone, Barbara. "American Varieties: Steel Town Speak". Do You Speak American?. PBS. Retrieved August 5, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Pittsburgh Speech & Society Dictionary". University Library System, University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved August 5, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Pennsylvania". Dictionary of American Regional English. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Retrieved August 5, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "D". Dictionary of American Regional English. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Retrieved August 5, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Sodergren, Rebecca (July 3, 2012). "Ex-Pittsburghers are hungry for Pittsburgh". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved August 5, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Barbara Johnstone, Professor of English and Linguistics". Department of English, Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved August 5, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Potter, Chris (June 27, 2012). "Let Us Now Praise Famous Jagoffs - The latest chapter for a misunderstood word". Pittsburgh City Paper. Retrieved August 5, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Pirates Q&A with Dejan Kovacevic". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. March 16, 2012. Retrieved August 5, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Vancheri, Barbara (July 3, 2012). "'Unstoppable' delivers high-octane action and suspense". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved August 5, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Owen, Rob (March 26, 2012). "Tuned In: 'SNL' speaks Pittsburghese 'n'at". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved August 5, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Fetterman responds to Trump's call for Muslim ban by calling..." www.wpxi.com. Retrieved 2015-12-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Donald Trump: Ban all Muslim travel to U.S. - CNNPolitics.com". CNN. Retrieved 2015-12-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Miller, Mike (January 25, 2010). "Calipari's term of endearment". NBC News. Retrieved August 5, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "There's nothing but (censored) everywhere we look". The Beaver County Times. June 30, 2012. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012. Retrieved August 5, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>