The Mets have been spending much of this offseason attempting to rework a horrid bullpen. In the process, they’ve managed to potentially offend local the Yiddish-speaking community. Only in New York, right?
(”Call me a putz, and I will break you”)
To most of us, J.J. Putz’s last name describes a dude you might not want to hang out with. Like, maybe Ryan Seacrest or something. But to Yiddish speakers, Putz is a slang term for a penis. Newspapers in New York say they believe printing the name in headlines might be an issue. I’m not sure why. They print “Wang” all the time after the Yankees play.
The NEW YORK TIMES (via the TIMES HERALD-RECORD) says that the merciless nature of sports coverage in the area might lead to some double-entendres that editors won’t be happy with:
Talk about a setup man: Someone named Putz in one of the most visible, all-or-nothing roles in New York sports. His new opponents may not include just National League sluggers, but the tabloid headline writers and New York fans with a history of unforgiving expectations, and little history of letting something like proper pronunciation get in the way of a good insult or cheap laugh.
For the record, the name is pronounced “puts.” According to the TIMES article, nearly 2/3 of the Yiddish speakers in the country (about 120,000) live in New York. Only 463 live in Washington, where J.J.’s name was never really a problem.
Putz says he’s never really had to deal with anyone using his name derisively:
“Dude, I was bigger than everybody in high school,” he said.
Lest you think this is all just silly, there actually is history with the word causing controversy in New York:
As for the surname of the Mets’ new reliever, its use as a vulgarity has some history in New York. Ten years ago, Sen. Alfonse M. D’Amato lost a re-election bid to Charles Schumer a couple of weeks after D’Amato called his opponent a variation of the term. If nothing else, it sparked debate about the meaning of the word and its level of appropriateness in any context.
I still don’t get all the hubbub. I heard people in Shea Stadium call Aaron Heilman much worse things over the past few years.