Rahm and the F-Bomb


Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary has added the word “f-bomb” to its latest edition. Reputedly, “f-bomb” was first used by New York Mets catcher Gary Carter. After becoming a born-again Christian, Carter swore off cursing, so he needed a euphemism to describe an expletive he no longer uttered. As he told a reporter for Newsday, “I used to use the f-bomb.”

That term has been extremely useful for journalists who cover Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel is known for his vulgar language, but most editors won’t allow reporters to spell it out. So they resort to “f-bomb.” Here are some stories in which the “f-bomb” has substituted for Rahm’s favorite Anglo-Saxon expletive.

Rahm Emanuel’s f-bomb gets Rattner’s “Overhaul” noticed, USA Today: According to Auto Czar Steven Rattner, when Emanuel was told the auto bailout would save hundreds of thousands of autoworkers’ jobs, his reaction was “F--- the UAW.”

Mayor Rahm and the f-bomb: a critical study, Chicago Reader: During negotiations with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, Emanuel at one point said, “F--- you, Lewis.”

(F) Bombs Away at White House Happy Hour, The Washington Post: At Emanuel’s going-away party as White House Chief of Staff, Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, affectionately greeted him a “you motherf---er.”

The Gatekeeper, The New Yorker: The magazine reports that on Rahm’s desk is a nameplate identifying him as “Undersecretary of Go (F-Bomb) Yourself”

Emanuel’s Twitter double appears to bid fond, F-bomb-filled farewell, Chicago Tribune: The @MayorEmanuel Twitter feed was even more liberal with the f-bomb than Mayor Emanuel himself.

The term also came in handy for covering former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The Blagojeviches’ Week: F-Bombs and Shakedowns, Time: “There certainly hasn't been any shortage of F bombs during the trial of the former Illinois governor.”

As you can see, “f-bomb” is an indispensable euphemism for any Chicago journalist. So thanks, Gary Carter, for coining the word, and thanks, Merriam-Webster, for validating what we’ve been using all these years. 

 This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $2.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.

Contact Us