Wednesday, May 06, 2015

COMMENTARY: Words To Live Without

I make my living with words.

The spoken word pays my bills, both through my at-track work with Motor Racing Network and my on-air job with Sirius XM NASCAR Radio. I understand and appreciate the power of words, and sometimes cross swords with folks who either cannot -- or will not -- use the language properly.

Not to be a nitpicker here, but there are a number of popular terms and slogans in this sport that rub me the wrong way. And if for no better reason than to get it off my chest, I will happily share a few of them with you.

First on my list of nits to be picked is the term “rubbin’s racin’;” a goofy line from a lousy movie that has somehow come to characterize the sport of stock car racing.

Why would anyone adopt a throwaway line from “Days Of Thunder” to represent our sport? Cole Trickle was a crappy race car driver, as evidenced by the fact that he spent 95% of every race riding around in third gear, at half-throttle. Only when the final lap came and it was time to “put the hammer down, Harry” did Tom Cruise’s character finally slam his car into high gear, mash the gas and rocket to the front, miraculously passing cars with an additional 25 mph he had never bothered to utilize until then.

Apparently, all those other guys forgot to shift, as well.

For the record, rubbin’ is NOT racin’. Rubbin’ is what you do with two sticks when you need to start a campfire at the Boy Scout Jamboree.

And why do we call it, “rubbin’,” anyway? The word is “rubbing,” with a G! What is it about the letter G that makes it so unwelcome at the end of our words? They won’t be racing at Kansas Speedway Sunday, they’ll be “racin’.” Apparently, omitting that one little letter makes them run faster.

Maybe it’s the weight break.

Is it just me, or is anyone else sick or the term, “I’m just saying?” When your Uncle Ed says something so colossally stupid that the entire family stops and stares in collective disbelief, he immediately adds the statement, “I’m just saying.”

The term “I’m just saying” translates roughly to, “I have no idea what I’m talking about. I have given this statement no thought, my facts are non-existent and my opinion is utterly worthless. Ignore me.”

While we’re at it, I also take issue with the decidedly non-literal use of the word “literally.” No matter what you might have heard, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was not “literally flying” en route to Victory Lane Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Figuratively, perhaps. But not literally. That was Elliott Sadler in 2007; another story for another day.

Racers also overuse the term “it is what it is.”

“We would have liked to win today,” said Joe Finkelstein after the race, “but Bubba Ray ran me down into the grass in Turn Four. It is what it is.”

Well, of course it is, Joe. Everything “is what it is.” And if it isn’t what it is, it’s almost certainly something else.

Equally overused is the term, “neither here nor there.” Most things are, in fact, neither here nor there. There are billions of places on earth to put things, “here” and “there” are only two. Hence, it should come as no surprise that most things are “neither here nor there.” They are somewhere else.

And what’s the deal with drivers saying, “I did what I had to do” after sticking someone in the wall? You didn’t do what you had to do, Cletus. You did what you wanted to do, taking the easy way out and trading your reputation as a racer for a cheap plastic trophy and a handful of points. Shame on you.

Racers are also fond of saying, “back in the day.” Unfortunately, they never tell us what day! Last Friday was a good day for me, so from now on, when I say, “back in the day,” that’s the day I’m referring to.

And finally, enough with the term, “We came off the truck fast.” No you didn’t. You rolled your race car s-l-o-w-l-y onto the lift gate, lowered it gently to the ground and proceeded to pre-race inspection; all while honoring the posted garage and pit road speed. You may have gotten fast after hitting the race track, but you most certainly did NOT come off the truck at a high rate of speed.

That would be dangerous.

I’m just sayin’.


  1. Amazing! Simply amazing Word Man! It is what it is!

    1. I could have done without that last sentence. I cringe every time that I hear or read it.

  2. Rough afternoon Dave? And in light of today's appeal ruling, don't forget "it ain't cheatin till you get caught"!

  3. I hear you Dave! Well, I read you, to be exact. It's been a long week so far and there are still two more days left.. I'm on the West Coast so my day is not over yet! Eric

  4. Sorry Dave, I think you should have ended that a little differantly. Instead of "I'm just sayin' ", you should have endedit, "i'm just sayin', it is what it is".

  5. Anonymous9:42 AM

    You left out one majorly screwed up word that seems to find its way onto every single NASCAR broadcast, and it drives me up a wall.... ECKSPECIALLY!!!! It's not a freaking word!!! I cringe every time I hear it. ECKSPECIALLY when Micahel Waltrip is talking.

  6. Great list. I always took "is what it is" as meaning "I would like to cuss at one of my fellow drivers or some other deserving individual for being a damn idiot, but NASCAR frowns on that sort of thing".

  7. TheNASCARJeff10:22 AM

    He was "Up On The Wheel" ... no he wasn't, he was sitting in front of it while steering the car. Now Toonces the driving car was "On the Wheel."

    The next time DW says this please send him a message on twitter that this is imposable

  8. Dave: You Forgot "If you aint cheating, you aint trying, and it aint cheating till you get caught"!

  9. Geosez10:37 AM

    THANK YOU !! "It is what it is" is the biggest cop-out in history. And don't even get me started on the use of ran/run, came/come, etc. But then there's that charming all-purpose phrase we use maybe too much here in the Deep South: Bless his heart!

  10. Anonymous12:05 PM

    I agree with Matthew. "It is what it is" is a lot less expensive than the fine from NASCAR to the driver for saying what's REALLY on his/her mind.

  11. I agree about "rubbin' is racin'." Because it's used as an excuse to justify dirty driving. Rubbing is not racing. Passing is racing. Physically pushing another car with your car is about passing and is thus legit - sideslamming another car out of the way is a cheap shot.

  12. I've always been fascinated with the grammatical rule by Alabamans where the "a" at the end of SOME words is pronounced like a "y". Larry Mac says "extry" instead of "extra". Ronnie Van Zant paid homage in 'Sweet Home Alabama' by singing "I miss old 'Bamy' once again & I think it's a sin." But "Florida" comes out "Florida". Not a complaint, just would like to know the rules, if someone from Bamy can explain.

  13. Can you create a tweet with all of your above points included?

  14. Anonymous8:31 PM

    # 1 Pet peave, 6 of 1, half a dozen of the other. HUH???. It ain't over till its over?? "1st annual." What if there is never another?? "Can't have your cake and eat it too." I DON'T WANT IF I CAN'T EAT IT!! When there gone there gone!! DUH!!