Editor's note: Word's double meaning draws complaints from readers
By Roger Sims, editor
The Linn County Journal is in the word and picture business, and while we try to stay on top of how language is used, sometimes things get away from us.
As a former journalism and English teacher who was responsible for newspaper, yearbook and online high school publications, I took great pride in being at least somewhat street smart in instances where slang and double-entendre were used by wily young men and women editors and writers who tried to skirt around my unwavering censorship.
So imagine my chagrin on Monday when we received complaints about a photo caption I wrote.
We published a story last week about the Thunder on the Street event at Pleasanton on June 4. The story was originally published with a caption for the top photo reading "shoppers wearing everything from black leather to thongs."
I had hurriedly composed the caption, looking at a group of leather-clad bikers on the left side of the photo and a guy in sandals on the right.
Now for those people who have been around a while, those floppy rubber shoes – now called “flip-flops” – at one time were called thongs. While the usage of the word “thongs” to describe those sandals is hardly archaic, it is definitely old school.
When I wrote the caption, I wasn’t thinking about the 0.75-square-foot patch of material that sometimes passes for an undergarment.
But several of our readers were. A phone call, a couple emails, and I can tell you I was embarrassed.
One reader wrote: “I'm pretty disappointed that it reads there were people wearing "thongs".
That false statement could shatter things and the testimony of the organization Soldiers for Jesus. Those guys are the most awesome group I've ever met and would never allow anything like that to happen at any of their events not to mention the city of Pleasanton would not allow it as well.”
This photo of a sandal appeared during a Google search for "thongs," along with several examples of a clothing item of the same name.
The writer went on to point out that three people dedicated their lives to Christ at the rally and another five were baptized.
Having been to the motorcycle rally at Sturgis, S.D., a few times – once accidently, once just to stop in wondering what we would find, and another time to research a story – it would be conceivable that a young woman there might be walking down the sidewalk scantily clad.
That definitely was not the case at the Soldiers for Jesus event. Except for one or two vendor posters, it was definitely a G-rated-for-general-audience event. It was very well managed, and it should continue to be a part of Pleasanton’s early summer celebration.
And we are definitely sorry if that single word fed into the naysayers' argument that the rally isn't good for the Pleasanton community.
One of the advantages of being an online publication is that we were able to immediately change the word as soon we received the first call. We have apologized to each person who took the time to contact us to complain.
Finally, I can safely say I did not see one person at Thunder on the Street wearing a thong, and if they were it was definitely under wraps. Unfortunately, the mental image now stuck in my head of a macho biker wearing a thong may take some time to fade.