Reacting to the exclamation point

Lots of email arrived on my column yesterday expressing my frustration with that exclamation point in the KFC Yum! Center name. Obviously, it is part and parcel of the official Yum! moniker, but that makes it no less annoying for me.

A couple of things I failed to mention. One is that my view on the exclamation point was fueled early on by E.B. White and William Strunk’s “Elements of Style,” which states, “The exclamation mark is to be reserved for use after true exclamations or commands.” Or maybe I’m influenced by being old enough to learn to type on a typewriter that had no exclamation point — they didn’t start to put them on keyboards until the 1970s. For me, it was apostrophe – backspace – period. By which time you’re no longer so excited about what you were saying.

Is this a serious issue? No. Is there bigger news? Yes, certainly. Yet I’ll never get over the number of people who will call such a column a “waste of time” when thousands more readers read the exclamation point column than read a column I did about U of L player Greg Scruggs speaking to a group of schoolkids.

They do protest too much! Nonetheless, it was a great group of emails, pro and con, that I got on this column, and I’ll share some here, and thank everyone for reading and writing, whether you liked it or not.

RICK FREEMAN writes: “I despise the name but it’s emblematic of the Almighty Dollar culture in which we live. And Louisville Municipal Arena is a little dry. I haven’t been in the place but I hope there’s a big, fat, photo of Jim Host in there somewhere with words to the effect ‘without this guy you wouldn’t be here’ prominently displayed. Do you s’pose we could coerce Mr. Host to head up the Ohio River bridges project? One of ’em anyway? Get Long John Silvers/Taco Bell/Dominoes Pizza to sponsor it.”

KENNY BLAIR says: “Is news so slow, all you can right about is ! This has got to be about weak of a story I have ever glanced at!”

CINDY SMITH didn’t like it either: “I’m sure you will get flack over this article! Hard to believe you get paid for writing such nonsense! I know everyone has the right to their own opinion, but really! Isn’t there something more important to write about than punctuation? I’m proud of our new arena no matter what name, punctuation, or whatever is on it! I guess you are one of those people that just likes to stir things up and hear yourself talk! Good Luck on your feedback. I’m sure the only agreeable comments you will hear are of course, from U of K fans, go figure.”

Several writers wondered how Yum! would respond, and there were several emails from folks there:

JONATHAN BLUM (Senior VP and chief public affairs officer for Yum!): “Hi Eric! I just read your article, and I must say, I found it very amusing! Congratulations!!! You are a very talented writer! All of us at Yum! Brands and KFC are very proud to have our name associated with this spectacular new arena! We had thought of naming it the KFC! YUM! Center! because we’re so proud, but thought better of it!!! Based on your article, it sounds like you’re in complete agreement with our decision! Thanks again, and all the best, Jonathan! Blum!”

A YUM EMPLOYEE (whose name I won’t give) empathized with me: “I completely understand your hatred of the !. It drives me nuts when I type ‘Yum!’ and Office thinks it is the end of the sentence and capitalizes the next character when it is not the end of the sentence!”

AND ONE MORE, FROM U OF L PROFESSOR BILL STOUDT, who doesn’t work for Yum!, but has a relationship with the company through the school of business: “Because we have many students who do internships at Yum! Brands, I find myself typing that word/punctuation mark combination often. If it makes you feel any better, I think what’s happened to me is that I now use the exclamation point much less frequently in my normal communications. So, maybe Yum has had a positive effect on my writing as a result. Hope it works for you, too.”

Now, a few more non-Yum! responses

DAVE McGUFFIN says he didn’t get his money’s worth:
“I’ve heard about s-l-o-w news days, but a whole column to the YUM! exclamation point? How about at least a couple paragraphs to the question mark. And let’s not forget the colon and his almost twin brother, semi-colon. On a really slow day, you can always depend on the old standard, reliable, and always present: period. I really enjoy your column, but I think you short changed your readers today.”

MATTHEW REYNOLDS: “Eric — this is the worst article you have written in your career! … lol”

SOME GUY NAMED BILLY JOE: “What a stupid article! Maybe! You! should cover some stories in some other city. (Lexington!) I don’t know if you were trying to be cute, or WHAT! But it didn’t work.”

HAROLD FREEMAN was more charitable: “Today’s column was clever and delightfully acerbic. It’s those things because I heartily agree with you, of course. Such a way with words and wit is what sets you apart from legions of sports columnists who merely analyze and pontificate with regard to sports and players, coaches and games, strategy and recruiting.”

ELIZABETH GLASS (via Facebook) writes: “I lived in Hamilton!, Ohio, for two years while in grad school at Miami. Yes, the city has an exclamation point on it. We would always scream it like we were mad or excited whenever we said the city’s name, then quietly and calmly say Ohio. I didn’t even realize the KFC Yum! Center has an exclamation point. It too leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and since I’m a vegetarian, the taste of chicken in my mouth makes it very unpleasant indeed.”

JOE NEIL ROE may be the first person ever to compare me to Rush Limbaugh: “I read the Courier and the sports page every day, and I even read your column, believe it or not; and if negative articles sell newspapers, you must be the most popular person at the Courier. But you are really searching when you can dedicate a column to an exclamation point. It seems that even when you TRY to write something positve, you have to insert just a little negativism in order to make your column readable. Please don’t try to copy Fox and Limbaugh and just tone it down a bit.”

DAVID J. McCLUSKEY SR. says: “That’s the best you can do? Insult a LOCAL company for how it Brand’s its name? That was by far your worst article I have read. You are a better journalist than that and never should have printed that story. Why take a cheap shot at what is probably the lone positive factor going for the UofL (Your cities) Basketball team? The timing and the article for that matter make no sense, unless there is a motive I am not seeing.”

And thanks to TAMMY CURLIN over at The Blood Horse for this: “Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your !!!! Column Wed. I laughed and laughed. Always enjoy reading you. Keep up the good work.”

And finally, a Facebook note from JIM MITCHELL, who Louisville folks will remember as one of the top news anchormen ever to grace the city: “Query: why do sports stories need the name of the arena, anyway? To answer the “where?” question, put “Louisville.” I don’t give a hoot what building a game is played in. The flackery-exclamation mark seems a perfect candidate for that old news maxim: when it doubt, leave it out. . . . My theory is that they bought the naming rights, but they can’t buy the news. Quaint, huh?”

Also appreciated hearing through Facebook from BOB EDWARDS (“Good one, Eric”), CD KAPLAN and everybody else who weighed in on Facebook and Twitter, and to C-J colleague JOE GERTH, who sent along the reminder that, alas, the Chick Inn is no more. If you haven’t already you’re welcome to join me on Facebook and Twitter for discussion and updates through the day.

Thanks to all for the comments.

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