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Madam, I'm ankled

February 14, 2007 |  6:31 pm

This L.A. Observed headline -- LeDuff ankles NYT -- has finally pushed me over the edge. Did I miss the memo? When -- and for God's sake, why -- did "ankles" become a preferred headline verb somehow meaning both "quits" and "fires"?

We know the chief culprit: the mockworthy Hollywood trade-mag Variety. We know that "industry journalists" like to use it, that Kevin Roderick has developed a taste, and that actual humans never even think of saying it out loud in a sentence. All well and good. But what specifically is it referring to???

This 2005 William Safire column is surprisingly unhelpful, pointing out mostly that it's a useful equivocation when you can't answer the Linda Thompson question:

"Variety was founded in 1905 and used street lingo," says Tim Gray. "It was fun, and easier to say a play 'had legs,' for example, than to say it had a good chance of running a long time."

Why ankle, which has long had a general slang meaning of "to walk?"

"Hollywood is filled with egos. A lot of times, a studio will tell us that they let somebody go, and the exec will say, 'I wasn't fired, I quit!' Both sides claim it was their decision. We need that equivocation," he said.

Why not depart, leave or exit? Gray's answer: "Ankle is more fun."

Yes yes yes, but if it indeed comes from the UK slang for "to walk," well, you wouldn't really say "LeDuff walks NYT," now would you? My mind, perhaps due to filth, immediately conjures up the unpleasant image associated with the slang phrase ankle-holding (all the more unpleasant when you associate it with Charlie LeDuff). But maybe that's just me; if the phrase makes clear analogical sense to you, please school me in the comments.

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