The bull@#$% alarm was going off today

September 20, 2004, 12:35 AM

When one works in a place where people try to pull a few fast ones, it really helps to keep your bull@#$% alarm (use your imagination to figure out what the symbols stand for) well tuned. It also helps to keep it in tune in order to rule out weak excuses from coworkers.

I think my favorite instance of the bull@#$% alarm going off at full power was back in 2003 in Potomac Hall. In retrospect it is highly amusing what happened, though a touch disturbing. At the time, I was initially surprised, and then the bull@#$% alarm went off in my head.

Here’s what happened…

At a staff meeting in Potomac Hall one time, it was brought up by one staff member about having a picnic for our residents. Wonderful idea, since it was starting to warm up outside. One person takes offense to the word “picnic”, and explains that the term “picnic” actually is a contraction of the phrase “pick a [racial slur]”. For more information about the origins of that erroneous origin of the word picnic (which is actually rather irrelevant to this discussion, believe it or not), check out this page on

But that does it for me. Bull@#$% alarm is officially sounding in my head.

So anyway, most of the people are taken a bit back by this one. One person actually took it hook, line, and sinker, with no proof (and you can tell it was a genuine going for it). And that person, also being someone who will say anything to try to neutralize a situation, actually said that she would try to modify her language so as to not offend, and that it would not be easy to do.

I’m just like, you are kidding me, right? and wisely keeping my mouth shut until I found some documentation to back me up. Let me tell you that in my last year in Potomac Hall, on our staff of 13 (plus Mecca), there were about four people who suffered from a lack of a spine. Not physically, but in the willpower sense. One of the four spineless types was the one who said that they would adjust their language to exclude the word from their vocabulary.

So after our meeting, I did a little research! I went online and hit Google to see what I could find. Let me tell you that the Internet is a wonderful source of information, but of course always make sure that it is a trustworthy source of facts, since Google doesn’t differentiate between fact, fiction, and opinion.

So I put in “picnic” and the “pick a [racial slur]” phrase into Google, and found a page on Snopes (the one I linked you to earlier). I trust Snopes, and have found it to be quite reliable information. But anyway, though, that quickly put the allegations of racism in the word “picnic” to rest, and confirmed the bull@#$% alarm’s sounding in my head.

So, to settle the issue, in the weekly report that we turned in to Mecca (I am referring to the hall director in Potomac Hall, whose first name was Mecca – not the Muslim holy city in Saudi Arabia), where we would write about what’s going on with our floor, resident issues, professional development, staff issues, etc., in the section for staff issues, I wrote about the “picnic” issue. After all, it was a staff issue, since it nearly caused a big to-do in a staff meeting. So I settled it there, referring to the Snopes page and the 17th-century French origins of the word. Research triumphs, and thank goodness I said it in the weekly report, a semi-private communication between Mecca and I. Since publicly outing the correct word origins would have made the person who first brought it up look pretty darn foolish.

Still, you could tell that Mecca wasn’t too pleased that my bull@#$% alarm was right when our one-on-one meeting came around. Someone who was not one of her favorites (Mecca didn’t like me for some reason or other) was right, and with facts to back it up, over something that someone who was one of her favorites said.

But that was the end of the issue, and my bull@#$% alarm was right.

Still, that’s why people who go on something by faith scare me somewhat. I always like to do a little research to back things up. The whole “picnic” argument could have been nipped in the bud if someone had done any research.

Now the politically-correct culture in the dorms at JMU that let that issue get brought up and somewhat out of hand is something totally else, and also something that needs to get reined in a bit. We don’t want to intentionally offend, but we also don’t want to inadvertently offend others by being ultra-politically-correct.

Web site: Snopes article on "picnic".

Song: Don't really have one at this time

Quote: By the way, this is totally unrelated, but it should be noted that I am now again doing these journal entries online through my little form again...

Categories: JMU