Karen Khachanov took out No. 15 seed Aslan Karatsev, 7-6, 6-4, Wednesday afternoon in the round of 32 of the Canadian Open. This was not a remarkable result except that early in the second set*, Khachanov punched a forehand long, objected to the call, and emphasized his displeasure with the use of the Spanish word mierda, which translates into English as “shit.” The umpire, who is evidently multilingual at least when it comes to swears, flagged Khachanov for obscenity, skipped past a code violation, and assessed a point penalty. What ensued was a delightful argument over whether it is fair to consider “shit” a “bad word,” when it succinctly describes a necessary bodily function:
My favorite part of this is Khachanov asking incredulously for examples of other ways to describe the act of pooping, as if he has been penalized for engaging in a frank and ongoing discussion of toilet activities. “So if you go to toilet—you go to shit—it’s a bad word?” he asks. “And how do you say, another way, that you go to toilet? No, tell me! Tell me! Tell me another way!”
The umpire almost allows himself to be baited into providing synonyms for pooping—”Well, there are many other ways to say …”—but has the presence of mind to draw back from the way of madness before it’s too late. The world missed out on what could have been a more enriching conversation, but ultimately I can’t be mad at this umpire for preserving a shred of dignity.
As a blogger who routinely fields angry emails from adult readers scandalized by the use of expletives in online articles about sports, I wouldn’t mind seeing tennis’s silly anti-obscenity rules made to look ridiculous. As an adult man whose coworkers routinely have to flee common workspaces due to a habit of barking my way into the stupidest possible rhetorical positions out of a catastrophic inability to assess in real time the merits of various hills from which to mount My Final Stand Against Wrongness, I am awed by the umpire’s restraint in this matter.
The real baller move would have been if Khachanov insisted that the umpire had misheard his comment. A website called RhymeZone says that “mierda” rhymes with “commandeered a,” which I find wholly unconvincing but is certainly worth a shot. How do you say another way that you take control of merchant vessel? Tell me!