Posts Tagged ‘open the kimono’

Opening the kimono

April 14, 2019

Ray Keener opened his kimono
and left Steve Frothingham with his pants down.

Steve Frothingham is taking a pounding at Bicycle Retailer and Industry News after bike-biz poobah Ray Keener employed the business idiom “open the kimono” in a guest editorial headlined “Is the number of shops shrinking?”

That it was the April Fool’s Day issue is strictly coincidental.

I took note of the expression while reading Ray’s commentary online (it has since been scrubbed from that piece after howls of outrage from various nooks and crannies of The Trade). As a copy editor emeritus I found it odd, but I find a lot of corpo-speak puzzling and/or irksome and gave it no further thought because I’m not paid to copy-edit BRAIN.

After the phrase blew up in Steve’s face I went hunting for source material, but couldn’t really find a single definitive reference. It’s intended to convey disclosure, though of what remains unclear. A lack of weaponry? One’s naughty bits?

It has appeared in “The Office” and “Mad Men,” made a Forbes list of “Most Annoying Business Jargon,” and was added to the Macmillan Open Dictionary about eight years ago. If you need a soundtrack, The Embryos have recorded a disc with that title.

Steve Haruch went to work on the phrase for NPR in 2014, examining its ethnic and gendered dimensions, and noted, “Whatever decade it comes from, plenty of people wish it had stayed there.”

True dat.

More than a few folks think Steve screwed the pooch here, and are saying so loudly, on Twatter and Facebutt. Or so I’m told (I restrict myself to antisocial media these days). And it goes without saying that he was compelled to apologize. It’s always the editor’s turn in the barrel when something goes sideways.

But lemme just open this ol’ kimono for you here. …

Steve is the last man standing at BRAIN. Yes, a middle-aged white man, to be sure, but in any case the last editorial employee, period, end of story. It took five full-time editorial types and a handful of contractors like Your Humble Narrator to put out the April 1 issue 10 years ago. But the magazine has suffered alongside the business it covers.

BRAIN was recently sold to another bunch of middle-aged white men and moved from Laguna Hills, Calif., to the People’s Republic of Boulder. I’m told by a reliable source that the editorial staff is expected to double. So now that carbon-fiber barrel will be a two-holer. Huzzah, etc.

Here’s the long and the short of it: You can’t write and edit a magazine and website mostly solo without someone’s bête noire tiptoeing past you and into print.  Especially when contributors yank hairy bits of lingo out of their kimonos while you’re trying to wrap a magazine issue plus the Sea Otter Guide while keeping a website on life support and hiring a managing editor between jaunts from Denver to Taiwan to Denver to Monterey.

So please, give the middle-aged white man a break. There is not some vast racist, sexist, ageist conspiracy to be exposed and snuffed out here. Dude was pedaling through a tight corner and cartwheeled into the spectators. Further beatings will not improve morale, no matter what you’ve seen on the Internet.