Just once they'd like to see the transcript of a call with no asterisks.
ENTAL HEALTH experts confirm what many Congressional recipients of the recent spate of threatening phone calls have long suspected.
"What these callers are really saying is, 'Please, please help me develop my vocabulary to at least the fifth-grade level, so that I don't have to make use of all these f*****g swear words over and over," says Dr. Melanie Pilgrim, a psychiatrist with the National Institutes of Health.
"That's what I thought was going on here," said Representative Barney Frank, the recipient of many threatening calls whose transcripts have had to be heavily redacted. "How would you feel if a transcript of your threatening phone call was littered with asterisks, or your voice recording was interrupted with beeps every two seconds, so that your message didn't get heard properly?"
"That is so f*****g true!" admitted one threatening phone caller who wished to remain anonymous, "so I don't get f*****g arrested you complete ass****."
"Now what did we discuss for replacing 'ass****?'" prompted Dr. Pilgrim.
"Um, you completecompletebuffoon! So I don't get arrested, you complete buffoon!!"
Dr. Pilgrim has started the first experimental Vocabulary Enhancement Group for Congressional Threateners, which she hopes "will get the full funding it deserves, so that our threateners around the country can be proud of their abusive messages, instead of living with the shame of intense redaction."
"F*** yeah!" said "Joe," a frequent threatener of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and New York's Anthony Weiner.
"Joe, what did we say about 'f*** yeah' in yesterday's session?" prompted Dr. Pilgrim. "What is a phrase we use that will not be redacted?"
"Oh, right: 'No kidding!'"
Group participants learn very early on some simple words to substitute for the expletives most often bleeped over for air play.
Notes Dr. Pilgrim, "This gives our group members an immediate sense of competence that lets them say, 'Hey, I can threaten a Congress member with new vocabulary right away! I don't have to wait until I master all those f*****g ten-dollar words.'"
Some members of Congress have already noticed the improvements and indicate they are thrilled to be able to release entire, unexpurgated transcripts to the general public.
"I received a very impressive threatening phone call the other day that made me feel threatened without also completely repulsing me," said Washington Senator Patty Murray. "Although I feared for my life, I didn't need to worry about the children hearing profanity over the answering machine speaker. It sounds to me like the vocabulary work is already paying off!"
Dr. Pilgrim says more advanced classes will stress grammar and syntax as well, "so the threatening call has an elegant flow to it that readers and listeners can appreciate," though she admits that's a lofty goal more suited for the distant future.
"As one of our newest group members said, 'that sounds completely f****d up, you crazy b****,'" recalls the psychiatrist. "So I think we'd better take it just one step at a time, or my ass is grass."
© 4.12.10 Kate Heidel