The feud between Conrad Black and Rosie DiManno is bad for newspaper readers, great for the dictionary industry

The feud between Conrad Black and Rosie DiManno is bad for newspaper readers, great for the dictionary industry

(Images: Black: George Pimentel; DiManno: Toronto Star)

Conrad Black and Rosie DiManno have spent the past few days attacking each other in their respective newspaper columns, and it’s incredible. This is the media equivalent of Godzilla versus Mothra, except instead of body blows, both sides are hurling awkwardly written sentences.

Black and DiManno, more than any other journalists working in Toronto today, are known for over-elaborate prose. Black, in particular, likes using words that seem like they were pulled from a 19th-century thesaurus. DiManno, while not quite as prone to weird word choices, does have the distinction of having written what has been called the worst lede of all time. The pair’s latest feud—over Black’s softball interview with Rob Ford, during which Ford allegedly libelled Star reporter Daniel Dale—has brought out the worst in both of them. Here’s a sample of the invective, taken from Black’s December 14 Post column and DiManno’s response in today’s Star.

Black begins his assault on the Star (and the English language) by comparing it to a dying t-rex:

[The Star] is now like a decrepit Jurassic monster, with failing sight and palsied limb that yet comes snorting out of the undergrowth occasionally in pursuit of some misconceived or conjured cause.

DiManno responds by using the word “ganglion” in a way that is not sanctioned by any dictionary we’ve seen.

[Black] managed to generate the stuff of libel action by seducing from Ford a ganglion of lies about my Star colleague Daniel Dale.

Black even gets a little ad hominem with DiManno, specifically.

On Wednesday, [Star editor Michael] Cooke unleashed his most fiercely braying columnist, Rosie DiManno—a feminoid who is so disconcerted by my wife’s timeless appearance that she refers to the frequent praise of her as a form of ‘necrophilia.’

It’s not clear when, if ever, DiManno insulted Black’s wife, Barbara Amiel, that way. Regardless, DiManno shrugs off the accusation and hammers away at Black’s incompetence during the Ford interview. She reiterates the fact that Daniel Dale was cleared of wrongdoing by the police, and then slips in an insult so creaky that it reads like it was written by Lord Black himself.

One more time: There was no lurking, no spying, no young children and no “perversion,” you contemptible oaf.

Oh, but who are we kidding? Black’s insults are the old-timiest in town:

[DiManno] is a coarse, vapid blunderbuss, complaining of imagined slurs on her colleague Daniel Dale.

From the Oxford English Dictionary:

blunderbuss, n.: A short gun with a large bore, firing many balls or slugs, and capable of doing execution within a limited range without exact aim. (Now superseded by other firearms.)

What an apt description. Wait, which one of the two were we talking about, again?