I’m little late coming to this, but earlier this week, University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari called ESPN anchor John Buccigross a “jagoff” live on TV. There was a lot of chatter about it, including lots of people asking “what the hell is a jagoff, and is it too offensive for TV?”
Jagoff is Pittsburgh slang, which is why Calipari used it. (Video is embedded at the end of this post.) Here’s a transcript I grabbed from AOL Fanhouse:
Buccigross: “You talk about luck and bouncing the ball, and certainly had you had that against Kansas, certainly your Memphis team could have been a national champion.”
Calipari: “Now why would we bring that up? That was two years ago, John. What are you trying to bring up memories of a three that goes through a rafter? And ‘Why didn’t you call a timeout?’ And ‘You should have fouled earlier.’ I thought we were going to talk about Kentucky.
Buccigross: “Let’s take a 20-second timeout.”
Calipari: “You must be from Western PA, John. Where are you from?”
Buccigross: “Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”
Calipari: “OK, so you’re a jagoff. Basically, you’re a jagoff.”
When that was called into question, Calipari tweeted:
John Buccigross & I go back 10 yrs. We’re both from Pitt. It’s a term of endearment & we went back n forth using that term b4 we went on-air
Although I grew up in Philly, which is a world and a mountain range away from Pittsbrugh, I’ve heard the word jagoff my whole life, so I guess it travels down the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
None of my regular dictionaries had anything on jagoff, but Carnegie Mellon University (which is in Pittsburgh) has a site on local slang that explains:
Jag (as in jag off or jagging around)
Definition: Various forms involving jag have to do with annoying, irritating, teasing, or playing tricks on. To jag someone or jag someone off means to irritate or tease. To jag around means to fool around, goof off. A jagoff is a person who is irritating because of being inept or stupid.
Text example: “I don’t know why she keeps jagging me all the time”
Origin: The exact origin of this word is unknown, but the source language is probably Scotch-Irish English. “To jag” means to turn sharply.
Source: The Dictionary of American Regional English
Of course, because of the way it sounds, jagoff is used as a synonym for jackoff, which is where the idea that it is offensive as well as insulting comes from, especially since a jackoff is often “a person who is irritating because of being inept or stupid.”
My favorite use of jagoff was in the song “College Avenue” on the solo album Life, Love And The Pursuit Of Justice by Justin Sane, frontman for Anti-Flag, a Pittsbrugh punk band. The song is about college students wasting their days away:
Some day, one of these thousands of jagoffs on this very campus
May become famous for something they’ll do
Maybe they will cure a disease,
or even bring about just a touch of world peace
But then again when i look around…
Then again when i look around…
Then again when i look around… I think to myself,
You can watch Calipari’s exchange on YouTube, the action begins to unfold around the 1:30 mark: