“Disrespecting the Bing”: A Progress Report

In the two weeks since Chatterbox posted his item touting the Sopranos-begotten phrase “disrespect the Bing” as a promising new meme, its progress has not been as swift as Chatterbox hoped. Previously, Chatterbox was able to find it used only in an April 25 San Francisco Chronicle piece by sportswriter Ray Ratto. (Though reader Frankie Petrosino alerted Chatterbox immediately that the phrase had also formed the basis of a pun in an April 25 BaltimoreCity Paper piece about Sean “Puffy” Combs headlined “Disrespecting the Bling.”) Chatterbox himself nudged the catch phrase along by incorporating the concept of “disrespecting the Bing” into several Slate Chatterbox and Dialogue entries about Bob Kerrey’s “awful night in Thanh Phong.” In one of these, Primary Colors author Joe Klein, in the course of quarrelling with Chatterbox’s view of the Kerrey story, affirmed that he, too, had been using the phrase “constantly.” Chatterbox’s friend Bill Barol was kind enough to provide a link to the earlier item in an April 25 entry for his Weblog, “Blather,” and added some interesting refinements to Chatterbox’s definition. “Disrespecting the Bing” was also, of course, used in some discussions of the Sopranos episode that coined it (including some weird banter on April 19 between Bryant Gumbel and Julie Chen on CBS’ The Early Show), but Chatterbox does not regard these as indicative of any broader cultural trend.

When Chatterbox ventures beyond his immediate circle of friends and colleagues, creative use of the phrase suffers a steep drop-off. Clearly, “disrespecting the Bing” has not reached the Gladwellian tipping point. A search of news databases turned up the following:

1)    On April 29, “Disrespecting the Bing” was a subhead in a story posted on about a modest rally in the stock market. Chatterbox could not divine its meaning in this context.

2)    On April 30, Dallas Morning News sportswriter Tim Cowlishaw used the phrase to describe a visiting hockey team’s insolent victory over the hometown team in a soon-to-be shuttered arena.

3)    On May 10, San Francisco Chronicle TV writer Tim Goodman suggested that West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin beat his current drug-possession rap by telling the judge, “I’m sorry I disrespected the Bing.”

Chatterbox also tried the Web, but this only turned up a couple of false positives. One was a Village Voice story from last December about Riker’s Island. The women’s jail cell block there for unruly prisoners is called the “Bing,” and apparently one of the offenses that get you put there is showing disrespect to the guards. The other bum lead was to a Web obit site about the crooner Bing Crosby that mentioned his son Gary’s disrespectful memoir, Going My Own Way. (If you wish to respect Der Bingle, click here.)

These findings lead Chatterbox to the following preliminary conclusions:

1)    For the few who have used the phrase “disrespecting the Bing” thus far, its appeal seems mainly that it shows you watch The Sopranos and that you appreciate the phrase’s comic absurdism: In reality, you can’t “disrespect” a strip club, which is what the Bing, or “Bada Bing,” happens to be.

2)    Thus far, nobody except Chatterbox is using the phrase to mean “plead guilty to a lesser offense in order to dodge responsibility for a bigger one.”

3)    The phrase, “disrespecting the Bing” has particular appeal to sportswriters, San Francisco Chronicle writers, and writers named “Tim.”

No doubt Chatterbox has missed a few instances where “disrespecting the Bing” has been applied outside the Sopranos context. Readers are invited to alert Chatterbox to any examples he might have missed, preferably with a link to where Chatterbox may find it online. Submissions will be added below as they come in.

[Update, May 11: Multiple readers alerted Chatterbox that the phrase “Disrespecting the Bing” appeared onscreen during the May 9 broadcast of Comedy Central’s Daily Show while host Jon Stewart mocked New Jersey congresswoman Marge Roukema for complaining about the way The Sopranos portrays Italian-Americans.

Two readers also alerted Chatterbox that the phrase was used May 10 on ESPN to describe a home run hit by St. Louis Cardinals player Albert Pujols.

Jake McIntyre chided Chatterbox for overlooking frequent Slate contributor Joshua Marshall’s use of the term  on his Weblog, “Talking Points,” while taking George Will to task for allegedly borrowing from a New Republic article by Nick Confessore. Marshall generously provided a link to Chatterbox’s earlier item.

Also, David Gaffen, author of the stock market story on in which “Disrespecting the Bing” appeared as an incomprehensible subhead, has e-mailed in to assure Chatterbox: ”There isn’t any market context. Just trying to see if people are paying attention. So far, you’re the only one who noticed outside the office.”]

[Update, May 12: Reader J.A. Pittas-Giroux says it cropped up again today on ESPN.]

[Update, May 16: “Disrespecting the Bing” got mentioned once again on Comedy Central’s Daily Show May 14, according to reader Jeremy Richardson.]

[Update, May 16: It also came up again on ESPN May 15, in the form of “respecting the Bing,” according to reader Aditya Bamzai.]