Tony Kornheiser


Tony Kornheiser is the self-admitted opinionated, sarcastic sports and style columnist for The Washington Post. Kornheiser’s purpose is not to report to the reader an objective account of a sporting event, but rather to add humor to topics that range in topic from the Washington Redskins ("It’s Now an Off-Road Vehicle," November 5, 1996) to his lunch-time experience the other day ("In a Real Fix," November 3, 1996). Kornheiser’s diction, figurative language, and tone make his columns what they are. Often, diction, figurative language, and tone are not common in the journalistic world, but Kornheiser’s humor finds room for them.
Tony Kornheiser’s sarcasm is almost entirely related to his diction. He contains the skills to take something as insignificant as a restaurant changing on him unexpectedly and reports about it so that the common man can relate. He is The Washington Post’s Jerry Seinfeld. He blends the slang of the street man with the poetic verbs and fluid adjectives of an English teacher. For example, in "In A Real Fixe," Kornheiser says, "George was beginning to suspect that we had entered (doo-doo, doo-doo). . . The Nouvelle Dining Zone." Most people who have watched the Twilight Zone before can relate this statement as a reference to the famous TV show, so Kornheiser’s slang was effective in grabbing the reader, even if a large majority of them have no idea what the word "nouvelle" means. Kornheiser uses an array of such adjectives throughout his pieces but he does not pretend to be above his readers. He fills his work with colloquial speech such as his references in "It’s Now an Off-Road Vehicle" to other Washington Post columnists such as Michael Wilbon, and to his "Redskins Bandwagon." (The Redskins Bandwagon was a common phrase used by Washington Redskins fans when the team won the Superbowl in 1991). Kornheiser assumes that the reader is familiar with him, and that is clear in his informal diction that is used with the reader. It is almost to the point of a friendship, as though a coworker was letting off his steam at work during a lunch break.
Kornheiser’s figurative speech also add to his style quite well. The blend of diction and figurative speech is clear as Kornheiser uses several local allusions in his metaphors and similes that add to his "common man" image. For example, in "In a Real Fixe," Kornheiser compares the look of a hostess’ face to one of a nurse at St. Elizabeth’s, a local mental hospital. In that same article he also compares his whole experience to "going down into the Metro and finding you’re on the Concorde." His figurative language add to his sarcasm. Anytime a metaphor or a simile is used, it is used for exaggeration purpose. Sarcasm is funny exaggeration. Kornheiser compared his expensive lunch meal to "Big Red chewing gum wrapped around a pimento." That’s funny because he is comparing such an precious meal to a piece of gum and a pimento, a $25 meal to a 25 cent meal. In "It’s Now an Off-Road Vehicle," the whole column is one giant metaphor. His Redskins Bandwagon (which is supposedly a vehicle that starts up and gets ready to let fans hop on all the way to the Superbowl with the Redskins, but if you are a Kornheiser reader, he expects you to know that already) has turned into an "off-road vehicle" because of a Redskins crushing defeat to a team. His figurative language is easy to understand, and it is funny. Always, though, it is used in a satirical manner and it is always used to help the reader to relate to the situation, usually in their terms.
The most important element of Kornheiser’s writing is his tone. His tone is extremely sarcastic, light-hearted, facetious, and sometimes derogatory to his peers. It is his tone which makes the diction and the figurative language work. If his tone were one of seriousness, there would still be the sarcasm but it would be far less understandable. In "In a Real Fixe," the main theme of his story is about how uncomfortable he and his friends felt in the fancy restaurant that had once been an eat-and-go place. It is apparent how uncomfortable they felt by the quotes