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The Glasgow Kiss

Whatever Marco Materazzi may have said to provoke Zinedine Zidane's gargantuan loss of composure in the World Cup final, that's between the two of them. On what "The Ballad of Billy Jack" memorably called "the bloody morning after," it seems worth considering the good things to come out of the incident.

1) It is shining a well-deserved spotlight on the conversation-ender to end all conversation-enders, the vicious headbutt. It's sometimes seemed that the headbutt has been overshadowed in recent years by reasoned debate and a willingness to hear the other party out -- a by-product, I guess, of political correctness and the advice-giving culture, which holds that ultimately no one is personally responsible for anything.  Nice to see that noodle-headed attitude put to rest on a vast world stage. The vicious  headbutt is brisk, direct and unambiguous. It affirms one's active engagement in the discussion. "You said it," Zidane's action subtextually read. "Now own it. Here, let me help you."

2) It has brought back into public use the many colorful nicknames given the headbutt over eons of bar-fighting, including the "Glasgow Handshake," the "Glasgow Kiss" and the "Gorbals Kiss" (the term of art applied within Glasgow itself, where generations of Glaswegians have had time to not only perfect the technique but to pinpoint its origins).

3) It has spotlighted the overlooked rhetorical device of the toponym, or a name derived from a place or region. (See #2 above.) Other examples: Angora wool, Neanderthal Man, the Havana cigar and the Philadelphia Howdy (a quick, debilitating sucker punch to the kidneys).

4) It has allowed me to quote from "The Ballad of Billy Jack," a/k/a "One Tin Soldier," the pinnacle of 1960s pop songcraft.

With all that in mind, we shouldn't be treating Zidane with scorn. We should be thanking him. He has made the public discourse richer this week. It's inspiring. In fact, I'm thinking I may go out tonight, have a few boilermakers, and in Zidane's honor, make it a little richer myself.

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