For all that writers complain about it, blogging is objectively one of the less painful jobs out there. You log on, you aggregate some news, you resign yourself to committing to some half-formed opinion, you pretend that constantly checking social media is part of your job. Sure, the pay and job security are sometimes not ideal, and it’s often difficult to pretend even to yourself that what you do for a living provides any value to society… Still, it could be a lot worse.
But one of the stranger parts of stringing together silly combinations of words for the internet is being on the receiving end of readers whose reactions to those words are so unpredictable they make you question your own grasp of the English language. People get mad at the weirdest things, and not even just at deliberately inflammatory statements about politics or vaccines or, say, gun control. A tossed-off joke, an innocuous one-liner your editor thought was funny, a 200-word post about kittens written in 15 minutes, even just a stray observation that you tweeted at 1 a.m. while waiting for the melatonin gummies to kick in — all become fodder over which the most humorless people imaginable can froth their mouths tell you to go jump back up your mother.
Having received my fair share of reader responses that elicit genuine reactions of “Huh? That’s what they’re mad at?”, I invited my colleagues to share their tales of similar experiences. Here, we present our patchwork of fairly anodyne things we said online that nevertheless really upset people, along with a collective apology: We still don’t quite understand, but for whatever we did, we’re sorry.
The word “Italianx”
In December, I wrote a short blog post titled “Ridley Scott Claps Back at Ungrateful Guccis: I Cast Italian Icon Al Pacino.” My first line was: “For better or for worse, Ridley Scott’s new film House of Gucci is a major step forward for Italianx representation.” In hindsight, this line could too easily be removed from its context (the context being: I do not care) and taken at face value, which is exactly what happened. In the months since this post was published, I have routinely been castigated by editors for places like The American Conservative and Twitter users with Italian flags in their bios for what they interpret as my wanton woke-ification of the Italian language — italiano, as you might know it. It’s gotten to the point where I have to maintain a standing statement about how “I’m a staunch ally of the Italianx American community and their right to batch-cook huge quantities of tomato sauce for canning.” Italians, I understand why you may be a little protective of your lingua nativa, but please exercise a little restraint before you go all 🤌 on a fellow lover of Romance languages: I’ve finished six units of Italian on Duolingo, for Dio’s sake. — Jenny G. Zhang, staff features writer
I said that corgis are overrated. This was not received well. — Brandy Jensen, deputy editor
Harry Potter engagement ring
People have gotten mad at various things I’ve written over the past 400 years, but the angriest and most enduring reaction was to a 2015 post I wrote about how if you buy a Harry Potter engagement ring (one in particular was the subject of a NY Daily News article at the time) you should not be allowed to get married.
I was extremely hungover while writing it, and it is not a particularly good post, but I still agree with the sentiment. I don’t think adults should be buying each other Harry Potter rings, now less than ever. In the immediate aftermath and for many years after, I got angry emails from adult Harry Potter people who disagreed with me, and who thought buying a Harry Potter engagement ring was actually a wonderful way to tell another person you wanted to be their partner until death, due to some business about the Golden Snitch being hard to catch. (It was also the subject of this blog post, which I had not seen until now, and I think there were Reddit threads about it.) — Kelly Conaboy, senior features writer
I also got a lot of hate after I called Hugh Grant my husband in this post. People had Googled it and found out that Hugh Grant was actually NOT my husband. Hard to trick people these days. — Kelly
Natural peanut butter
On my old Twitter account I tweeted about how natural peanut butter is simply not as good as regular peanut butter. It somehow went viral, and many people were very upset. They claimed I was promoting sugar consumption and obesity. Some people said I didn’t care about my body and was going to get cancer. Others were mad because they assumed I was not stirring the natural peanut butter and just didn’t know how to eat it. I will never eat natural peanut butter again. — Sarah Hagi, contributing writer
Amazon Prime Video’s epic fantasy series Wheel of Time
I recently wrote a post about the state of Rosamund Pike’s career that included a throwaway line about the Amazon show Wheel of Time. I said that there were only seven fans of the series, which is apparently not true because suddenly I was getting a lot of Twitter notifications from at least eight. What I understand now is that I made the grave mistake of being a little snarky to a fantasy community, which — given how long I have been on the net — I should have known not to do. I stand by my statement, though, because there is no conversation surrounding that show, and Rosamund Pike continues to make bad role choices. — Olivia Craighead, staff writer
Wes Anderson’s girlfriend looking fine
During the 2015 Oscars, when I was working at old Gawker, I wrote a post about Wes Anderson’s girlfriend and how she was normal-looking. The meta joke, which I admittedly executed extremely poorly, was that she looked like me (glasses, brown hair, slightly unkempt). But people said it was very mean because I said she was “pretty, I guess.” In fact, Brooklyn Magazine called it “the most mean-spirited blog post about the Oscars.” I live in constant regret about it and want to personally apologize to Wes Anderson’s girlfriend Juman Malouf, as well as Brooklyn Magazine. — Leah Finnegan, editor-in-chief
I allowed an editor to slip in a pretty mild opinion about Banksy’s art sucking in a blog post last fall (sometimes these things happen), and someone wrote in to tell me to get on a boat with my parents’ immigration papers — presumably so I can go back to China? A little much, if you ask me. — Jenny
Pioneer Woman’s cheeseburger soup
Once I wrote a blog post about the Pioneer Woman that was sort of wry for a popular recipe/lifestyle blog that is not exactly known for its LOLer sensibility. A bunch of people called me a coastal elitist for the comments I made about her cheeseburger soup recipe (I’m from Illinois). My mom and sister, using their real names, started cyberbullying my detractors in the comments without my consent. My editor was like, “Do you happen to know these women who have the same last name as you using explicit language in the cheeseburger soup comments section?” The editor ended up removing a bunch of lines about cheeseburger soup and the Pioneer Woman's husband Ladd from my post, and then I was blacklisted from the site. Maybe I was being a coastal elitist, IDK. — Claire Carusillo, contributing writer