Blog Excerpts

Why Figure Skaters Wait in the "Kiss and Cry" Area

While watching the Winter Olympics, did you ever wonder why figure skaters await their scores in the "kiss and cry" area? Stefan Fatsis, sports blogger for Slate, tells the story behind the phrase.

Fatsis writes:

According to the 2004 book Cracked Ice: Figure Skating's Inner World by former skating judge Sonia Bianchetti Garbato of Italy, "kiss and cry" was coined by a Finnish skating official named Jane Erkko. Erkko was watching an ice dancing competition with some young skaters in the 1970s, and they noticed that the competitors kissed and cried while waiting for their scores. The expression "remained a joke among the skaters and with Jane as the place where the skaters would sit down after skating their programs," Garbato wrote.

Erkko was on the organizing committee for the 1983 World Figure Skating Championships, which were held in Helsinki. According to Garbato, Erkko and the television producers for the event were looking over a map of the rink to discuss camera placement. When the "chief technician" asked about a spot just off the ice that was decorated with flowers, "Jane very naturally answered that it was 'the kiss and cry corner.' " He wrote KISS AND CRY in all caps on the map, Garbato reported, and the term stuck.

So who was the mystery technician? At the time, CBS was broadcasting the world championships. In the 2011 e-book Skating on Air: The Broadcast History of an Olympic Marquee Sport by Kelli Lawrence, former CBS Sports executive producer Rick Gentile credited the kiss-and-cry coinage to his colleague Peter Donlan. I followed up with Gentile, who produced the 1992, 1994, and 1998 Winter Olympics. He told me that CBS had long wanted to station a camera in the off-ice area where the skaters waited for their marks, but the producers of the world broadcast feed balked, until they finally agreed to do so in the early '80s.

Donlan was CBS's London-based operations manager and the point person for dealing with the figure skating championship's organizers. According to Gentile, Donlan first called it the kiss-and-cry area "and so it ever shall be." He said it's possible that Joe Aceti, a CBS Sports director, came up with the phrase, but that "Peter was the one who made it an internationally accepted term." [...]

But it took a few years for "kiss and cry" to travel from the rink and the production truck into the sports vernacular. Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer says the first reference to "kiss and cry" in news databases is a May 1987 article by John Powers of the Boston Globe. "Yes," Powers wrote, "that place where figure skaters clutch their flowers and await their marks has a name—the Kiss and Cry Area." The Times didn't use "kiss and cry" until a pre-Olympics, pre-knee-whacking profile of Nancy Kerrigan in January 1994.

The phrase, Zimmer says, is one of several "kiss and blank" descendants of "kiss and tell," which dates to a 1695 comedy by the English poet and playwright William Congreve. ("O fie, miss, you must not kiss and tell.") For instance, "kiss and ride" was coined around 1956 by the general manager of the Chicago Transit Authority after he watched wives kiss husbands goodbye at a train drop-off, Zimmer says.

Read the rest here. A version of this story also appeared on Slate's sports podcast "Hang Up and Listen," which you can catch here.


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Wednesday February 19th, 9:45 AM
Comment by: Nancy FriedmanVisual Thesaurus Contributor
The Scripps National Spelling Bee has a "Kiss and Cry" room for eliminated contestants.

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