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The Canine in Conversation
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Stephen Colbert and Kay Bailey Hutchinson on television screen
figure 1  


barking heads. Media commentators, especially those who inhabit free-for-all shouting matches such as The Mclaughlin Report or The O'Reilly Factor.

In 2001, Word Spy named the “first use”—in print at least—as having come in 1988 in the The Toronto Star: “The sports anchor desk jockeys are still, by and large, a good-looking, well-coiffed bunch of guys. ... They're still LOUD, in the age-old tradition of assaulting your eardrums with headline-shrieking staccato sentences. ... But, in fact, there is something new going on here. ... The barking heads have been nurturing personal styles whose only shared quality is a kind of evangelical furor. (Rosie DiManno, ‘The Boys of Yammer,’ The Toronto Star, April 16, 1988.)”reference 1 It took the New York Times a few years to catch on. In 2004, Tom Kuntz came out with the Gray Lady's definition: “An aggressive or loud broadcast commentator.”reference 2 Despite these sources' singular approach, it is my impression that barking heads run in packs.

1. Mullikin, Laurie. 2001 Barking Head. Word Spy, Feb 23 2001. Accessed Feb 13 2006 from http:// words/barkinghead.asp.

2. Kuntz, Tom. 2004. Word for Word/Political Tongue; Slang Only a Velcroid Would Love. New York Times, Oct 3, 5.
About the illustration: For the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert “repurposed” footage of Kay Bailey Hutchison’s appearance on Meet The Press.reference 3 Here we see them side-by-side as if actually in dialogue. Colbert has managed to satirize the barking heads quite effectively. This work is copyrighted and unlicensed. I believe that the use of this work in the article “barking heads” to illustrate the subject in question qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law. Any other uses of this image may constitute copyright infringement.   3. Hoskinson, Jim and S. Colbert. 2005. The Colbert Report. Comedy Central. Oct 24.
see also: bark; bark is worse than his bite; bark up the wrong tree
cf: attack dog politics
Last updated: February 8, 2008
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