When Dan Rather leaves CBS Evening News in March, America will lose our best chance to see an anchorman completely blow his top on live television, Howard Beale style.
During the Jennings-Brokaw-Rather era of network news, there has never been question who the weirdest anchor was. Wikipedia runs down a few rather odd moments, from the disturbing "what's the frequency, Kenneth?" mugging to his telling people "Courage" at the end of broadcasts for one week in September 1986, at which point he chickened out in the face of widespread mockery.
As a Texan myself, I will most miss Rather's clumsy attempts at folksy metaphors, especially when he's vamping during a live broadcast. He says so many odd things that they've come to be known as ratherisms. One from Election Night 2000 turned out to be a pretty good description of the broadcast media's performance that evening:
Frankly we don't know whether to wind the watch or to bark at the moon.
Many ratherisms lose some of their homespun wisdom by virtue of being completely made up, rather than something that Texans have been saying to each other for decades as we talk between spittoon shots at the local saloon at the end of a cattle drive before bedding a comely schoolmarm. Lately, Rather's been trying to invent a new double-adverb, tee-totally, me-mortally.
A 2003 appearance on Larry King Live:
King: Time magazine is reporting that some Arab leaders are encouraging a scene whereby Saddam Hussein is overthrown, exiled or possibly taken out. What are you hearing about that over there, Dan?
Rather: Larry, I've seen absolutely tee-totally, me-mortally no indication of that in traveling around Iraq, principally in and around Baghdad.
Lawyers are swarming over Ohio like locusts. And there are going to be more of 'em there tomorrow, and more of 'em the day after ... [Bush's people are] absolutely tee-totally, me-mortally convinced they’re going to carry Ohio.
A Google search shows this adverb to be completely original to the anchorman. No English speakers appear to have ever used it in a sentence unless they were quoting him.
So to Dan Rather I say, you will tee-totally, me-mortally be missed. Courage.