What is Modern Jackass Magazine?

“You know we sound like we’re in a magazine: A magazine called “Modern Jackass.”

Last year, a decade-old episode of the radio show This American Life introduced me to a concept that I regret not having in my vocabulary since July, 2005, when the episode first aired.

During the prologue of the episode, a producer on the show, Nancy Updike, recounted the origin of a term she first heard when she and a group of her friends were traveling around Europe a couple of years earlier.

Here is an audio version of the short explanation (my short version is below).

While walking through a city, they decide that a particular building has a very Moorish influence. While none of them actually know that much about architecture, they launch into what seemed like an informed discussion that went like, “the Moors this” and “the Moors that.:

Suddenly one of the friends stops and says: “You know we sound like we’re in a magazine: A magazine called “Modern Jackass.”

Hearing that line has changed my life.

Now, whenever I take a little snippet of a fact that I run across somewhere on the web — a snippet I can no longer source and have likely enhanced in one way or another — I have a verbal “Caution” sign I can use in a conversation as a caveat or warning: What I’m about to say may sound true, but there’s a good chance it’s not.

Instead of saying, “I read this in the New York Times,” I now have a way to say, “I heard this somewhere but take it with a grain of salt,”

The phrase, “I think I read this recently in Modern Jackass Magazine,” gives me the ability to admit in advance I may not know much about what I’m about to say, but that’s never stopped me before so why should it now.

Or, at least that’s what I read in The Journal of Jackass Psychology.