Professional ice hockey player Gordie Howe (1928-2016) said in 1967 that teammate Ted Lindsay was a “great bi-linguist—he’s always been well versed in English and profanity.” In 1975, a French sportwriter asked Howe if he was bilingual, and Howe replied:
“All pro athletes are bilingual. They know English and profanity.”
The “profanity” language joke predates Howe. “Ishmael, what languages do you speak?"/"Polish, English and Profanity” was cited in the Washington (DC) Post in 1942. “The fellow was bi-lingual. He used English and profanity with equal facility,” California Western head football coach AL Lewis said in 1963.
Wikipedia: Gordie Howe
Gordon “Gordie” Howe, OC (March 31, 1928 - June 10, 2016) is a Canadian retired professional ice hockey player. From 1946 to 1980, Howe played twenty-six seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) and six seasons in the World Hockey Association (WHA); his first twenty-five seasons were spent with the Detroit Red Wings. Nicknamed “Mr. Hockey”, Howe is considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time. A twenty-three time NHL All-Star, Howe held many of the sport’s scoring records until they were broken in the 1990s by Wayne Gretzky. Howe continues to hold NHL records for most games and seasons played.
7 May 1942, Washington (DC) Post, “The Post Impressionist: My Landlady” by Ismael S. Klubowicz, pg. 14, col. 7:
When she learned, and landladies have a way of learning, that I worked for FBMS she, passing me the fried chicken, asked, “Ishmael, what languages do you speak?”
“Polish, English and Profanity,” I replied, simultaneously spearing a buckwheat biscuit.
22 October 1963, San Diego (CA) Union, “Tongue-Ties Tribute To Lewis” by Jack Murphy, pg. B-3, col. 1:
“The fellow was bi-lingual,” said Lewis, “he used English and profanity with equal facility.”
(Al Lewis, head football coach at California Western.—ed.)
25 September 1964, San Diego (CA) ,Union, Jack Murphy column, pg. B-3, col. 1:
The season is young but Cal Western coach Al Lewis says he’s already learned to speak two languages. “I’m bi-lingual,” says Lewis, “I speak English and profanity.”
2 June 1966, San Diego (CA) Union, Jack Murphy column, pg. B-11, col. 1:
Most football players speak only two languages—English and profanity.
21 February 1967, Newsday (Long Island, NY), “Howe Has a Weakness, But It’s Not on the Ice” by Tim Moriarty, pg. 30A, col. 2:
Howe wound up his short speech by kidding his old friend (Ted —ed.) Lindsay as a “great bi-linguist—he’s always been well versed in English and profanity,” thanked all those who had turned out for the dinner and then asked to sit down “because I’ nervous as hell.”
27 May 1975, Toronto (Ontario) Star, “Names in the News,” pg. D1, col. 1:
And then there was the French-Canadian sportswriter who asked Gordie Howe the other day if he was bilingual.
“All pro athletes are bilingual,” replied Gordie. “They speak English and profanity.”
19 October 1975, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Devine still Douglass fan” by Cooper Rollow, sec 3, pg. 4, col. 2:
GORDIE HOWE, hockey immortal, asked by a French-speaking sportswriter if he were bilingual: “All pro athletes are bilingual. They speak English and profanity.”
Oxford Dictionary of Quotations by Subject
By Susan Ratcliffe
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
All pro athletes are bilingual. They speak English and profanity.
Gordie Howe 1928– Canadian icehockey player: in Toronto Star 27 May 1975
All hockey players are bilingual. They know English and profanity. - Gordie Howe #Quote #IQRTG
7:08 PM - 25 Sep 2015
Gordie Howe: Most memorable quotes by Mr. Hockey
BY SI WIRE
Posted: Fri Jun. 10, 2016
“All pro athletes are bilingual. They know English and profanity.” – Toronto Star, May 27, 1975