One of four bookshelves I have devoted to etymology — TOLD you I'm a cholo nerd

Gentle cabrones:

I try not to get TOO jargon-y here…eh, who am I kidding?

As I’ve said before, if this here journalism thing doesn’t work out, I’m going to become an etymologist.

Words have always fascinated me, but especially languages. And not just the languages of ethnic groups, but of professions. Subcultures. Scenes.

Jargons. Cants. Pidgins. Lingos. Slangs.

So lemme tell you a couple from journalism!

A lede is the beginning of a story. “Inside baseball” means something’s way too limited in scope to appeal to an audience beyond those who live and breath it.

A talker is someone who’s a quotes machine. The “velvet coffin” is the world of someone who doesn’t write much but gets paid a shitload. “Kerning” is the name given to the space between letters — and how cool is THAT.

Then we come to TKTK. It signifies “to come” — that is, you put in a TKTK when you don’t have the information that goes in that space just yet but will fill it in at some point.

TKTK is a good way to live life — goals in a way, but goals that MUST be met or your editor will get mad at you if you don’t put it in time.

And do you REALLY want your editor mad at you?

Only sometimes.


First time reading this newsletter? Subscribe here for more merriment! Buy me a Paypal taco here. Venmo: @gustavo-arellano-oc Feedback, thoughts, commentary, rants? Send them to

This here newsletter thing is one giant TKTK, honestly.

Every week when I sit down to write the latest canto (always Friday evening, so that I rush-job it to make it sound as conversational as possible), I start drafts then save them for another time.

Not the right time to publish that canto, I’ll think. Too close in theme to a previous one. Not formed well enough. To be published on my deathbed.

I never throw my TKTKs away, because they’re all subjects I need to address (an example: the time I bought a book of Greek myths for a woman. TOTAL life lesson there). They’re in a secret archive.

I have so many of these drafts that I’m like J.D. Salinger, except without the creepiness, reclusiveness, or hatred of Charlie Chaplin.

I will get to them all at some point. But life does get in the way — as it should. You shouldn’t be stuck on a particular plan ever. Just roll with what actually happens instead of stew about what could’ve been.

But if you have a good thing, a great idea in life, you need to get back to that TKTK and fill it. You put the TKTK for a reason, usually instinctual (I’m old-school so will always side with instincts over sabremetrics).

The only person that loses if you don’t fulfill that TKTK, of course, is you.

It’s a shorter canto this week, because, well, TKTK. Had a long one I saved at the last minute to sync up with something. But trust me: it’s a total A1, above-the-fold stuff— okay, enough lingo.

P.S., why do journalists use TKTK and not TCTC? There’s an urban legend to explain it, but that’s too inside-baseball for ustedes, so I’ll skip THAT.


This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…

Your Canto about sewing a button finally motivated me to write the following question? How does every Mexican who learned to knit hold their knitting needles?

For me it was my Abuelita Chelo who taught me to crochet and knit when I was seven. I continued to crochet but I had to re-learn how to knit in graduate school when my roommate’s mom wanted some knitting patterns translated into Spanish. That’s when I learned that I had been knitting from the back (of the loop) versus what every English knitting instruction assumes, that every knitter knits from the front (of the loop).

Several years later when I decided to join a knitting group here in New England, that’s when I learned my abuela had taught me to knit in a
Continental style versus the English style. Thinking about my abuela being from Northern Chihuahua. I’ve started to wonder if there was some German influence in knitting styles in the region. Or have the Spaniards always knitted that way too? The Irish have their own even more efficient knitting style where one needle is held under their arm like a lever.

For the record, I still don’t know how to read or follow crochet instructions. I still do that free-style and eyeballing it, like both of my abuelas did.

I have not crocheted since forever, so can’t even begin to comprehend this question, let alone answer it. BUT if Germans or other continental Europeans influenced Mexicans, that wouldn’t be the first time. Where do you think we picked up the waltz? Sure wasn’t from that butcher Cortés, who just celebrated 500 years of the most undeserving victory since the 1990s Houston Rockets.

Got a question for Guti? Email me here.


Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Part of the drive-thru menu at Lucy’s Drive-In off La Brea in Los Angeles, where I always get the chile relleno burrito with a large Orange Bang! Jonathan Gold always used to say I over-romanticized the meal; I would tell him he was brilliant but not Jesus, and that Lucy’s Drive-In’s chile relleno burrito was bliss. Moral of the story? Get it, and see whether Mr. Gold or I was right!

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The only truth is that you are being lied to all the time.”

–Salman Rushdie, on what he feels is one of the grand beliefs of Gabriel Garcia Márquez

LISTENING:Function At The Junction,” Shorty Long. The Motown artist is far better known for the iconic “Devil in a Blue Dress,” but this jam! Shoutouts to TV shows, dances, multiculturalism, with hep talk, tambourines, cooing chorus, all while the Funk Brothers drag out an organ that never stops its slithers around Shorty’s joyous voice — TOTALLY underrated Motown rola.

READING: Cuban Modernism”:  The rare article that simultaneously praises and trashes both Batista’s AND Castro’s Cuba, this one through the narrow lens of Cuban architecture and its adherents. You don’t even have to care about architecture without coming away from this article feeling smarter than you once were.

SHOUTOUT TO: Sarah, who kindly donated 50 tacos to sponsor a full month of MailChango! “No plug. I found you recently and enjoy your writing style. Keep up the good work.” Well, hell.

Take my Online Journalism Class!

I’m teaching Journalism 117 (Narrative Non-Fiction) at Orange Coast College again this fall. Here’s the catalogue listing,  but I can tell you here it’ll be every Monday from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. PST, that you’ll read and write A LOT — but that if you stick with me, you’ll be able to conquer most journalism mountains. Don’t believe me? Keep on reading…and sign up TODAY. Class starts in a couple of weeks, so DO IT DO IT DO IT!!!

Gustavo in the News

Food-Focused SXSW Voting Guide (39 Submissions Worth Upvoting)”: Get me to South by Southwest, corona notwithstanding!

How a Taco Truck in Huntington Beach Is Serving Guerrero-Inspired Flavors in MAGA-Land”: My former OCC student Sean Vukan wrote this and plugged my mentorship on his IG page, and then L.A. Taco was kind enough to mention the same #respect

Rachel’s English”: A fan turned me on to a 2019 clip where this shepherd of Shakespeare ridicules how I pronounce “echelon” and refers to me as a native speaker of English. Spanish was my first language, guv’ness, so I’ll pronounce words in English however I damn well please. Way to take me back to first grade, pendeja.

Gustavo Podcast

Latest roster of episodes for “The Times: Daily news from the L.A. Times,” the podcast that I host. Listen to them, and SUBSCRIBE. Don’t let me become the Poochie of podcasts!

What does it take for a doctor to lose their license?”: The eternal shitshow that is the Medical Board of California.

Trying to smash sexism in the video game world”: Workers from Activision Blizzard speak up against the culture of their bosses.

Emmys favorites, underdogs and ‘Below Deck’”: I show how little I know about modern-day television save for Bravo and The White Lotus.

Get out of here with that corn”: What other daily news podcast would devote an episode to non-GMO heritage corn?

A Black police officer opens up”: My L.A. Times colleague Kevin Rector offers a personal take on covering the LAPD.

Gustavo Stories

Grítale a Guti, Ep. 61”: The latest episode of my Tuesday-night IG Live free-for-all.

Amid jeers and recall threats, newest member of Huntington Beach City Council takes high ground”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about the latest hilarity in Surf City.

Policy and people after plagues”: My latest KCRW “Left, Right & Center” appearance talks about living in a world of COVID-19, sees me reprimand Andrew Sullivan on hating anti-police state initiatives, and offers a rant on the MSM overlooking Vicente Fernandez.

Fernandomania @ 40”: The latest episodes of the awesome L.A. Times series on that magical 1981 LA Dodgers season with Fernando Valenzuela.

Huntington Beach’s first Black councilwoman faces jeers with calm. No wonder the MAGA crowd hates her”: My latest LA Times columna profiles Rhonda Bolton, who faced a recall attempt within half an hour of her first city council meeting because gee I wonder why…. KEY QUOTE: “Speaker after speaker lobbed wild-eyed accusations at Bolton — that a “globalist ideology” facilitated her selection, that she is an “extremist” who indulged in “racial pandering” through her diversity consulting firm, that she wants to impose a “radical agenda on the innocent youth of our city.”

You made it this far down? Gracias! Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while you’re down here. Don’t forget to forward this newsletter to your compadres y comadres! And, if you feel generous: Buy me a Paypal taco here. Venmo: @gustavo-arellano-oc