John Kelly writes five times a week about the joys and annoyances of living in Washington. He aims to show readers the Washington (and Silver Spring, Alexandria, Manassas, Bowie ...) that they know and take them places they don't know. He wants to make them see familiar things in unfamiliar ways and unfamiliar things in familiar ways. ("We may occasionally end up seeing unfamiliar things in unfamiliar ways," John says, "but such are the risks of the job.") His columns take a cockeyed view of the place the rest of the planet knows as the Capital of the Free World but that we all call home. John rides the Metro for fun and once kidnapped an Irishman to see what made him tick.
Fridays at 1 p.m. ET John's online to chat about his columns and mull over anything that's on your mind.
This week's columns:
New in Town, Stranger?, (Post, Oct. 1)
For Metro, Time to Ride the Gravy Train, (Post, Sept. 30)
Gone to the Little Wheel in the Sky, (Post, Sept. 29)
A Profound Sense of Loss, (Post, Sept. 28)
Answer Man: The Straight Scoop, (Post, Sept. 27)
Post columnist John Kelly
(The Washington Post)
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
John Kelly: Is it fall? I think it might be. There was that delightful chill in the air this morning. I've missed autumn. I know it only seems like last year that it was here last, but the warm weather's hung on too long. But enough about that...
Let's talk about this week's columns. It always takes me a while to remember what it was I wrote about, so fried is my brain by Friday. But thanks to the Internet, it's a simple matter to discover that this is how the columns shaped up:
Monday: What happens to the poop produced by police horses?
Tuesday: Losing it. Rings, that is, and wallets and other stuff.
Wednesday: Requiem for a lightweight. A funeral oration for Piney the hamster.
Thursday: Surefire ways Metro can solve its budget problems.
Friday: How to talk like a DC native.
Since we last met all sorts of things have happened: DC has a baseball team and Bush and Kerry duped it out. I mean duked it out. And fall arrived.
Crystal City, Va.:
Hello John! Happy Friday!
I certainly enjoyed your column yesterday, about Metro! Too funny! Hope you've received some good ideas! Like a "quiet car"!
Have a great weekend!
washingtonpost.com: For Metro, Time to Ride the Gravy Train, (Post, Sept. 30)
John Kelly: Thank you. Yes, I've received some great ideas for helping Metro out. Look for them in my column in a few weeks. One of my favorites is to turn those useless lighted message boards in Metro stations into something akin to a Keno machine. You could wager on what color the next train would be.
I thought the whole point of today's article was to pinpoint visitors from locals. Yet one person wrote in complaining about those of us that pronounce "Washington" with an "r" in it. But this is the "Washington" accent, so if you hear someone put that "r" in Washington, they are either a native of the area, or have been here long enough to pick up the local accent.
washingtonpost.com: New in Town, Stranger?, (Post, Oct. 1)
John Kelly: I've had a few e-mails along these lines, too, one from a person in Manassas who says that's how old-timers pronounce Washington and one from Maryland who says it's the Maryland influence on local dialects. I don't want to foment a cross-border skirmish, but I'm not sure that Virginians or Murrlinners are unimpeachable sources for this. Any spin that Newt Gingrich gives a word is best avoided. I think back to how my late grandmother--born and bred in D.C., great-grand daughter of Jehiel Brooks, he of Brookland--said "Washington" and there wasn't an R in it. "Warshington" strikes me as somehow...rural. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Hi John - Now that fall is here, I hope you'll join me in speaking out against one of the worst scourges of the season- the dreaded leaf blower. Has a more obnoxious device ever been invented? I don't care how big anybody's yard is. I don't care if it cuts costs for landscaping companies and their customers. I don't care about any of the excuses people have for using them. Listen up people- do your heart and your neighbors a favor. USE A RAKE!;!;
John Kelly: They are pretty annoying. While a vacuum cleaner is a substantial improvement over a broom, and thus warrants the extra noise, a leaf blower isn't not appreciably better than a rake. I especially love it when some guy is standing over a single leaf stuck in the mulch with his blower turned up to maximum thrust in an effort to dislodge it. Buddy! Just bend over and pick the leaf up already!
Silver Spring (not Springs), Md. (Chris):
Thanks for the great work this week. I think it might be hard to top this one... you brought it to a new level.
I wanted to ask you if Piney has been replaced as of yet? God bless his little furry soul!
John Kelly: No, no new hamster yet. Piney is still in cryogenic storage, in fact, next to the Edy's Light. We haven't had time to put him six inches under yet. Needless to say, I think it's time to explore Life After Piney (aka Life Without a Hamster). My Lovely Wife quickly disassembled his cage, sanitized it and put it in a box for me to hide in the basement.
re: today's column
People need to get over themselves. Who cares if someone adds or drops an S? I have lost count how many customers have mangled the name of my employer by inserting an AND (its simply Williams-Sonoma) but really - do I correct them? Of course not. Life is too short.
have a great weekend!
washingtonpost.com: New in Town, Stranger?, (Post, Oct. 1)
John Kelly: You mean it's NOT Williams and Sonoma? Just kidding. (Williams and Sonoma were a soft rock duo from the '70s best known for "Your Mama Can't Dance" and "House at Pooh Corner.")
Well you can't correct people, since the customer is always right. But "Silver Springs," man that grates. It's just wrong. Plus it's a whole 'nother city, in Florida. But I will have a nice weekend. Thank you, Lisa.
John Kelly: Oh, something I meant to ask: Anybody out there deposit money in an account years and years ago to reserve season tickets for a DC baseball team? It was started as a drive for "Baseball in '87." You could open an account to show that you'd pledge to support a team, if DC got one. I wondered if anybody still had their money there.
"Cheese eating surrender monkey" Very cute. I liked it--not because that's what I think of the French. Just a good line.
How exactly do people mispronounce "Judiciary?" Not being a Metro rider, I've missed out on what seems to be a possibility for considerable entertainment.
John Kelly: That line's not original to me. I think it originated with Willie the Groundskeeper on "The Simpsons." (Little known fact: He also said "We have nothing to fear but fear itself.") I invite fellow chatters to offer phonetic versions of "Judiciary Square." I recall hearing something approximating "JUDAH-sherry."
Walking on the escalators. In all the discussions about this, no one has mentioned my pet peeves about some of the people who walk or run on the escalator.
1. They hit the people standing on the right. I have been hit about once a week by a walker's huge purse as she walks down the escalator, or a guy's briefcase. Enough already. Keep your purse in front or behind you if your purse is too big to pass another person without hitting them.
2. NOISE. Some of these people have hammers in their shoes, or at least that is the way it sounds. It is worse when they wear the hard soled mules, but I've heard men making more noise than a jackhammer as they pound down the stairs. I would recommend these people wear softsoled shoes, or at least don't walk as hard.
John Kelly: There's a difference between hitting and touching. I don't mind an occasional quick bop when someone is passing me. And I hope they don't mind if I do the same to them. Now, decking them or severely jostling them, that's another story. But that can happen even if you don't have a purse or briefcase. Politeness, that's all anybody wants. It's polite to try not to hit someone as you walk past them. And it's polite not to block the escalator in case someone needs to catch a train.
I hadn't noticed the shoe noise myself.
Kerry CLEARLY won, making it clear that Bush is not only inarticulate but has nothing to say to address/explain/defend his manifestly insupportable decisions and policies.
John Kelly: I watched the whole thing and went to bed thinking that even if Kerry "won"--which is what the pundits were saying--there was nothing from either candidate that would change the mind of a voter who's already decided. And probably not a lot to swing an undecided voter. Bush would need to start speaking in tongues--or French--to alienate his base. Same for Kerry. I always get anxious watching those debates, since I want to answer the questions for them. They always fall back on their memorized boilerplate.
Enjoyed your article today, John, and actually learned something. Another mistake people make that drives me nuts (as a former Terp) is when people call the Univ. of Maryland "Maryland University". Just call it "Maryland" as we Terps do. There is no Maryland University.
John Kelly: Maryland University is pretty bad. Isn't that a problem with a lot of colleges, though? I don't know a lot about acadame, or college football, so I don't know which ones are "university of [blank]" versus "[blank] university." And don't some states have both? There's also something up with Harvard, isn't there? It's a university AND a college? (And a floor wax AND a dessert topping....)
Is there any truth to the rumor that Metro is contemplating changing the name of their police force to the Metro SS. Metro Transit Police spokesman saying the officers actions are justified are ridicolous. The cop may have had an attitude when he asked the perp to quite down. DOJ needs to investigate the Metro SS. Instead of preventing auto thefts, car break ins, robberies and rapes Metro is more worried about some talking loud! My advice talk loud in Metro, eat and ignore the SS! Civil disobedience!
John Kelly: I enjoy tweaking the transit police. Then again, when I was entering the Silver Spring station the other morning, they had a scary looking dude up against a wall, his hands handcuffed behind his back. I have no idea what he had done, but it reminded me that the Metro cops, like all cops, never know what might happen to them when they head off to work. I'm not excusing their occasional excess, just pointing out that it's not the easiest job in the world. (Underwear model is the easiest job in the world, by the way.) And if you're going to talk loudly and eat, please don't sit next to me.
Penn Quarter(s), Washington, D.C.:
Thanks for the pronunciation/usage guide this morning. Problem is, there are more to be had:
National Academy of Sciences, NOT National Academy of Science.
The county in which Richmond is located is spelled Henrico, but pronounced hen-RYE-ko, not hen-REE-ko.
And, like your last sentence, I hate when people call my Metro stop "ju-DISH-yoo-air-ee Square."
But is that part-time terminus on the red line "GROVE-ner," "GRO-ven-or," "GROVE-noar," or "GRO-ven-OAR"?
John Kelly: Oh there are plenty more I didn't have room for. (Or was too afraid to touch, like Fauquier County.) Some were open to interpretation. There are several schools of thought about Mt. Rainier, for example. And Calvert County. Proving, I suppose, that reasonable people can disagree. If you believe some Metro train operators, Grosvenor is "GROWS-ven-oar." Of course, that problem could go away if we changed the name of the stop to Monster.com.
As a native of the Valley of the Sun, I was surprised at your mention of a childhood home in Mesa (for some reason, I'd pegged you as a lifelong MD suburbanite). What years were you there? Any good "Wallace and Ladmo" memories to pass on (a shibboleth for any central AZ child in the 60's and 70's)?
John Kelly: My goodness. "Wallace and Ladmo." Those names haven't been in my brain for 30 years. That was a kid's TV show, right? I lived in Mesa from pre-K to 4th grade. Went to Christ the King Catholic School. Though it's been a long time since I've been there, I miss the desert.
What about L'Enfant Plaza? How exactly are you supposed to pronounce it? Luh-FAHNT?
John Kelly: That's how a lot of people say it. A Jerry Lewis-loving, Galoise smoker would say something like "luh-FAW."
We sold our house! And our offer on a new one got accepted! Yay! Thanks for all the good thoughts from last week and please continue good ones for the coming weeks. Now the fun stuff begins -- loan app., insurance, movers . . . why did we ever start this?
John Kelly: Congratulations. Why did you start? Because people like you are the gas that drives the economic engine that turns the turbine that powers our country. I hope you'll run up a huge debt on your credit cards too, to complete your contribution.
Takoma Park, Md.:
per today's column: The metro is in Takoma DC. Weekend
section today calls it "Takoma Park" as do countless Metro
operators. Greater minds than mine can tell you why
Takoma DC and Takoma Park MD. I just know it grates on
John Kelly: One of my first big jobs as a freelance writer was rewriting the Fodor's travel guide to Washington. It was a ton of work and when it was finally printed I looked at the map they'd stuck in the front. It had the Metro stations on it, including, between Fort Totten and Silver Spring, something called "Tacoma." It wasn't my fault but man was it embarrassing. They fixed it for the second edition. I always wondered if their guide to the American Northwest featured "Takoma," Washington.
Judiciary Square, Groves-noor . . .:
. . . and my favorite, Dew Point Circle.
John Kelly: And remember that Dupont Circle the Metro stop is pronounced differently from DuPont, the chemical company. The stress is on the other syllable, n'est-ce pas?
As a native of Havre de Grace, the many many ways to butcher the name has always amused me. What got my goat about your article in today's Post, is that your "correct" pronunciation of Havre de Grace was wrong! The way the natives pronounce it is: Hav-ur dee Grase. In other words about as far away from the correct French ponunciation. No Havruhs and no duhs please.
John Kelly: I bow to a native. You're right that the pronunciation is almost comically anti-French. In my defense, I should point out that I once dated a girl from Northeast, Maryland. (The name of that town always struck me as a little sad: "Hey, let's found a town in northeast Maryland! What shall we call it? How about Northeast, Maryland!")
San Francisco, Calif.:
I enjoyed your column on mistakes today, but must point out that it contained one of its own: only in SOUTHERN California do people place a "the" in front of freeway numbers. It is the easiest way to tell a SoCal person from a NoCal person.
John Kelly: Are there any other ways? Piercings? Tan lines?
San Francisco, Calif.:
As a native of Botetourt County now exiled here on the West Coast--what a great place to be exiled though!--I have to point out that adding "the" to the beginning of highway numbers is something that happens only in Southern California. Great column!
John Kelly: Is this the same person from San Francisco, or do TWO people from San Francisco drop in on this chat?
L'Enfant Plaza, Washington, D.C.:
May I suggest that in honor of metro employees, people in the DC region switch from saying "Going postal" on someone to "Going metro" on someone?
Clearly metro employees have some rage built up inside of them, otherwise they wouldn't attack a rider with a broom or wrestle a pregnant woman to the ground.
I think anger management courses are clearly called for at WMATA.
Thanks for the chats and columns they really improve my boring days!!
John Kelly: There you are, in the belly of the beast. How do YOU pronounce "L'Enfant"?
Dad from Brookland Mom from AU Park:
Mom always pronounces with the R, Dad never does.
John Kelly: Someone should be using this for their PhD thesis. I can see an intricate graphic charting the use of an R in "Washington," like the infiltration of kudzu across the landscape. The dividing line is obviously somewhere between AU Park and Brookland.
"A Jerry Lewis-loving, Galoise smoker would say something like 'luh-FAW.'"
No, the French say "lahnfahnt". "Lafahnt" is closer to the pronunciation of the French word for fountain, la font.
John Kelly: You know what, let's just call it "The Kid." NExt station stop, The Kid. Doors opening on the left.
Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.:
Being fairly new to DC I am suprised and bewildered at how people walk in this town. IT's like driving, people, stay to the right unless you spent over 20 years in the UK. On the metro platforms people walk like they are drunk- weaving all over the place making it impossible to get 2 efficient lanes of pedestrian traffic. Same thing on the sidewalks. Maybe its all the hick commuters coming in from god-know-where but come on people! you want the rest of the world to treat you more like a city and less like a small town-learn to walk! Slow people- stay to the right. Pass on the left. Always walk on the right (not correct, but opposite of left) side of the sidewalk- just like you drive on the right side of the street. It's not complicated. I wish I could hand out walking tickets to some of the erractic walkers in this town.
John Kelly: I'm old enough to have been taught to drive in high school. I always thought it would be cool to make a "walker's ed" film in the style of those driver's ed movies they would show. Remember? You'd sit in a fake car, press the "gas pedal" and watch the screen. Then a ball would roll into the street and you were supposed to hit the brakes before the toddler chased after the ball. There'd be a little "ding" after each incident, then the film would start up again. Maybe we need to do that for pedestrians.
Aspen Hill, Md.:
Metro got pretty favorable press for extending its hours later at night and starting earlier in the morning. It's put forward as a reason a baseball stadium in Southeast would be accessible. Yet one has to wonder how Metro can take on more use when it can't handle the load it already has. The Red Line has been a nightmare for months. This morning, back-ups in both directions which, our driver announced, were due to a train malfunctioning at Judiciary Square (she announced that we should expect delays after it was too late to switch to the Green Line at Fort Totten). Last night there were unexplained delays. I would not want to bank on Metro to get home late at night from a baseball game. Trains look dirtier than ever, and recycling bins are often overflowing. A commute that used to be semi-enjoyable has become a nightmare.
John Kelly: If I have a good book and don't have an appointment AND I have a seat, I barely notice the delays anymore. I'm just so used to them, inclduing the one this morning that kept me cooling my heels outside Union Station. But if I'm lacking any of those three--book, seat, no pressing hurry--and I'm royally cheesed off.
Bacteria in D.C. water:
I haven't read anything about this lately..do you know if the bacteria problem in D.C. water has been fixed? or how to find out?
John Kelly: I just spoke with a person at WASA. He said they've found no additional coliform bacteria in the water in their latest tests. He said the Dept of Health is still advising that people with compromised immune systems "seek alternate sources of water."
Was Bush thirsty or what? He drank almost 3 glasses of water...hmmmm..what does that represent?
John Kelly: I think it means he doesn't want to drink the coliform-flavored water in DC and so was stocking up on that sweet Coral Gables, Fla., H2O.
Re: This morning's column about mangled pronunciations, how should you pronounce the name of the Eastern Shore County wherein Ocean City, MD is located. (Worchester)? Is it "Wooster", as they pronounce it in Mass.? And how about Calvert Co., while we are at it? I happen to know the locals in the latter county say "Culvert", like the thing rain water flows through.
John Kelly: It is "wooster." And what really irritates them there is when you spell it "Worchester." They think you've confused them with Dorchester County, which is not pronounced "Dooster." Calvert/Culvert is a matter of some controversy in that county, I gather.
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.:
I've walked by the World Bank on H Street a couple of times in the past couple of months, and it sounds like screeching monkeys or parrots are hanging out in the trees there. What IS this noise, does anyone know?
John Kelly: Answer Man actually addressed that a while back, in his old home in the Sunday Source. They are the recorded distress calls of pigeons and the squawks of predatory hawks, all designed to keep pigeons from nesting on, and thus pooping on, the building. I believe they also play police horse distress calls, which is why you'll never see horse manure on the sides of the building.
And I thought that I was the only person bothered by the mangled pronunciation of "Judiciary square." I have to go by this stop every day, and it drives me batty that nearly every the train operator calls it Judi-SHOO-ary square. Glad to know I'm not the only neurotic, anal person around...
John Kelly: The only anal, neurotice person? In Washington? Never.
But there are local pronunciations that outsiders just sound silly trying to replicate. Like kul-vert for Calvert County. The guy's name was Calvert, so why not the county?
I'm a graduate of Syracuse University, which the locals there call SAIR-uh-kuice, last syllable rhyming with juice. That just sounds stupid, so I never say it that way.
John Kelly: Yes. I always think it's funny when some native English speaker is talking about, say, strife in Central America, and in the middle of their white-bread, Midwestern prose, pronounces Nicaragua as "NEEEK-a-RAH-GWAAAAAA." It's like when Ricky Ricardo would let loose a stream of Spanish and the only words you could pick out were "New York Yankees."
From the beast's belly:
I pronounce it Lawn-fawnt.
I also like to hear conductors say Vienner!; Where did the er come from?
John Kelly: Er....I don't know. Love those sausages though!
Given the pace thus far, it seems likely that MLB will not have the sale of the team finalized by Opening Day. Since the team name (along with so many other things) needs to be determined more quickly, I'd suggest that MLB decree that the team be named the Senators for the 3 years it will play at RFK. They can wear the red caps and the old uniforms, and those of us who remember the old days can get a sense of closure. Then when they're ready to move into the new park, the new owners can change the name, uniform and colors if they care to.
John Kelly: That's not a bad idea. that would make em a bunch of money, too, since people would have to buy two sets of souvenirs. Anything but the Expos, right?
When I came to the Washington area in the 1970's, we were lost in Rosslyn where I now live and asked a gas station owner for directions and he told us to turn at the Hot Shop pee." I thought that this is the Virginians talk.
John Kelly: I knew a guy who pronouced The Galleria shopping mall in Tysons as the "ga-LARRY-a."
Another item for today's column: there are no E's in Old Town.
John Kelly: Right, they're all in Hot Shoppe.
Foggy Bottom/GWU, Washington, D.C.:
If you were to rename Foggy Bottom/GWU, it would
actually be Foggy Bottom/Manush's Hot Dog stand. Any
GWU student knows Manush is where you go to get your
3am hot dogs (at least when I was there).
John Kelly: If Manush knows what's good for him, he'll head over to Southeast Washington right now and stake out turf for the new stadium.
Police State, Washington, D.C.:
Why all the furvor over the fact that the cell phone shouter was pregnant?
Are pregnant women exempt from the rules that require you to follow a police instruction?
How was he supposed to know she was pregnant (the lighting at Wheaton isn't exactly stellar)?
Are pregnant women being placed under arrest somehow less dangerous to a police officer?
Those rules about the proper way to restrain a suspect being arrested were developed for a reason -- to preserve the life of the officer.
At the very best, she was guilty of disturbing the peace and not following a direct police instruction. At worst, she committed assault. Either way, the police must act and the officer reacted as he was trained.
John Kelly: Now that's an interesting point. Should we treat pregnant women in some special way? they don't want to be discriminated against. If transit police are pushing everyone else to the ground, is it unfair NOT to do the same with pregnant women? Somewhere there is a lawyer who knows the answer to that question.
Worcester, Mass. native:
Worcester, MA is pronounced "Wuhster" or if you have a Massachusetts accent, "Wistah." The city and college in Ohio are "Wooster." So the Maryland one is like the Ohio one?
Also, everybody complains about the pronunciation of Judiciary Square...and yet nobody has ever told me how it's pronounced. I've asked. I've pleaded. So I don't think anyone knows.
John Kelly: Yarsh.
Metro Station manglings:
BTW, does anyone besides me think that the Metro cops should be sued for sex discrimination? How come it's always women who get manhandled for nuisance offenses - but I bet there's not a person reading this who can't think of at least one ride they took which was made miserable by loud or obscene language from some hulking young male. Why don't the cops go after them?
John Kelly: There's one rendering of "Judiciary." There's also the matter of judish-OOOO-ary versus judish-EEEE-ary.
Silver Spring, Md.:
Hey Dupont Circle -- get over it. There's no yellow line down the middle of a sidewalk.
And a gentleman always walks on the outside to protect a lady from the street.
John Kelly: And if the lady's pregnant, what then? Will she fit on the sidewalk?
I stopped practicing law in D.C. because I was afraid I would kill someone after the 10,000th time a conducter on the Red Line would announce that we were entering the "JudicUary Square" station, where I would disembark to get to Superior Court.
John Kelly: And somewhere an angel got its wings.
I had an account, but after a year or so the bank started a service charge so I closed it.
John Kelly: I think we did the same thing, but I think we held onto it for three or four years.
Just outside the district:
Thanks again for the entertaining poems about the METRO. Please don't stop!;
What's your next contest?
A poem for the new baseball team?
A cautionary poem for Marion Barry?
A poem to would be muggers?
A poem for voting rights?
A poem of admonishment for Tom Delay
(the winner of that one is promised an endorsement by Delay)
John Kelly: Good ideas all. I haven't decided yet. I do plan on musing, mildly, on a team name next week. And inviting readers to do the same.
Yes, Ballimor-ese adds an "r" to Washington. So does the New York accent (brroklyn/Queens, in particular). Nails on chalkboard to my ears.
Now a Baltimore spelling test would be interesting.... Have the pronunciation, guess the correct word!; Exactly what does the "Hollantown tunnel" connect to????
BTW: extra points for the Taneytown mention!;
John Kelly: I wonder if we can collect all these unpronounced letters and recycle them, or turn them in and get our deposit back.
Pregnant Women Mauled By Metro:
Is there something about pregnant women, or maybe just women, that induces rage in Metro personnel? First the station manager menaces the woman with a broom for asking about the broken escalator, now a Metro police officer knocks the cell-phone-talker to the ground, kneeing her in the back. That's only two people, but of all the recent controversial Metro-confrontation cases we've heard about, all seem to involve female passengers (e.g. the Payday Chewer and the French Fry Eater). I don't see Metro-ites wrestling to the ground big, scary guys like the one I saw at Metro Center on a Saturday night, yelling into the tracks and actually pushing passengers. He eventually wandered out of the station on his own. Now, if he had been a small, pregnant woman, he would have been cuffed within seconds!;
John Kelly: Interesting point. Do you think they're targeting the weak?
John Kelly: Speaking of the week, it's Friday, the end of my week. Thanks all for stopping by today. Sorry I couldn't get to a lot of your comments. I'll see you on Monday. As always, I'm reachable at email@example.com. That's pronounced "KELL-eee-jayhhh-yat-WARSH-poast-daht.commmmm."