Chatological Humor* (Updated 10.28.05)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 25, 2005; 12:00 PM

* Formerly known as "Funny? You Should Ask ."

DAILY UPDATES: 10.26.05 | 10.27.05 | 10.28.05

Gene Weingarten's controversial humor column, Below the Beltway , appears every Sunday in the Washington Post Magazine. He aspires to someday become a National Treasure, but is currently more of a National Gag Novelty Item, like rubber dog poo.

He is online, at any rate, each Tuesday, to take your questions and abuse.

He'll chat about anything...

This week's poll .

Weingarten is the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca. "Below the Beltway" is now syndicated nationally by The Washington Post Writers Group .


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

The uber-topic of my column on Sunday was the value of vulgarity in the service of humor -- a subject upon which many readers have so far disagreed with me. But here comes the New York Times, providing (quite inadvertently) a case in point to support my position. When I finished doing the New York Times Magazine crossword puzzle on Sunday, I whooped aloud, because I knew I'd be writing about it on Tuesday.

Spoiler Alert: For anyone who has not done the puzzle, but still intends to, do not read the following few paragraphs. You may continue reading at the line that says YOU MAY CONTINUE READING.

For those unfamiliar with it, The Sunday Times puzzle is often a complex affair, with many of the long answers relating to the others, and forming some thematic whole. On Sunday, all the long answers spelled out a joke. I accidentally chucked the magazine, so I am doing this from memory, but it is pretty close: "A man finds a bottle on the beach. He pops the cork and a genie pops out. The genie offers him one wish. So the man says he wants peace in the Middle East. He gives the genie a map of the area. The genie says this is too hard, and offers the man another wish. The man says, "Well, I've always wanted to see the Cubs in a World Series." And the genie says, "Let me see that map again."

Fairly nice, unless you know the real joke, which is a dirty joke, a classic, and is about seventeen thousand times funnier, when told as intended. (For those who don't know it, the setup is the same, but the man is an older Jewish man, and he speaks mit a Yiddish accent a little bit. He doesn't just HAPPEN to have a map of the area, he sketches one for the genie. And when the genie says that it's too big a chore, and grants a different wish, the man says, "Vell, mebbe you could see to it that every once in a while my wife, she should (perform a certain act upon him.). The punchline is the same.

Now, you might ask, what is the crime in what the Times has done? WHAT IS THE CRIME? ARE YOU AN IDIOT? The crime is butchering and emasculating a terrific joke. No, it is NOT okay. Yes, there are times when a little vulgarity helps an engine of humor.

And in this vein, I cannot forbear complimenting Lincoln Peirce for his filthy Big Nate today.


Please take today's poll . Even more so than usual, there are EXTREMELY AND UNDENIABLY CORRECT ANSWERS, and many of them, apparently, will come as a surprise to many of you.

The Comic Pick of the Week is today's Foxtrot , which channels some of the best of Calvin & Hobbes. The first runner up is today's Curtis , which is quite clever. Honorables: Today's Pickles , today's Red and Rover , Sunday's Doonesbury , and, shockingly, Sunday's Cathy , which was pretty good, considering.

Okay. Let's go.


Seattle, Wash.: Boy, your column bit this week. Two reasons for that: A. Your basic premise is flawed. Yes, humor should have an edge, or provide a new angle of looking at something. But it just doesn't scan that that new way MUST by definition be scatological or sexual. Jerry Seinfeld, Elaine DeGeneres, Steven Wright just to name a handful, all work clean and yet are top-notch.

B. Your test is flawed. You give folks who by definition work clean obviously blue set-ups.

This column had the flavor of "let's make fun of the goody-two-shoes" but it was neither funny nor insightful; it just came off as smug. Below the Beltway: There Once Was a Man From Nantucket... , ( Post Magazine, Oct. 23 )

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Well. First, those comics you name work also as dirty comics, just not on TV. And second, I wasn't saying the only way to get edge is to be dirty.

But, more important: I thought the clean comics did great. I wouldn't have run this column if I thought they failed, under very difficult conditions. And, no disrespect intended, but if you thought that giving them no-win setups was unfair, you just didn't get the joke.


Last Na, ME: Hi Gene --I think I know how you feel about women giving up their last names and taking their husbands'. I was wondering what you thought about my plan: I plan on taking my husband's name, but then naming our first daughter Hanna, which is my current last name. Do you approve?

Also, when I was reading what you had written about Hope being a child of this chat (and before scrolling down,) I thought to myself that she would be like our little Virginia Dare. I definitely heart you.


Gene Weingarten: And more to the point, here is a photograph of Hope Riester, the First Baby of this chat. You will recall that her mom, Holly, informed us all of the impending birth, and then of the results. She is ours, and we are all godparents. Her birthday shall be an official chat holiday. Baby Hope


College Park, Md.: In college, I lived down the hall from a guy from Cyprus. He shared with us a Cypriot joke, which went something like this: "Why don't any of the other kids care that Susie has the most toys? Because Susie has cancer!!"

My question is: what is wrong with Cypriots? Or was it something wrong with us stuffy Ivy League types that made us unable to appreciate such humor?

Incidentally, in Cyprus, the equivalent idiom to "you're full of hot air" is something like "you're inflating my testicles." And the equivalent of "I don't care" (about something someone has said to you) is, roughly, "I write you on my testicles." Both have hand gestures that can be used to accompany or stand in for the phrase (motions imitating the use of a bicycle pump and a hand-held notepad and pen.) I don't have testicles. Can I use either of these expressions? I think they're great!

Gene Weingarten: I think I like Cypriot humor. And yes, you can use the testicle line. It is funnier if you use it.


Chevy Chase: Since you're the master of all bathroom-related knowledge, I have this question for you: is there a man alive who, confronted with one of those scented urinal cakes, isn't secretly hoping that he'll be able to completely dissolve it by peeing on it?

Gene Weingarten: No such man exists.


Cleveland, Ohio: Slate had a great article on learning to drive a stick. It even suggests that if we all drove a stick, we'd be less fat. I know I've never been able to eat and shift at the same time.

"Although I still couldn't drive a stick shift, I did learn something important: I discovered that the source of America's obesity epidemic wasn't portion size, or lack of exercise, or the decline in smoking. It was the invention of the automatic transmission. Here I was, the typical, atrophied American, barely able to press the clutch without my slack muscles begging for relief. Automatic transmissions became widely available in the 1940s. Over the decades, as Americans have increasingly embraced them, they've increasingly increased. Since you need both hands to drive a stick shift, there's no way you can also be sucking down Slurpees and shoving in Big Macs. It's because of automatic transmissions that we're becoming blob people who will soon have to be hoisted into our behemoth vehicles.

"Compare us with Europeans, who still generally have firm left legs and discernable waists. About 85 percent of cars sold in Europe have manual transmission. It doesn't seem like a coincidence that European weights are creeping up in tandem with upward sales of automatics. (Idea for a best seller: French Stick-Shift Drivers Don't Get Fat.)" Student Driver: Can I Learn How to Drive a Stick Shift? , ( Slate, Oct. 24 )

Gene Weingarten: A completely bizarre and indefensible argument, but I will accept it. I will accept anything that encourages the purchase of stick shift cars.

I can eat, use a cell phone and drive at the same time, though.


Washington, D.C.: Several years ago, my wife and I were flying out of Heathrow Airport in London, when we saw a billboard with the following:


British Airways

We starred at it for a long while, until my wife blurted out what we were both thinking: "I don't get it. Where's the Q?" After several snickers from the British people around us, it finally dawned on us!

It obviously wouldn't work in the U.S., but isn't this a great, simple, and rewarding advertisement?

Gene Weingarten: Yes. Absolutely great.


Washington, D.C.: Gene, were you at the Mark Twain prize? I was sure you must be, so I looked everywhere (I told my boyfriend to look for an old guy with big hair), even at the VIP reception. I'm one of your vast swath of 20-something females and wondered if I'd have the guts to walk up to you and say poop. Well, scat. P.S. We sat near Steve and my boyfriend peed with him! Ah, Washington.

Gene Weingarten: I was not there. Dave Barry was there (he was a speaker) and we met for dinner last night. Dave reports having been in the green room with Lily Tomlin, Larry David, Tom Hanks, Carl Reiner, Martin Short, and Paul Simon. Fortunately, Dave and I are the closest of friends, and I am not at all envious of him. Because he and I are good friends, so there is no reason at all to envy him, even if he is the sort of famous person who sits in a green room with Lily Tomlin, Larry David, Tom Hanks, Carl Reiner, Martin Short and Paul Simon whereas I, who DISCOVERED him, am not. Sitting in that sort of room. Or am I ever likely to.


Chats vs. Columns: I have what seems to me to be a sort of odd combination of reactions to your work.

In these chats, I find you to be witty and charming, engaging, and responsive. Everything you say seems genuine and uncontrived. Your comments are, of course, funny, but also insightful and wise. I could go on, but you get the idea. Like so many others, I heart you, and I have a sense of attachment to the persona that you present here.

Why, then, do I sometimes find your Sunday columns less engaging than I'd like them to be? I always enjoy them--sometimes a lot--but they seem more effortful than your comments here and less memorable.

There are many factors at work here--the informality of this medium vs. the published column, the fact that some topics (VPL, bathroom habits, the obligation to keep the confidences of one's spouse, clocks, manual transmissions) come up again and again in the chats vs. the need to be "new" in the columns, the sense that we are part of a little community here, and so on and so on.

Still, it seems to me that there's a qualitative difference, with the result being that the chats are, in general, more appealing---less arch, but more fun . . . and still arch enough for readers who seek such fare.

Do you get this reaction from others? Does this characterization overlap w/your own sense of who you are in the two venues? Is there something fundamental that distinguishes Gene the Published Humorist from Gene the Chat Meister? If so, do they seem distinct but equally desirable, or do you wish the two Genes were more like each other?

Gene Weingarten: I'm not sure how to answer this. They are very different forums, and I try to be good in both. I have absolutely zero evidence for this, but my suspicion is that, statistically, women like the chats more and men like the columns more. The columns are a little meaner and more juvenile.

What do you think?


Concerned, Va.: Did we ever get a follow-up from last week's chatter with the possible meningitis/aneurysm?

Gene Weingarten: I do know, but I am not allowed to say. It is good she went for treatment, I think.


Fairfax, Va.: Umm, what's so dirty about Big Nate? The dried apricots?

Gene Weingarten: Yes. It was a reference to a line in one of my columns recently.


Boston, Mass.: I read the parental lies with amusement. When I was a kid we regularly drove by a prison that was next door to a large farm. Our father told us that the farm was a prison from bad animals. Since my uncle, a cattle salesman, had once been seriously injured by a kick from a cow, I believed him, and always stared at the "bad" animals, hoping to catch them in some sort of criminal act. I was over 20 years old when I caught on, and I was also the first to enlighten my similarly-aged brothers...

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.


Drunk Dri, VA: You must be a statistical rarity not knowing any victims of drunk driving. In the hopes of changing your cavalier attitude, here is my list of drunk driving victims who have been part of my life. Please note that all these people were the random victims of a stranger in a separate vehicle except for the last prson who knowingly accepted a ride from a drunk driver. All were separate, unrelated incidents. In most cases, the drunk driver lived. The following people died:

My grandfather

My cousin (at age 18)

My brother (at age 17)

My wife's boss's wife (pregnant with twins on the way home from Lamaze class. They were unable to save the babies.)

My son's Little League teammate's mother (survived by her 3 and 6 year old children. Her husband, who was also in the accident, was in a coma for a year and survived with severe brain damage.)

Gene Weingarten: Point taken, and it would be stupid and heartless and fruitless to argue the point with you. I assume you feel that a drunk driver who causes a death should be punished similarly to a deliberate murderer. I disagree, but I don't disrespect your view.


Ashland, Mo.: Jury nullification is exactly how those who lynched blacks escaped punishment. It is totally foreign to the concept of equal justice under law because it is lawless. You answered a question about not imposing the death penalty by indicating that that would be contrary to an oath. Don't you violate an oath by failing to follow the court's instructions? There is no principled way for every individual to make up his or her own mind in every case about which laws to uphold. If you don't like the law, get it changed through the democratic process. Don't sanctimoniously conclude your "enlightenment" entitles you to substitute your judgment for society's.

Gene Weingarten: This is quite valid. And yes, jury nullification is exactly what freed lynchers, though very often a racist judge's instructions were deliberately vague or ambiguous, giving the jury a way to feel they had not gone against the law.

However, it can surely be used for good, too. And no, I don't think you are violating any oath if you look at the law and reject it, unless you have specifically been asked in advance whether you will find a verdict strictly in accordance with the law. Some judges do that doing voire dire, and some do not.

It is a very specific fact of the jury system, built into the system, that the jury is free to decide any way they wish.

When I wrote that little bit about jury nullification, I had in mind a specific case that happened when I was a reporter in Miami. A man was accused of killing his daughter, who was about two years old. She had been severely brain injured in a freak accident involving a reclining chair. He was a very decent guy, who unquenstionably loved his daughter. He killed her in the hospital, with drugs inserted into her feeding tube, because he could not bear to see her screaming in pain anymore. She was severely brain injured, would be a semi-vegetable and semi-conscious, on life support, in pain, the remainder of her life.

The guy got something like a 25 year sentence. I believe he is still in jail. This happened in 1988 or so. I still think about it.

If I had been on that jury, he would have walked. I know it. And I would have felt no guilt whatsoever.


Washington, D.C.: I am of the camp that there is no going TO the bathroom in public, ever. I hadn't really had to face the problem until reading your chat. Now, it seems like everytime I hit the restroom at work someone is taking care of business. It happened today not once but twice, and the second time I had to take the middle stall between two women who were clearly in the middle of a standoff. Damn you, Gene Weingarten.

Gene Weingarten: "Women in the middle of a standoff."

This is so great.


Medford, Mass.: Gene,

What's your favorite historical What If scenario? I'm asking mainly in terms of debate purposes... what was the seemingly isolated incident that could have totally altered the course of our nation's/world's history?

I have to go with Linda Tripp. What if she had never recorded her conversations with Monica? Would Gore have been elected? Would there be a war in Iraq? Would the world still hate the United States?

Gene Weingarten: I like that question. Linda Tripp is a significant author of American history.


Queue: I think we should all start using Britishisms here. Queue, like the lady said, is a perfect example. also tosser, wanker, bugger, and all those words you can say without raising eyebrows here although you know (heh heh) you are saying something really naughty.

Gene Weingarten: My favorite is "fanny."


Blushing Chee, KS: I laughed out loud at the line about drying your hands on a sheep.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I think they were good. The best jokes were the last two.


Burke, Va.: Dear Atheist Gene:As I drive my red minivan around the suburbs, carting kids to gymnastics and ballet, no one would guess that my religious beliefs fall somewhere between "you've got to be kidding" and "pull the other one." Yet I was raised in an evangelical Christian household, and I wonder if my kids aren't missing out.

No, no, not spiritually. CULTURALLY. As a result of my upbringing, I am well-versed in both the Bible and in the core beliefs of most of the U.S. Literary allusions to biblical themes -- I get 'em all. I know, chapter and verse, all the references twisted by right-wingers to justify their various intolerances. I'm fully bilingual, having learned Christianese right along with English. If I had an appetite for hypocrisy, I could "pass" at any Baptist church in town.

Yet my kids couldn't pick Jesus out of a lineup. (You know him, he's the white guy with the Republican haircut.) Do I owe them a thorough grounding in Christian cultural history? If so, how do I accomplish this?


Gene Weingarten: I don't know what you owe them, but you surely have a wealth of valuable knowledge, so why not impart it? Whether you choose to describe it as mythology, history, or an alternative explanation for Why Things Are, that's your business. I think all knowledge is good. One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence famously or apocryphally said "ain't no question too dangerous to be debated." I agree.


New York, N.Y.: Liz, how did this get through??

Washington, D.C.: The specifics that Kevin Trudeau espouses may or may not be accurate (probably not), but it doesn't change the fact that the guy is dead on about the proliferation of unnecessary pharmaceuticals. How else would we have "restless legs syndrome" commercials?

Libby Copeland: Yes, so true.

Oh, sure, your colleague Libby sorta 'pologized later in the chat, but still! Well, how was I to know she'd so readily agree?

Gene Weingarten: A few minutes later, Liz memoed me to ask if I had sent that in. I hadn't.


Connecticut Avenue: Do you think Bush has been drinking alcohol lately?

Gene Weingarten: According to The National Enquirer, yes. This is one of those potentially huge stories that are out there, that the mainstream media won't touch. The Enquirer seldom gets stuff wrong, actually.


Fruit: Ok, I still don't get the dried apricot thing. Are they supposed took like squashed male parts? Cus I would think that would make guys too uncomfortable to joke about.

Gene Weingarten: Female parts. Dried pear, too.


You've got to me kidding, ME: You don't choose Pearls' Sunday strip for comic of the week? Are you nuts? Never before has a comic so beautifully and intentionally set up a punchline. Pastis totally embraced what he was doing, and it was fantastic. Pearls Before Swine , ( Oct. 23 )

Gene Weingarten: This was good, but only in the sense that the poll groaners are good. I liked it, in a wincy sort of way.

I think Pearls' current Willie Mays series is excellent.


Washington, D.C.: In the archives of these chats you have referred several times to Tropic Magazine. What is this, and why are we supposed to care about it?

Gene Weingarten: Tropic Magazine was the Sunday magazine of the Miami Herald. I was the editor of it from 1985 to 1990, when I arrived at The Post.

The reason it matters to you is that, basically, Tropic Magazine is The Washington Post. Its staff of contained me, Tom the Butcher (who was my assistant editor and became Tropic's editor when I left), Dave Barry, and Joel Achenbach. Frequent contributors to Tropic's pages included David Von Drehle, Marc Fisher, Guy Gugliotta, and Jeff Leen, who is currently The Post's investigations editor and whose back pocket is stuffed with Pulitzers. He uses them to clean the windshield of his car. We regularly ran photos by Carol Guzy and Michel DuCille, who share more Pulitzers than Leen.

Tropic Magazine was a wild and crazy place, a little larger than life, and a little out of control. In a good way.


All Things Being Equ,AL: Gene,

I'm curious: did you move to D.C. because you got a job here or your wife? I mean, you both ended with great gigs here, but whose new job came first to make you both say, "Let's move to Washington?"

Gene Weingarten: Because I did.

It's a long story, but essentially I HAD to leave Miami. (Too many pending paternity suits.)


Jury Time: Gene,

There are some that believe that the O.J. verdict was an act of jury nullification -- as a protest against the shoddy and bigoted work by the police.

Gene Weingarten: Yes. The case against him was so overwhelming, there really is no other reasonable explanation. The race card worked. I think the jury was outraged at the incompetencies of the cops, and the defense presented a plausible reason for it.


Chats vs. Columns: With your chats, I think you're Derek Jeter (which is to say, superlative). With your columns, I think you're Lou Piniella(reliable, sometimes brilliant, always worth watching even when you go down swinging).

I'm a guy, BTW.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. The next post explains why I think guys might like the column better.


Washingtoon: Do you have a favorite column of yours, all-time?

Gene Weingarten: I'm not sure. I've been doing this forever.

I think I have a favorite column, but not because it was the funniest. Just because of what it was. Lizzie, can you link to it? You know the one. Below the Beltway , ( Post Magazine, Sept. 2, 2001 )


Inva, IN: What did the Style editor say when someone suggested adding one more advice columnist to the paper?

"Read my lips. No new Haxes." We do need another advice columnist, though. A MALE advice columnist.

Gene Weingarten: Maybe we could get Dan Savage, from the City Paper!


Clean Limerick: Apropos of BTB this week:

In poetry class, the students are learning about rhyming. Little Johnny comes up with the following:

A pretty young girl from Madras

Went into the sea up to her ankles

Teacher: That doesn't really rhyme, Johnny.

Johnny: It will when the tide comes in.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Arlington, Va.: Did you see the story about the eight-year-old girl who killed the first bear of the season -- this is wrong on so many levels. She skipped school for this! Girl, 8, Credited With Year's First Bear Kill , ( Post, Oct. 25 )

Gene Weingarten: Here's my observation: Read the report of the bear-hunting foray. Doesn't it sound just ... dreadful?

When I was spending time with Ted Prus, the non-voter about whom I did a story last November, he recounted the tale of a friend of his who had (illegally) shot a bear. Triumphantly, he brought it home and skinned it. Then he could not butcher it. It lay there on his dining room table for days, skinned, looking just like a big, fat, dead man.


miami, fl: RE: law school

why can't you go to law school and be a journalist or whatever? I wish I'd gone on to some kind of grad school.

I've been lucky to work in my field (photojournalism) most of my professional life, but I wish I'd majored in something else. Nobody ever tells you that you can be a journalist no matter what you major in, but you can only be a lawyer, accountant, etc with the right degree.

I tell everybody that asks: major in anything (business or accounting preferably) and MINOR in photo or journalism -- you'll still work at a publication. Assuming we're still looking at type and pictures in 5 or 6 years. Because then you never learn to capitalize correctly.

Gene Weingarten: You needed someone to inform you that you could be a journalist and major in something else? You are not a very good journalist if you didn't know that.

I majored in psychology, then dropped out of college and never went back. I would guess half the staff of the Washington Post didn't major in journalism.

Gene Weingarten: Okay. I checked and must correct myself. MORE than half the staff evidently didn't major in journalism.

I sent a memo out to every reporter and editor in Style, one of the largest sections at the Post, asking whether they had been journalism majors and/or attended journalism school. Almost three fourths of those who responded had done neither. And some were pretty darn proud of it, too. J-School in particular does not have a stellar reputation in newsrooms.


Feline Inclinations: Gene, we all know of your affection for dogs, but have you ever met a cat that you liked? A particularly dog-like one?

Gene Weingarten: I confess to not getting cats. I am sure if I grew up with them, I would not have this disability.

Part of it, I think,is that cats are in general not as funny as dogs.



New Orleans glub glub glub: "Big Piece of Poop", aka "Mr. Floatie", withdraws from mayor's race .

Gene Weingarten: Excellent. It reminds me of the best first paragraph I ever wrote. I was a reporter at the Detroit Free Press in 1978, covering the Detroit sewage treatment plant on West Jefferson Ave, which was doing precisely the thing this guy is protesting, shooting nearly raw sewage out into lake Erie. My lede was (this is from memory; I may have it a little wrong):

Every day, liquid sewage -- 400 million gallons of it from starting points around Metro Detroit -- roars through subterranean sluices and pipes to arrive at a single collecting point at West Jefferson Ave. Then, it hits the fan.


Spider Webs in Bra, IN: A word of advice to the person with a spider web-y brain: if the blood tests don't show anything, talk to your doctor about being tested for a sleep disorder. After two years of increasingly fuzzy-headed thinking and general fatigue, countless blood tests all screaming normal, and five different doctors telling me they could find nothing ro explain my symptoms, I finally found a doctor who right off the bat sent me to a sleep center and diagnosed severe sleep apnea. Which is treatable!

There ought to be a special place in hell for the doctor who decided there was nothing physically wrong with me even before ordering blood tests. He told me I was just "brittle" and couldn't handle the stress of a job where people "yelled at" me (his words).

Gene Weingarten: A special place in hell for this doctor?

Possibly a little extreme, there.

Others, responding to the original post, have suggested a form of narcolepsy.


Hanover, Va.: A few weeks ago, you posited that it would be almost impossible to defeat a team (i.e. the Yankees) that had the Flash, as he would be able to bunt the ball and score before any fielder even got close to the ball. You were challenged on this hypothesis, and conceded that the "if they have the Flash, we'll sign Superman!" response could negate the advantage created by a Flash-signing, and the Flash would need to slow down so that he would not create a sonic boom while circling the bases. You continued to assert, however, that signing the Flash would be a wise move.

I have found a flaw, a potentially fatal one, in your theory, based upon the rules of baseball. A GM of a competing team could sign one of two individuals (and I'm sure there are more than two) to nullify the Flash's impact. Who are these individuals? Well, one is an old nemesis of the Flash and the other (if you accept the possibility of different comic universes) IS A WOMAN! The first is the Weather Wizard, and the second is Storm (from Marvel's the X-Men). Both could, through their ability to manipulate the wind, cause the Flash's bunts to bounce harmlessly into foul territory. And, since every baseball fan knows that a ball bunted foul when there are two strikes becomes an out, the Flash would never get on base. In fact, these individuals could stop all the Yankees players from putting a ball in play (and could turn any fly ball from a teammate into a home run). So, for my money, I'd rather sign Storm (who could also cause rainouts whenever they are strategically appropriate) than the Flash. And just think of the positive publicity that a team and a general manager would receive for signing the first woman to play in the major leagues!

Gene Weingarten: Ah, but here is where you are wrong. So very, very wrong.

There is a specific rule in baseball about not blowing a ball foul! I know this because it was once tested! I remember it. A third baseman got down on his knees and blew a ball foul. It was ruled a hit.

Nice try.


Washington, D.C.: Here's an aptonym, but only in the context of this sentence (so maybe it's not an aptonym):

"The decision by U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee is a major blow to the defense of Abu Ali, 24,.."

Gene Weingarten: No, that is a special class of aptonym that we coined right here just a few weeks ago. A situational aptonym. Can anyone propose a good neologism for this phenomenon: where someone's name is oddly apt, but not because of who he is but what he does, but because of some contextual reason, including but not limited to something he is saying.


Veggie Land: You've said before you feel guilty about eating meat. You've also given great reasons not to eat meat, such as the idea that you should not betray an animal that you have made dependant on you (you used this to explain an obligation to pets, but it works for vegetarianism too).

So, why do you eat meat? It's not that hard to go vegetarian.

Gene Weingarten: Because in this matter I am a self-loathing hypocrite.


New Topic: My husband I have, for five years, shared the same stick deodorant (same item, not the same one for five years). For a while we tried each using a separate one, but since it's the same brand and all, it became ridiculous to try to keep them separate. He observed the other day that this practice is "unsanitary," even though we are newly-showered at application. I think that's silly. What do you think, Dr. Gene?

Gene Weingarten: I have never before known a woman who would permit a man to use her underarm deodorant, on account of the deposit of hairs. I, for example, would be extremely careful to remove said hairs prior to replacing the cap, so my wife would never suspect that I EVER secretly (no pun intended) used her underarm deodorant when I ran out of mine, not that this ever happened, because I didn't ever do this because I wouldn't because I am not a pig. I also have never peed in the sink.

No, it is not unsanitary.


Drunk Driving: Drunk drivers kill a lot more people every year than your ordinary run-of-the-mill violent criminals do. As for intent, everyone's been warned enough times that when a person gets behind the wheel while intoxicated, she/he is making a conscious choice to take the risk, which implies intent. And the victims are just as dead. We have to stop it somehow.

Gene Weingarten: No. The intent is not to hurt someone.

Listen, in a poll a couple of weeks ago, something like half the people reading this chat admitted to having driven while impaired.

No high horses here. As it were.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: Hey, If I were Bush right now, I'd be drinking, too. A LOT. Of course, if I were Scott McClellan right now, I'd have an I.V. drip of scotch going about a half hour before the daily press briefing.

Gene Weingarten: (...and on a related topic.)


Butt Problem Humor: So far, I am on the bad end of the poll results. I voted for D as the funniest and A as the worst. Looks like either I or most everyone else is wrong. Could be both, I suppose.

I didn't think any of them were really good jokes. They were mostly just bad puns. This was one time where I really wish you had had a NONE OF THE ABOVE option. Even for the first question about Curtis.

Gene Weingarten: This are not really bad jokes, at least not most of them. You have to judge them for what they are: groaners. Jokes intended to be immature and funny on a slightly painful level. On that level, most are pretty good. One is dreadfully bad, and if you chose it as best I worry mightily about your sense of humor No it is not the one you chose as best.


Chicago, Ill.: Gene -- Thanks to you, I nearly lost my composure at a wedding I stood up in this past weekend. During the ceremony, in a heartfelt speechette, the bride thanked her friends and family for the "enormity of your love and generosity." I got through walking down the aisle wearing four-inch heels and yards of orange silk, but her speech was nearly my undoing. Her family and friends are actually quite nice, and I'm sure she wasn't shooting for irony. I just had to share with you that she committed one of the deadly grammar sins about which you've written, and that I cracked up when she did it. I also wanted to know if this made me a bad person. I realize you're solely the arbiter of humor, rather than morality, but this type of situation seems to be your bailiwick. Oh, if it helps you determine the morality of my inability to keep a straight face -- the (presumed) price of the wedding reception would've handily paid off my car and student loans and I inadvertently caught the bouquet (it landed on my feet). I'm nearly 31 and single. A very ignoble end to an otherwise pleasant Saturday night. Just tell me I'm not totally rotten for laughing... maybe her family is truly a moral outrage.

Gene Weingarten: The enormity of this problem is underscored by the fact that some dics are now beginning to accept "enormousness" as a definition of "enormity." Simpy because we have been misusing it for so long.


Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll.

I have explained this before, but it didn't take, evidently:

It is not censorship when a newspaper decides to withhold a comic strip for reasons of taste, appropriateness, or whatever. Censorship is when the government tells the media what it can or cannot do. What the Post did here is called "editing," and it was completely correct in doing so.

The Post is not obliged to print whatever I write, just because I write it, however stupid or hateful it may be. They are not only ENTITLED to edit me, but OBLIGED to. The same goes with the work of a cartoonist. There is no difference.

It is amazing to me that literally hundreds of you apparently thought there was something wrong with the strip (presumably, something inappropriate or tasteless, not just that it was lame) YET STILL THINK THE POST SHOULD HAVE PRINTED IT.

If I had been the comics editor, I would have killed that week of Curtis in a heartbeat, and I think you know I don't have an itchy trigger finger, as it were.

The comics remain a main entry point to the paper for kids; this does not mean that all comics need to be written for kids - it's fine if kids can't understand some comics - but no comics should be horribly inappropriate for kids. Here is a comic that is using the issue of guns in the schools - a serious, deadly issue - as an engine of humor. In fact, it seems to be oddly agnostic on the subject. (See, it's a scream that it was only a water gun!) Moreover, the humiliation of these two bullies, at the point of a gun they think is real, forced to pull their pants down and admit to the horror of being GIRLS .the mind boggles at the web of horrors here. This was a terrible misjudgment by the cartoonist and his syndicate. Bad tone. Bad feeling. Bad message.

Now, the jokes:

There is only one terrible joke here, and that is the one with the billiard balls. The setup is inane (the others are sort of plausible) and the joke a ridiculous stretch. Calling this the best joke was the only clearly wrong answer. It is the worst joke, exponentially.

I'm not sure why you tended to love the first. I think it is a little lame, and a little derivative of other, similar jokes. The friar is a pretty good joke, but awfully telegraphed, and I took off points for that. My choice was the iceberg one, for its simplicity and stupidity.


Jury Du, TY: I'm being called for jury duty (heh. duty.) next week. Any advice on how to get picked, how not to get picked, or, in either scenario, how to have a little fun without getting a verdict thrown out or winding up in jail on contempt of court charges?

Gene Weingarten: See my column this Sunday.


Silver Spring, Md.: OH! There are no lines -- queues -- on British Airways. Funny.

Gene Weingarten: It IS!


Jeopardy: "Who is Dave Barry" was the question to an answer on Jeopardy last night. He THAT much more famous and successful than you. Poop!

Gene Weingarten: Do you remember the answer?


Anonymous: I can not see the Curtis comics, I never can. I do not know why this is. Chatwomen, is this is problem I can fix? It always says "not currently available" anyway thanks. The links seem to be working for about 60 percent of the audience. I would check your browser settings. -- Chatwomen.

Gene Weingarten: Sixty percent? Not good!


A digital problem: Hey Gene, I have a problem with one of my toes. Specifically, my big toe on my right foot has gone numb at the tip. I would say the numbness is in the first half inch of tip, and further down on the instep side. I have not banged or otherwise hurt my foot or leg in a way that would suggest acute nerve damage, nor have I damaged the toe in any way that would cause nerve ending damage. Otherwise, I am a 25-year-old male in more or less perfect health.

Gene Weingarten: You have recently gotten new shoes, right? Right. They are too short.

This happened to me, once. I lost a nail before figuring out the problem.


Curtis: the biggest problem I see is - why the hell would he squirt them with the water? they're both DEAD. if not now, later.

never let your guard down.

Gene Weingarten: Well, yes. Curtis and his new friend would be beaten to a pulp the next day.


J-School: No wonder J-School is in low esteem in the MSM newsrooms. The professors, in their ivory towers, insist that things like "truth" and "fact" are important.

Gene Weingarten: Um, no.

Hank Stuever went to J School and speaks highly, and eloquently, of the value of the experience. He sent me a long and convincing memo. But in general, judging from what I have seen coming out of j-school, I'd rather have a kid who learned on the streets, so to speak. I am among the prejudiced.

J Schools do teach integrity and such. But they also teach Rules, and timidity. Integrity you learn pretty darn quick, at your first job. I did.


Bowie: OK, Gene, I know this is a tought subject, but do you think the Post would have pulled Curtis if it had involved white kids?

Gene Weingarten: Yes.


Gene Weingarten: Honestly, pulling that strip was a total no-brainer.


Hope, N.J.: Well, when does baby Hope get the patented Weingarten-approved "peek-a-boo" test? And what if she fails?

Gene Weingarten: That will be up to Ma. We control only so much here, as godparents.


What's Up with Big Nate?: Missed "Big Nate" in this week's Sunday paper. Do you know what happened to it? Big Nate , ( Oct. 23 )

Gene Weingarten: I hadn't noticed it wasn't there. But when I read this link, I thought I knew why The Post dropped it: for reasons not dissimilar to why they dropped Curtis.

This is pretty violent and mean, and it contains what seems to me to be an ethnic slur.

I was trying to decide if I would have run it when I was informed by comicslady Suzanne Tobin -- to my astonishment -- that its content was irrelevant: It was dropped to make room for a half-page ad.

So I still don't know if the Post would have run it. Probably. But I still don't like that "pinky" line, delivered by a black or Hispanic kid to a white kid.


Washington, D.C.: Along the VPL lines, I was wondering what you think of women wearing glasses. Specifically, a particular style of glasses. My friends refer to them variously as teacher glasses, Tina Fey glasses, or Lisa Loeb glasses (yeah... we're that old). Basically, an informal survey of my friends has indicated that we all find women that are wearing these glasses more attractive. So, why aren't more women sporting these glasses? Do women just not know this?

Gene Weingarten: Women are hot whatever they wear. But I don't really like Tina Fey glasses. I like either oversized glasses or tiny, nearly invisible frameless granny glasses. But who gives a crap, really? Look at Tina Fey. What's not to like? She would look fetching in aviator goggles, or a gas mask.


Humorous Place Na, ME: Gene,

I usually just take the poll, then sit back to see why all my answers were wrong, but I had a real problem with the Curtis question. I chose "No, because there is nothing wrong with these strips," even though I thought (a) they were pretty lame and (b) the punchline could have appeared in the first strip. The Post doesn't generally censor strips for lameness.

Also, the joke about stool softeners reminds me that everybody in my office, years ago, used to watch the Thursday Home section every week to see whether the Dinette store down the street from our office would be boasting in their ad that they had "The Areas Largest Display of Stools." None of us had the courage to go into the store during their annual blowout sale.

Gene Weingarten: Haha. No, the Post does not withhold comics for lameness. If it did, the comics pages would be half empty every day. Lameness is not a reason, here.


Jeopardy Answer: Of course I don't remember.

It was something like "this Miami Herald writer wrote..." and then something about sports, so I guessed Dan LeBatard. I'm googling now..

Gene Weingarten: Wait! This reminds me! I was once an answer on a game show. I forget the show. It was 25 years ago!

The question was "When a NY Post reporter posed as a panhandler, how much did he make in one day?" The answer was $125.

I did it freelance for the Post when I was 26.


Indianapolis, Ind.: What percentage of this chat audience did you think knew what "voire dire" meant?

Gene Weingarten: Pretty high. We got smarties here.


Washingtoon: You have lots of strong opinions many people disagree with. Do you have any opinions on any subjects that are so extreme or would be so unpopular that you don't ever say them in public? And what are they?

Gene Weingarten: Actually, yes. I have a strong opinion on one particular subject, an opinion that is so far off mainstream, and so potentially offensive to reasonable people, and so potentially hurtful to specific people, that I will not articulate it publicly. Ever.

I have discussed it only with my wife and one or two other people. I actually mentioned it to a good friend the other day, and in so doing might have lost that good friend! So, no. Not here, no way.

It is not hateful or biased against any group of people, except those who act in a certain way. It is just an extremely strong opinion on a matter of social policy. I can easily understand people disagreeing with me, and I am sure most would. But I am right.

And silent.


Camel Gi, RL: Gene,

I wrote to you a few months back and asked how I should tell my parents that my husband and I are expecting, and I told you about the Iranian quote that "X won't happen until a camel's tail touches the ground." Anyway, I thought it was funny that you believed my dad would get the picture (of a camel with an elongated tail), since my dad never gets anything. Surprisingly, he got it before my mom did (who usually gets things right away). Of course, they were very happy. I asked my dad what happens if a camel sits, and he said that he thinks the way they sit, their tails still don't touch the ground. Just thought you should know.

Also, in relation to poop: I'm much more afraid of hemmorroids than labor.

Gene Weingarten: Hemorrhoids? Hemorrhoids? Hemorrhoids are HEAVEN compared to gas pains. I know a pregnant woman who nearly had an emergency gall bladder operation because the pain was so intense. It turned out, after birth, that it was just gas.


A Male Columnist: How I wish The Post could publish Dan Savage. His columns wouldn't hold against the "family newspaper" standard. I saw him read from his latest book at Olsson's this past Friday.

Savage gave a great, throughtful discussion of gay marriage. Basically, he said, marriage has been being redefined by straight folks. Once upon time it was an institution focused on child-rearing/monogamy. But not any more. The obsession with children/monogamy existed to ensure paternity in a system that treated women and children as -property-. Modern companionate marriage looks very different: now it's (hopefully) a freely-entered-into (and freely-left) relationship between equals, with parameters set largely by mutual consent. Savage's main point was that the gay's aren't redefining marriage, but rather that they are seeking to enter a relationship that straights have already redefined.

Gene Weingarten: I enjoy his column. The Post will run it when dogs get wings and Tom Petty is king.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Gene!

I've often felt like the previous chatter I usually enjoy the chats far more than the columns. But the columns are what led me to the chat in the first place.

Also count me as a woman for whom the public restroom has been ruined by this chat. I never paid any attention to what anyone else was doing in there. Now I find myself listening, and worse looking at who flushed with their feet.

I love this chat, but it's sort of evil.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Blacksburg, Va.: To the parent looking for a way to impart biblical knowledge without the hypocrisy: try the Unitarian Universalist church. It teaches kids about Christianity and Bible stories, as well as about many other religions, as a way of helping a kid explore what he or she believes. It's a great church that accepts agnostics and atheists as well as people with religious beliefs (christian, buddhist, whatever).

Gene Weingarten: This reminds me of a joke I like:

When do you hear the name Jesus Christ in a Unitarian Universalist church? When the janitor falls down the stairs.


Chats vs. Columns II: "my suspicion is that, statistically, women like the chats more and men like the columns more. The columns are a little meaner and more juvenile."

I hadn't thought about this, but you may be right. It's certainly the full sense of you as a person--the family stories, stories about pets, personal history, hobbies, and such--that are part of the appeal of these chats. And, I'm a girl, so my preference for the chats is consistent w/your theory.

I hadn't thought of the columns as juvenile or mean. It's more that I see you working, whereas, although I know that you are working here, too, the result seems more natural---more like the free-flowing conversation Deborah Tannen tells us that women prefer.

Gene Weingarten: Could be! I don't take it as a slam.


Columns = Mean: Yes, you are right. I found the Parade column an exercise in self-inflation. "We are better because we think it is stupid." Well, it is, but why do we have to hurt millions of people who like it? My grandfather loves that stupid magazine, but it is simply meanspirited and serves no other purpose than to make yourself feel more elite to point out the inferiority of his reading material.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.


Not Creati, VE: RE: Lies, and the Parents that tell them. My husband went to school with a girl from the area. When ever her family would drive past the Mormon Temple on the beltway her parents would point and say "Look! There's Disneyworld...too bad we don't have time to go!"

I think this is hysterical, does that mean I'm too young to have children?

Gene Weingarten: Wow that's mean and funny.


New York, N.Y.: Re: the Pork at the Jewish Community Center...

I am a student at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where the standards of kashrut are extremely strict. No un-kosher food enters the dining hall or touches the tables. If someone brought in a pork sandwich and dropped a piece on the table, that table would have to go through a re-koshering process. To bring pork into a kosher establishment is ignorant and insensitive. Especially if this couple is using the dishware of that establishment.


Gene Weingarten: This reminds me of a question I've never had satisfactorily answered: Is human kosher? Could a cannibal be kosher?


Atlanta, Ga.: Gene,I knew a woman who changed her name when she married. She and her husband had kids, got a divorce and she remarried. She chose to keep her FIRST husband's last name so she would still share the name with her kids. I think if I was husband number two I'd be a little offended. What do you think?

Gene Weingarten: Well, the most common explanation I've heard for keeping a name is to have the same last name as your kids. So this makes sense to me. I'm not sure I'd be at all peeved as the husband in that case; I've been married twice, and neither woman took my name, nor would I have expected them to. In the case you mention, the guy would have to be fairly petty to object: after all, he got the girl. Who cares about the name?

Actually, I work in a field where women took married names much less frequently than in the general public. I think part of the reason is that female journalists might be a tad more independent-minded than the general population, but there is also the issue of bylines. You are publicly known by a certain name. Changing it could be awkward.


Hope's Mom: Hope will get the peek-a-boo test as soon as it is practical. At this point, her eyes still don't focus well so it's a little early.

However, she has shown an amazing talent for pooping (loudly) at the most humorous moments.

Gene Weingarten: Please keep us posted! A weekly poop report would be appreciated.


Silver Spring, Md.: 'What percentage of this chat audience did you think knew what "voire dire" meant?'

A slightly higher percntage than those that know it's spelled voir dire?

Gene Weingarten: Touche, you little bastard.


Oakland, Calif.: I never knew the enourmousness of my ignorance before. I've always accepted enormity as size without negitivity, but as soon as I read that post I ran to and found this:

Usage Note: Enormity is frequently used to refer simply to the property of being great in size or extent, but many would prefer that enormousness (or a synonym such as immensity) be used for this general sense and that enormity be limited to situations that demand a negative moral judgment, as in Not until the war ended and journalists were able to enter Cambodia did the world really become aware of the enormity of Pol Pot's oppression. Fifty-nine percent of the Usage Panel rejects the use of enormity as a synonym for immensity in the sentence At that point the engineers sat down to design an entirely new viaduct, apparently undaunted by the enormity of their task. This distinction between enormity and enormousness has not always existed historically, but nowadays many observe it. Writers who ignore the distinction, as in the enormity of the President's election victory or the enormity of her inheritance, may find that their words have cast unintended aspersions or evoked unexpected laughter.

Gene Weingarten: Excellent. There are still standards. But I assure you this is transitional: The standards are being eroded.


Humor, ME: I've read your comments that women dress for other women, and I largely agree. However, do you think women dress to meet the standards of other women, or do they dress to try to exceed them? I tend to believe the latter -- women dress to compete with other women, just as men drive larg SUV's or sports cars to compete with other men. And is it safe then to call clothing a female's genitalia extension?

Gene Weingarten: I would think, no, that it is not competitive. I think it is simply that women recognize that other women are the best judges of what looks good. Which they are. If my wife dressed to please me, for example, she could wear almost anything, and I would think it looked great on her.

Am I right, female people?


Lying about Pregnant Women: I was with my father when I saw my first obviously pregnant woman as a child. I asked him what was wrong with her, and he told me that she must have swollowed a watermelon seed.

I'd expect that to be a fairly common childhood lie, though. One of my earliest memories is of my grandfather telling me I'd get pregnant if I swallowed a watermelon seed.

Gene Weingarten: This reminds me of the second Bloom County I saw, back in the mid 80s. It was the one that made me realize this was going to be a great strip.

Milo is sitting on a park bench. A pregnant woman sits down next to him. He asks her "Do you love that baby in your stomach?" She says: "Why yes, yes I do. Very much!"

And Milo says, "Then why did you eat him?"

The woman screams: "My God where did you learn to say such a disgusting thing!"

And then the scene pans back, and Milo's cantankerous old grandpa is seated next to him, smiling and tipping his hat at the lady.


Pinky??: How is pinky an ethnic slur?

I didn't see anything wrong with that strip except that it went on way too long for a pretty lame punchline.

Gene Weingarten: Isn't he commenting on skin color?


Censorship?: I agree that the Curtis strips were tasteless and a monumental lapse in judgement. But here's where I can't figure out where to draw the line: lots of people felt that way about FBFW's storyline about Lawrence being gay, and many papers pulled those strips. I thought (still do) this was horrible and narrow-minded. But what's the difference between the two, other than my personal view?

Gene Weingarten: Because there is nothing wrong with being gay. And because FBFW was not trying to make some joke out of it; it was a serious storyline.

There is something really really wrong about guns in schools. It is not a punchline.


Answer to Kosher Question: Only females are kosher. Everyone knows that all men are pigs.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahahaha. Okay, very good.


Washington, D.C.: Regarding Curtis, I guess I couldn't shake the possibility that the author was trying to make some sort of statement about race out of my head -- how readers might be completely willing to accept the entire premise as actual, when in reality we're just talking about kids, and once upon a time we may have assumed it was a water gun. It didn't make me think of Columbine-type shootings, but rather typical shoolyard fights, which all too often end with a gun now. Maybe the artist was pointing out that when black kids are involved, we're more likely to jump to that conclusion? Not that it's an interesting statement, and not that it's not more than a little offensive, and definitely not that any part of it was really funny, but still -- it felt like there was probably a statement in there, if only because, well, it lacked any discernable joke...

Gene Weingarten: I see your point, but disagree. For three days we were primed to believe this was a gun. (For one thing, just literally, I don't think any savvy kid would mistake a water pistol for a real gun.) I assumed it was real, for that reason.


Re: Strong Opinions: A former female coworker of mine argued that rape didn't exist and that all rape victims consented. She said that if a woman really didn't want to, she could resist. She claimed this was true for virtually all rapes, even those done by psycho strangers.

Would your opinion get a similar reaction as this?

For what it's worth, as a man, it was impossible for me to argue with her without sounding like an ape. I knew she was wrong, but there was nothing I could say.

Gene Weingarten: No, my opinion is sane and not hateful and stupid.


Speak!: Gene --

Surely you can't expect us to ignore your controversial yet silent view, especially since experience indicates most chatters would agree with you.

Why not put your hideously unpopular opinion in a poll with three other equally controversial statements, and see which we like least? That way, it's out there, and they can all be discussed without identifying which is yours...

Your devotees implore you!

Gene Weingarten: No. I intended to be provocative, but not teasing. I'm not going to discuss it.


Silver Spring, Md.: I'm a 20-something single woman. Not only would I throw my VPL-causing panties at you, but I think about you every time I pull them down. To go to the bathroom at work anyway.

Every time I check the stalls or pull on the roll of toilet paper to create muffling noise, I think of you.

I cannot possibly be the only one.


I thought that surely we had exhausted all variations of neurotic girlytype bathroom behavior!


Richmond, Va.: Regarding the discussion about the yet-to-be-married couple with the same last name: Upon meeting each other for the first time, my great-grandparents thought that it was wildly funny that they shared the same last name. They would joke about being brother and sister, so much so that their pet names throughout their entire marriage were "Bud" (for brother) and "Sis". A few weeks ago, I was going through some old family jewelry with my mother and grandfather. We pulled out a sweet little gold ring, and read the inscription, "From Bud to Sis, 1927". We started laughing, then started to cry. My great-grandfather ended up being kind of an ass, but it is still a story that makes me smile and tear up. That's pretty much all you need to know about my family: an incest joke makes it to the wedding ring. Bud and Sis? Was "Urban Cowboy" based on your great-grandparents?

Gene Weingarten: One of my favorite entries to the Style Invitational, all time, was by (Jennifer Hart, Arlington.) The contest was bad lines to hear in certain situations (as in "Ooops" just as you are going under surgery anesthetic.) The entry involved a bad thing to hear on your marriage night: "Wow! That's interesting! MY birth mother's name was Clytemnestra de Nunkyhaven, too!"


Brookland, Washington, D.C>: Maybe this has been brought up before, but is the girl in "Prickly City" black? I looked up Scott Stantis online, and he looks about as white as they come. It just seems disingenuous as a white man to use a minority female character as your conservative mouthpiece.

Gene Weingarten: I think it was as cynical as the strip itself.


Arlington, Va.: Gene,

I have a medical question (I know how you love those). My father died at a young age (he was 39, I was 8) of a brain tumor. I'm now 40 years old (I was a little freaked out when I made it to 39) and in good health. My question is do you think this could be hereditary or would it depend on what type of tumor it was (obviously malignant but beyond that I know nothing). I've never had any symptoms like he had (I remember seeing him have seizures when I was a child which scared the hell out of me), but is there anything else I should be on the lookout for? Should I ask my mom about it? I suppose I should ask my doctor about it but I'm kind of afraid to hear the answers...

Gene Weingarten: Relax and enjoy your life.

My memory is that the tendency to some tumors (colorectal, for example) does have a hereditary component, though it's a mild one. But not brain tumors. They are a bad roll of the dice.


Pinky: I took it in the same context as when Bucky calls Rob "Big Pink". A dried apricot thing, if you take my meaning.

Gene Weingarten: I think this is also a racial slur, but a completely acceptable cross-species one. He is pink in comparison to bucky.


Some Aptonyms Speak for Themselves: From a USA Today article 10/19 on teens attitudes towards sex:

"My parents' generation sort of viewed oral sex as something almost greater than sex. Like once you've had sex, something more intimate is oral sex," says Carly Donnelly, 17, a high school senior from Cockeysville, Md.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed.


Gene Weingarten: Okay, thank you all. This was one of my favorite chats. As usual, I'll be updationalizing daily. Except Monday. Because this is NOT a blog.


UPDATED 10.26.05

Gene Weingarten: We have received an important communique from the woman with the severe head pain. As a result of the advice of several of the posters (including two doctors) she checked into a hospital, and stayed nearly a week. Her report:

Meningitis Girl Here: Just wanted to let you and everyone know that the upshot was nothing serious -- migraine coupled with a pinched

nerve. As the meds kicked in, however, I found myself thinking about your chat and wondering why I've been so concerned with public bathrooms all my life. Turns out that all modesty disappears when you're moved to the stroke unit and the only bathroom is the freestanding prison-like commode -- with NO door -- in the middle of your room. I've always been a stealth workplace bathroom-goer: if someone's in there, I'll return every seven minutes until it's empty. But now? There are certain life lessons you learn when you've been flat on your back in a hospital for six days, and apparently one of them is: "Go when you gotta." So thanks, everyone, for your concern, and I'm doing far better now. But I still won't flush with my foot.


Gene Weingarten: This just in:

... for the woman who learned the very handy Cypriot testicle phrases:

I was young and in a workshop with many American men on a military base in Japan. I insisted that I be given the same "newbie" initiation that they gave all the guys, without knowing what it was. They taught me a phrase in Japanese without translating it, then took me out and got me very drunk and we eventually ended up at a bar seated at a horseshoe shaped table with me in the middle just as the live sex show started. At first stunned and then blushing furiously, I attempted to escape and eventually ducked UNDER the table and crawled out and met them at the car, where they were all laughing hilariously. I learned later that the phrase that they had taught me was to be used at this bar and translated to the cruder version of "perform an explicit sexual act on me, please" which I, as a female, could not even benefit from, not having the equipment necessary. I thought it rather amusing that this was one of my first phrases in Japanese. I DID use it on occasion, when offended or groped by a Japanese man, just for the shock value. VERY amusing!


Annandale, Va.: First, there's NO caveat on what you'll chat about in today's intro! This creates an uneasy feeling of boundlessness which borders on anxiety.

So, in order to test the bounds, I wanted to see what you think about this anonymous quote (suspected to be said by Disraeli):

"Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage."

Please put on your political hat and comment on this idea. Or, give me some pointers on how I can get more raunchy answers when I Google on "bondage"?

Finally, this from the Plumbing Supply gurus: "If you didn't eat it first, don't put it in the toilet."

Gene Weingarten: This quote sounds about right, and is absolutely chilling in a global climate with China ascendant. No?


Chicago, Ill.: I have an unspeakable opinion, too. Actually, I've heard people say it, but they're all Certifiable Wackos with wrong motives. Like you, this is a question of social policy, not secret racism or homophobia or anything. I once told my mom this opinion. She was so upset I later claimed to have seen the light and changed my mind.

My question is: Do you ever feel guilty about not sharing? Like you're really contributing to the problem? I do. I'm not willing to say something that so many people I know would be hurt by -- and (lest I claim totally selfless motives) really mad at me for -- but my silence bothers me quite a bit.

Gene Weingarten: I don't know what your unspeakable opinion is, but mine is such that if I wrote it, it would change no one's opinion. It would sway no one, except as they might regard me. Approximately 20 percent of the people would agree with me and applaud the remark. Another 20 percent would agree with me, but say that this should never have been articulated because of the number of people it would hurt. The remaining majority would think ill of me, in a fairly even continuum ranging from "insensitive jerk" to "monster."


Bear Hunt, IN: I just read that article on the 8-year-old bear hunter, and it mentioned activists dressed as bears protesting the hunt. It also mentioned that the limit for the whole hunt was 40-55 bears, 200 permits were issued, and last year the limit was met on the first day. Now, I like animals and all, but doesn't dressing up as a bear during a quick and hasty hunt seem like kind of a bad idea? I would have stuck with some signs and a bullhorn.

Gene Weingarten: Good point! I remember seeing a hilarious picture a few years ago during the first day of deer season in, I think, Michigan. It was a cow upon which the farmer had painted, in big white letters, "COW."


Somewhere in Ohio: My husband is a high school principal. Every so often the school administrators get together for a few days of state meetings. Of course, the meetings are deadly so in the evenings lots of the attendees go out and fortify themselves with alcoholic beverages so they can make in through another day of meetings.

After every set of meetings my husband came home with stories about this fellow principal who, when he got smashed, ate urinal cakes. At first I thought he meant the fellow took used cakes out of the urinals and ate them, but it wasn't quite that bad. He ate new, unused cakes, much to the amusement/horror of those around him.

Anyhow this guy has now retired and he spends his time writing letters to the editor in support of intelligent design. Do you suppose there is a connection?

Gene Weingarten: This is one of the most bizarre and disturbing posts I have ever seen.

Thank you.


UPDATED 10.27.05

Gene Weingarten: I am rethinking my answer to the question about my favorite column of all time. I tend to like the ones that break form in an interesting way, and deal with Profound Truths. I direct your attention to this one:

A Course in Wife Sciences, (Post Magazine, Oct. 17, 2004)


You were married twice????: Are your children by your first or current wife?

Gene Weingarten: Current. My first marriage began in 1974 and ended in 1977. Molly was born in 1981.


Kashr, UT: "Is human kosher? Could a cannibal be kosher?"

No. It's specifically forbidden. But even if it weren't, it'd also be forbidden because in order for any meat to be kosher, it has to be slaughtered in accordance with the laws of kashrut. You could not do this to a human without committing murder (also a rather big no-no), so no long pork for Jew.

Gene Weingarten: Right. I have now learned this. Also, apparently it is forbidden because humans do not have both gills and scales, or cloven hooves, or feathers.

Gene Weingarten: You know, I have no urge toward orthodox religion of any kind, including the religion to which I was born. But if I did, I'd have to say there would be one terrible, horrible impediment I suspect I could never get beyond: No seafood.

Also, Pat the Perfect informs me that because it has no scales, catfish is also forbidden. I really like catfish.

Gene Weingarten: I like catfish so much I would happily adopt the nickname Catfish.


Annandale, Va.: The comment about pork at the Jewish Community Center made me recall a conversation I had many years ago with my wife, a secular Moslem. When we were having some of her (more observant) friends over for dinner, I asked if it would really hurt them if there was a little wine in the pasta sauce. She asked me if it would really hurt me if she made a big pot of soup and put just a little pee in it. Not exactly the same situation here, but it's made me look at things with a more sensitive eye ever since.

Gene Weingarten: Nice!


Alexandria, Va.: You must pick one: Either your only source of bathroom reading for the rest of your life is "Parade," or 2. Every piece of art in your home for now and forever after must come from the Thomas Kinkade collection.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, I go with Parade. There are easily five minutes of lowbrow entertainment in every issue. It's always good for a laugh.


Enormity, Fulsome and the Like: Mona Charen's columen on this subject is a must read:

Fighting Words, (, April 23, 2004)

Gene Weingarten: I may need to marry this woman. I believe I have made the same points, all of them, except for "disinterested," which is an excellent addition to the canon of horror.


Neologi, SM: The word you want is "haptonym". Use it when a word just happens to be an aptonym.

Gene Weingarten: Good, but not quite on target. All aptonyms just happen to be one. I prefer the next post.


Clarendon, Va.: Re: Judge Gerald Bruce Lee, et al.

What about aptonow?

Gene Weingarten: We'll go with this.


UPDATED 10.28.05

Washington, D.C.: Actually the best explanation for the O.J. verdict is that the LAPD framed a guilty man.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, good point.

I have to say that a couple of legal scholars point out that contrary to what I said, there is, indeed, a doctrine of "jury nullification." Learned jurists have noted that this is part and parcel of a system that has people tried by a jury of their peers, 12 men good and true, etc. You are supposed to (this is a quote from Nero Wolfe, not jurisprudence) "use your wisdom guided by your experience." And sometimes that translates into saying, "I've heard what you said, judge, but no dadgum way, brother."

You know, there is an additional element to this crime and punishment debate: the notion of someone having suffered enough. It's a commonsense feeling. I apply it, in part, to the first-time offenderdrunken driver who causes a death. (I know this is an unpopular subject on which I appear to speak for the minority, but...) This person is probably a lot like you. Not a bad person. Someone with a conscience. You cause a death while driving drunk, you will live with a hole in your heart for the rest of your life. (Not to mention having no driver's license, and the attendant misery caused by that.) Added to a couple of years in prison, that's pretty substantial punishment for a crime done without malice, no?

I probably would have jury nullified Ms. Martha Stewart. That little bit of arrogance, which saved her $50,000, wound up costing her a LOT more than that. Martha did not need to go to jail.


Fanny: My Irish mother-in-law's Christmas visit coincided with constant advertising of, "Get your fanny to Frugal Fanny's". I never knew that one person could "tsk" so much...

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

Gene Weingarten: (We all know what "fanny" means to the Brits, right? It's the c-word.)


Washington, D.C.: Gene,

I would argue that killing someone while driving drunk would amount to "depraved heart" murder (yes, I went to law school). This is, essentially, acting in such a way that is so negligent (STUPID) that it amounts to second degree murder. There is no intent, but the act rises above the level of manslaughter. Thoughts?

Gene Weingarten: Sigh. I really should be walking on eggshells here. I know it. But:

Here is the definition of depraved heart murder:

Depraved heart murder is an American legal term for when an action that demonstrates a "callous disregard for human life" results in death. In most states, depraved heart killings constitute either second-degree murder or first-degree manslaughter.

Examples might be:

Piloting a motorboat at high speed through a crowded swimming area on a lake.

Shooting a gun randomly at a bus with passengers aboard.

Speeding in a car past the right hand side of a school bus that is unloading children.

If no death results, such acts would generally be defined as reckless endangerment and possibly other crimes, such as assault.


I think driving drunk might in some circumstances fall into this category, but mostly not. And here is why:

1. Worst-case scenario: You stagger out of a bar, barely able to stand, and get into your car and drive away. The very nature of your intoxication has so totally impaired your judgment that while you CAN be held responsible for that terrible judgment, it hardly qualifies as deliberate, which is what the examples above are. The examples above are all clearly willful. If I am roaring past a stopped school bus unloading kids, I know what I am doing, and thinking, "screw it!" The drunk is thinking "brvlblethp."

2. Most cases of drunk drivers, I would guess, are not that lush staggering out of bars. They are people who have had a few drinks, a couple too many, and who have done so before, and driven with no bad consequences. They know they're a little tight, but really think they are fine to drive. In fact, they may even BE fine to drive -- plenty of accidents happen to people who are not drunk -- but once their blood level is taken, they are automatically a drunk driver and the presumption is that's what caused the accident. Again, they have used bad judgment and been irresponsible, but does this rise to the level of "depraved heart"? I don't think I could argue that in court.

I am not defending the drunk driver. Even if you are a first-time offender, if you drive drunk and kill or maim someone, I think you should do some time. But I think treating this person as a murderer is just plain wrong.

I have a different view of the repeat drunk driver who causes a death. This might rise to the depraved level. If I had two or three DUIs, and kept driving drunk, that means that I had plenty of time to reflect, sober, on my conduct, and decided, while sober, not to address it. There's a willful depravity there.


Unitarian Jokes: I thought there was also some joke about not making a Unitarian mad because he'll burn a question mark in front of your house.

Gene Weingarten: Several people reminded me of this one.


Dave Barry Jeopardy Answer: from

Double Jeopardy Category: Mark My Words, for $400:

"Auto racing is boring except when a car is going at least 172 mph upside-down", wrote this Miami Herald columnist.

Gene Weingarten: Right. And here were the other questions in that category:

Tom Lehrer joked, "It is a sobering thought... that when Mozart was my age he had been" this "for two years."

"The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected," opined this fella, who never met a man he didn't like.

In "Without Feathers," he penned, "Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons."

In his "Devil's Dictionary," he defined "appeal" as "In law, to put the dice into the box for another throw."

_______________________ That's all for this week. Stay tuned for Tuesday's really, really big show.

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