Chatological Humor* (Updated 4.21.06)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 18, 2006; 12:00 PM

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

DAILY UPDATES: 4.19.06 | 4.20.06 | 4.21.06

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: Men Only | Women Only

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 .

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

My elderly father lives in Bethesda, and every weekend I go see him. Occasionally I bring him provisions. It so happens that on Saturday he was in need of two things: The first was some bars of Ivory soap. He also was having trouble getting reception in his apartment for WTOP, which is the only station he listens to. So I got him a simple but powerful AM-FM, with large buttons for easy use by someone of extremely impaired eyesight.

So as I was leaving the house, my wife stopped me. She is very aware of my absentmindedness, and wanted to make sure that I hadn't forgotten anything. (I do that often.) So she called out to me in the front yard, "Do you have what you need to bring to your dad?" I looked down, surveyed what I had with me, and what I didn't have, got one of those cartoonish light bulbs above my head, and said: "No soap, radio."

This completely convulsed me in laughter. (The rib just shook her head and went back in the house.)

Sunday's column stemmed from something that happened in a chat some months ago. I mentioned in passing that I was a fan of Barry Louis Polisar; word of this reached Barry, who e-mailed me to say thanks. We got to talking about collaborating on something, and THIS happened.

As the discerning reader of this chat knows by now, I am edited by Tom the Butcher, a ruthless, hulking, savage eviscerator of human creativity. Initially, the column had THREE songs in it -- two by me, and one by Polisar. Tom simply sliced away my second, in its entirety.

This is why I love It rights so many wrongs.

The deleted song, to a title proposed by Barry Louis Polisar:

An examination of whether standardized tests -- as emphasized by the No Child Left Behind policy -- are an accurate way of measuring and encouraging academic achievement, or do they merely emphasize test-taking skills at the expense of more complex but important knowledge? Discuss, referencing al Qaeda.

(to the tune of "Pop Goes the Weasel.")

Twenty-eight apples -- a quarter are Joe's
Then how many apples are Liz's?
If a freight leaves Detroit at a quarter to eight....
Pop! Go the quizzes.

Truck is to toy as (blank) is to boy
Is it carbon dioxide that fizzes?
What is the slope of line a-b-c-d?
Pop! Go the quizzes.

Johnny and Maggie, they're getting straight A's
At standard exams they are whizzes.
But the system is failing because they can't think,
(And their rhyming skills are atrocious.)

Could we fix it, perhaps with Bin Laden's approach?
With as ruthless an outlook as his is?
Identify "evils" and then blow them up ---
Pop! Go the quizzes.


(Do you have any idea how long it took to get all those forced rhymes for "quizzes"?)

Okay, after the column came out I received an e-mail from Barbara Sarshik, occasional star of the Style Invitational. Barbara is the most gifted song parodist I know. She informed me that Barry and I could try to explain the human sexual response via the soundtrack to "The Little Mermaid," as we promised at the end of the column -- but that our offering would be sorely lacking a woman's perspective. So, in anticipation thereof, she supplied the woman's perspective:

Take Out the Trash
(to the tune of "Under the Sea")

You wonder what you should do to
Make me want your body more.
Why the red lace thong you bought me
Is still lying in my drawer.

How could you be more alluring?
Babe, you haven't got a clue.
Just sit tight and listen closely
To the things that you should do.

Take out the trash.
Hang up your pants.
It wouldn't hurt to
Iron a shirt to
Get more romance.

Don't buy a case of fine French wine.
Just grab a jug of Four-Oh-Nine.
I will be lusting
When you are dusting.
Take out the trash.

You will get my pheromones popping.
You will have my hot amour.
Any time I see you mopping
Food gunk from the kitchen floor.

You don't need a manly perfume
If you want to get more sex.
'Cause the scent that turns me on is
Just a whiff of Eau de Windex.


The results of today's poll are even more interesting than I expected. There are no right or wrong answers, obviously, but I'll warrant that you and I will have a real fight when I interpret the results. Suffice it to say that this is intended to be a test of intellectual adventurousness and curiosity, and waay more of you than I expected are flunking. Also, there are some dramatic differences between the girls and boys, including one that makes no sense whatsoever to me. We have to discuss this, midway through.

I now direct your attention to last Friday's Frazz , which contains a perfecty good gag, well told, and beautifully drawn, as Frazz always is. Does anyone notice a small problem with this cartoon, namely that ITS ENTIRE PREMISE IS WRONG? Every source I have consulted pronounces the word, foremost, SAW-na. Some say it is also SAH-na. Most don't even list SOW-na. We are all patiently waiting for Jef Mallett to explain himself, as we are sure he will.

Okay, let's see. The Comic Pick of the Week is Thursday's Non Sequitur . The First Runner-Up is Friday's Speed Bump . And we must of course discuss yesterday and today's paired Pearls - Get Fuzzy offerings, which are a little too weird for words. I loved Monday's Pearls -- in fact it killed a joke Dan and I had just put into the comic strip we are writing. And we kind of like the daring and surrealism of what happened across the board today. But we think maybe this should be it for a while, guys. Okay? Because it is beginning to quack "gimmick."

Okay, let's go.


Gene Weingarten: By the way, please congratulate me. Today is my 35th consecutive year of not having won a Pulitzer Prize.


Nation, AL: Was that you at the aiport on March 18? I think there may be another guy in D.C. walking around looking sort of like you...but maybe it actually is you. I've seen that guy twice now, once downtown and then on March 18 at the airport. Both times I, that guy looks like Gene Weingarten.

Gene Weingarten: According to my calendar, I was at the airport March 18, picking up my daughter. So, sounds like you got me.


Washington, D.C.: Gene,

Need your advice on whether or not something qualifies as an aptonym. My husband and I are driving to Long Island this weekend and were exploring alternative routes across Staten Island, specifically, Outerbridge Crossing. We had both always assumed that it got its name because it's a bridge, and it's the outermost of the two Staten Island crossings. But no, it's actually named after a person. According to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's web site, "The Outerbridge Crossing was named in honor of Eugenius H. Outerbridge, first Chairman of the Port Authority."

Is it an aptonym if someone's name is Outerbridge, and a bridge is later named after him? And if so, whose aptonym is it, the guy's or the bridge's? It sounds almost Simpsons-like, like Jebediah Springfield.


Gene Weingarten: A very complex situation. I would say that Mr. Outerbridge became an aptonym when the bridge was named after him, much the way Rebecca C. Dentist would become an aptonym the moment she received her D.D.S.

An inanimate object cannot be an aptonym because it is given its name. That is similar to why "Johnny Wadd" or "Chesty Morgan" is not an aptonym.


Washington, D.C.: Wow. Here's a great aptonym (second paragraph).

Gene Weingarten: No, no no. This relates to my previous answer. Ebonya was named that to make a point. Johnny Wadd, Ebonya Washington. Same principle.


Urban Lege, ND: Oh, Gene. Why do people believe everything that gets forwarded to their inboxes? Some simple Google searches, or looking through an actual dictionary (gasp!) will render most of those "word origin" e-mails false. I didn't have time to debunk all the ones in that list, but here are the ones I could find quickly:

1. The origin of "bigwig." Of course it came from men wearing "big wigs." Duh. Have you ever seen a movie set in the 1700s? Evan Morris, The Word Detective, sets us straight on this one .

2. "Chairman" obviously comes from "chair" and "man," but this eating on the floor business is just stupid. The Word Detective again .

3. "Mind your own beeswax"? Give me a break .

4. Crack open a dictionary to find that " gossip " came from Middle english.

5. Sorry, nobody really knows where the phrase "Mind your Ps and Qs" came from. But the simplest explanation is usually the truth .

6. The " brass monkey " thing is just ridiculous. (Kind of funny, though.)

Word origins can easily be checked in dictionaries, though, as you can see, I particularly love The Word Detective for that sort of thing. Snopes is an excellent resource for determining the validity of urban legends. (In fact, I was finally able to stop my sister from forwarding me every outlandish e-mail she got by relentlessly debunking each and every one of them using Snopes and other urban legends references. Even my dad checks Snopes before he forwards anything now.)

People, please, do the world a favor and stop spamming your friends and family with every e-mail you've ever gotten. Bill Gates is not going to give you a free computer, that chocolate chip cookie recipe didn't cost $250, and the crippled kid you keep sending postcards to is married now with kids of his own and an unlisted address. Remember: the simplest explanation is usually the real one, and if something sounds too good to be true, it is! Stop the madness!

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. A nice service. (This refers to a quiz I took during an update last week.)

It turns out that the two items that I thought might be true (5 and 8 -- which involved the derivation of "straitlaced") are the only two that might, in fact, be true.


Rural, Ohio: Re: Are these true?

"If any of them are, 5 and 8 are the most likely."

I'm surprised that a newspaper person wouldn't know better about minding P's and Q's. It might become more obvious if you were to think in lower case. Back in the days of hand-set type, each letter, numeral or punctuation mark had to be arranged, one-at-a-time by hand. A character on a piece of type is the mirror image of the way it looks on paper; the type that produces a lower-case "p" looks like a "q", and vice versa.

Therefore, type setters were always admonished to pay attention to details and "mind their p's and q's".

Gene Weingarten: That is one of several possible explanations; there is no consensus, and none of the explanations explain why it doesn't mean "be careful" so much as it means "be decorous."


Update, Washington, D.C.: Gene-

I wrote you a couple of weeks ago asking your advice on how to get back together with my husband, from whom I have been separated. I told him how I felt (my best guess), then I seduced him (your advice). It worked. We're back together. Carolyn Hax, who needs her!!

Gene Weingarten: I love the anonymity of this forum. No other way we learn this.



Pacific Northwest: Gene-

You seem to have a standing agreement with your wife about what you can and can't reveal about her (her appearance, her habits, etc.) -- do you ever check with her about a specific comment, or when you feature her in a column? What about your kids? Are they okay with you writing about them?

And what about about writers like Anne Lamott and Jeanne Marie Laskas, who seem to cannibalize their lives as column fodder. They write about their underage children -- this seems to be a deep invasion of privacy. And in the age of blogging, anyone could be the subject of an entry written by a family member, a friend, a coworker. I am a private individual, and I find this new culture of online life sharing a bit disturbing. What do you think?

Incidentally, you could make a column about this. Contact the grown children of autobiographical essayists (maybe start with Dave Barry's son if he's old enough), read them some items that their parents wrote about them when they were young, and capture their reactions.

Gene Weingarten: I don't believe I have ever written anything seriously critical of my wife or children. (Tom The Butcher is a different story.) If I have any doubt how the wife or kids will will take something, I will ask first.

Same with Dave. I know Rob Barry very well, and I'd be stunned to find that he was bothered by anything at all his dad has written about him. It was always good natured, and always funny. Liz, do you think you could find a piece Dave wrote about the time he picked up Rob in the Wienermobile?

Speaking of wieners, I am reminded of Tom the Butcher... Weinermobile


New York, N.Y.: So Liz can link to a word but can't print it? Please explain how this makes sense.

Gene Weingarten: This is in reference to an act of editing Liz performed last week, during one of the updates. I wrote a word that The Post does not permit in its paper version, but that I confidentally declared could be published online. The word was "[EDITED]." Now, you will probably notice that Liz has once again censored me. What she has done is replace the word with a LINK to the word. This person wonders what the sanity is in this action, as I did, privately, to Ms. Kelly last week. She did not give me a comprehensible explanation, but I invite her to, now. The whole class is waiting, Liz.

What is doubly amusing to me is a certain illogicality in the Post's policy of withholding this specific word, namely "[EDITED]," but not censoring the word "penis," which is a literal -- not vulgar -- translation of the word, from Yiddish. I don't expect Liz to be able to explain that. She is just following orders, in that regard. Gene is making this more complicated than necessary and let me explain why. adheres to the same standards (of decency, style and otherwise) as the print version of The Washington Post. Gene knows this and has been reminded of this (by me) several times. Gene has also assured me, time after time, that he would never do or print anything online that he could not print in The Post. Knowing Gene to be a man of his word, I trust him on this and know he would never do anything to jeopardize these discussions -- which have been the target of some scrutiny -- or my job.

So, when it comes to this word, I am simply following the company line, as related to me by Gene himself, that the word is not fit for print.

I can't defend the logic -- or lack thereof -- of The Post's ruling on this word. That ain't my job.


For the Empress?: In Carolyn Hax's chat on Friday, one of the posters, describing her low self-esteem in high school, stated that at the time she felt that she was as ugly as "a naked mole rat in a bridesmaid's dress and a fright wig."

Southerners have been using hilariously colorful metaphors for years to describe how ugly, dumb, drunk or cheap someone is (always followed by the obligatory, "...bless her heart" if a woman is saying it). Wouldn't that be a great Style Invitational contest: To come up with metaphors for these unfortunate human conditions? No re-using ones in common (Southern, at least) parlance:

"She's ugly enough to scare the buzzards off a meat wagon... bless her heart."

"That boy's about half a bubble off plumb."

"Bob would squeeze a nickel 'til the buffalo farted."

Gene Weingarten: Sounds very good to me. But I am not the one it needs to sound good to.


First Date, Washington, D.C.: Gene -- if you were 25 and taking the Rib on a first date what would you do? Don't worry about me stealing your idea, lord knows I don't have anything lined up but I was curious about your thoughts on the perfect first date.

Gene Weingarten: The perfect first date is one that doesn't start out as a date.


Humor, ME: Gene,

As a fellow atheist (actually I am more of a militant agnostic -- I don't know, and YOU DON'T EITHER!) I thought up an interesting (at least to me) question.

What religion has the largest percentage of its believers become atheists, agnostics, or convert to a different religion?

My hypothesis is that it is Christianity, since the majority of Christian people live in more secular countries, where conversion or non-belief are more tolerated.

What do you think -- maybe this could be some sort of poll?

Though, technically all Buddhists are atheists I think so they would "win" at 100 percent.

Gene Weingarten: Jews, I'm guessing, because Judaism particularly encourages questioning: The whole nature of the Talmud is to sit around and debate minutiae.

It would just be a matter of time before someone says, "Hey, vait a minute..."


Washington, D.C.: In Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages," he says that "Good and bad, I define these terms/Quite clear, no doubt, somehow." Is this an argument against moral relativism or for it?


Gene Weingarten: It is for moral relativism, and against pedantry. He is making FUN of himself here, for having been so immaturely certain of everything.


BLP: I was raised on Barry Louis Polisar (along with Tom Lehrer and Flanders & Swann). We had all his albums and saw him in concert several times.

My brother and I thought "Never Cook Your Sister In a Frying Pan" was one of the greatest songs ever written.

Gene Weingarten: I don't know that one. Barry Louis Polisar is really great. He is too good, and too edgy to have ever made it really big. He is not Raffi, thank God.


Crash into, ME: Hi Gene,

I finally watched Crash this weekend. I thought it was a thoroughly depressing movie about horrible people treating each other horribly. If that was a comedy, I just didn't get it.

Can you explain the joke to me?

Gene Weingarten: Yes. The movie was a ridiculous exaggeration. It was making its point through parable. Please notice that every single character did one horrible thing, and one noble thing.

Ever see Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors"? I have mentioned this before. It is similar: A comedy masquerading as a tragedy (it is about a contract killing). But afterwards, you realize that EVERY BAD PERSON in the movie winds up happy, and EVERY GOOD PERSON winds up miserable. A parable.


Alexandria, Va.: That was a fun poll. Did you design it believing that men's and women's answers would be markedly different?

I want to explain what appears to be my minority answer to the politician question. I answered I would be less likely to vote for him. But my reason wasn't because of how he chose to lead his life, but because he chose to publicize something that should be kept private. I can't stand people who have to tell the world they're virgins. Of course, this only happens on TV -- no normal person I know would share this information with strangers.

Gene Weingarten: I disagree with your rationale, but not your conclusion. You private life becomes public when you are a pol. We demand it. I don't think it would be inappropriate for a politician to be called upon to discuss both topics.

I'd be inclined against the guy for a different reason.

Gene Weingarten: And I hoped for a significant male-female split, but I didn't expect one this great.


The Empress of The Style Invitational: Re the colorful Southern expressions: The Style Invitational Losers had a field day in early 2001 with examples of "Dan Ratherspeak" about the 2000 election:

Fourth Runner-Up goes to an entry in the subcategory of Dennis Miller sports pretentiousness:

"This game has undergone so many emotional bounces, they'll call the movie 'Son of Flaubert.' " (Mark Eckenwiler, Washington)

Third Runner-Up:

"Gore's hubcaps are gone, he's all out of chaw, and there's a chicken head in his McNuggets." (Chris Winters, Alexandria)

Second Runner-Up:

"This election is dicier than the rearview mirror of a '63 Impala." (Elden Carnahan, Laurel)

First Runner-Up: "The voters were as torn as a Sears catalogue in a three-holer."

(Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park)

And the winner of the "Leading With Laughter" tape, devoted to the

humor of former president George Bush:

"Sorting out this election is going to be harder than suckin' grits through an ear trumpet." (Jennifer Hart, Arlington) -who is, incidentally, from Texas]

Honorable Mentions:

"We networks backed out of that Florida prediction faster than a

unicyclist facing the wrong end of a shotgun." (Carolyn Bickford, San Jose, Calif.)

"Put on the po-lice scanner, mama, we're gonna be up mighty late this prom night."

(Chuck Smith, Woodbridge)

"Freshen your chaw and get a new spit cup, cause this election's gonna grind on longer than Little Egypt on dollar beer night."

(Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

"Gore is going backwards faster than an odometer on a used-car lot." (James DiBenedetto, Arlington)

"This election's like a tipped-over outhouse. Noisy, smelly, and only

funny to the people who ain't in it." (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

"Colin Powell has got hisself on more short lists than bread and milk."

(Mel Loftus, Holman, Wis.)

"The Supreme Court looked about as disinterested as a Spam-eating dog under the dinner table."

(Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

"The Supreme Court ruling was as confounding as a square dance called by an auctioneer." (Jean Sorensen, Herndon)

"This election has about as much of a chance of working itself out easily as a bowling ball swallowed by a constipated mule."

(Robin D. Grove, Pasadena, Md.)

"Well, we're retracting the Florida projection, and I'm about as

embarrassed as a horned toad gettin' romantic with an oatmeal cookie."

(Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

"Gore is as stiff as a wet shirt on a clothesline in February." (Katharine M. Butterfield, Potomac)

"The plane's on fire, he's jumping out from only 100 feet, and Dan Quayle packed the parachute." (Roger and Pam Dalrymple, Potomac Falls)

Dennis Miller subcategory:

"This is one hell of an election. The coin's in the air, and it's gone down the back of the ref's pants." (Fred S. Souk, Reston)

"The wide receiver is as isolated out there as a pupa." (Howard Walderman, Columbia)

"The Jaguars are like a litter of Schroedinger's cats -- you can't tell whether they are dead or alive."

(Chris Doyle, Burke)

"Redskins fans are like Uncle Vanya finding out Professor Serebryakov is a fraud." (Chris Doyle, Burke)

"Tiger Woods is Achilles without the heel problem." (Joseph Romm, Washington)

The Uncle's Pick:

"Gore was as nervous as a long-tailed cat on the court during a game of wheelchair basketball." (Carolyn Bickford, San Jose, Calif.)

The Uncle Explains: His tail might get run over.

Gene Weingarten: Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

I have a short-term memory shorter than the pinkie toe of a baby midget.


Stormy Petrels: I remember once reading a comment in a book that only Republicans can be "staunch". Have you ever heard that description used in another context?

Gene Weingarten: No, conservatives can be staunch. And supporters can be staunch. To name just two.

This does remind me of yet another recent dictionary horror: They are now accepting "stanch" as a synonym for staunch. Stanch should just be what one does to a flow of blood.


Concord, N.C.: Important question for you, Gene.

Background: Last Saturday morning, I was out on a bike ride with a friend. All of the sudden, a car that had pulled up on my left, turned right. Directly into me. I did not see it coming, though my friend managed to avoid. I was knocked off my bike, though not badly hurt. A little road rash, and practically no damage to the bike. Reasonably speaking, there is no way this person should not have seen me. He didn't stop right away and after my friend got him to stop, we realized he was very obviously mentally handicapped. I was justifiably annoyed. I was fine, but it was extremely close to being a very bad thing. I didn't call the police because I was OK and so was my bike. I told the guy to please be extremely careful, but I'm not really sure that he completely understood what had happened. He seemed very relieved that his Mustang was OK, and never asked if I was OK.

The fact that he was handicapped is not the reason I didn't call the police, more so, I just didn't want to hassle with it. Now, a few days later, I have been feeling more and more disappointed in myself for not calling the police. I feel like I have been irresponsible for not making sure this driver is closely evaluated to see if it is safe for him to be driving. Seriously, I was right beside the passenger window of his car when he turned directly into me, and he had come from behind me. I just imagine someone walking across the sidestreet onto which he was turning, or even the fact that my good friend rides his bike in that area every day.

What do I need to do? I don't have the license plate, but I think I can get it with some effort (he was on his way to the church right around the corner). I am completely fine and so is my bike (that's a very important detail) so I'm not interested in pressing charges nor am I concerned about any injuries or restitution.

Gene Weingarten: Well, let's say you find out who he is. Then what do you do? It's a moral issue, more than a police issue at this point, no? Maybe someone who knows more about the law here can pipe up, but I am thinking the police aren't going to spend any time on an accident with no injuries, reported a week late with uncertain ID.

You know, since it is a moral issue, and you know where this guy was going, maybe you want to talk to the priest. Put it in HIS lap. He's probably a moral person, you know? If this guy needs to be talked to, he might be the one to do it.

Other ideas? It does sound like he needs to be checked up on. You'd feel awful if he killed someone, right?


Placen, TA: Your comments on Tom Cruise announcing that he's going to eat Katies placenta after the birth of their child? I'm curious to hear what the vegan thoughts are on this... Celebritology: Tom Cruise's Post-Partum Meal

Gene Weingarten: I should have put Katie's placenta in the poll, instead of the bugs.


Boston, Mass.: Hi Gene: In the vein of figments of the imagination, in my linguistics class we read Jack Winter's story from the July 1994 New Yorker which used words that ordinarily require negation to require meaning. I've copied it out as follows:

It had been a rough day, so when I walked to the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate. I was furling was wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way. I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I'd have to make bones about it since I was travelling cognito. Beknownst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it owuld be skin off my nose if anything bad happened. And even though I had only swerving loyatly to her, my manners couldn't be peccable. Only toward and heard-of behaviour would do. Fortunately, the embarrassment that my maculate appearance might causee was evitable. There were two ways about it, but the chances that someone as flappable as I would be ept enough to become persona grata or a sung here were slim. I was, after all, something to sneeze at, someone you could easily hold a candle to, someone who usually aroused bridled passion. So I decided not to risk it. But htne, all at once, for some apparent reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could make heads and tails of. I was plussed. It was concerting to see that she was communicado, and it nerved me that she was interested in a pareil like me, sight seen. Normally, I had a domitable spirit, but, being corrible, I felt capacitated--asif this were something Iwas great shakes-- and forgot that I had succeeded in situations like this only a told number of times. SO, after a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings. Nevertheless, since this was all new hat to me and I had no time to prepare a promptu speech, I was petuous. Wanting to make only called-for remakrs, I started talking about hte hors d'oeuvres, trying to abuse her of the notion that I was sipid, and perhaps even bunk a few myths about myself. She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savory character was up to some good. She told me who she was. "What a perfect nomer," I said, advertently. The conversation became more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was fatigable, so I had to leave at a goldy hour. I asked if she wanted to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party together and have been together ever since. I have given her my love, and she was requited it.

You like?

Gene Weingarten: Dubitably.


Centerfold, Pa.: Gene, I am about your age, well, maybe a little younger, and have a 20-year-old daughter in college. For many years I have enjoyed reading the articles in Playboy magazine... and on occasion enjoy the other features provided by the magazine. Here is my dilemma. I have noticed recently that some of the girls featured in the centerfold are younger than my daughter. On the Gene Weingarten "Skeevy Scale", how do I continue receiving Playboy and enjoying all the features given this awkward situation?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, pictures don't count. I thought I made that clear. We aren't deceased, m'lad, we are merely fathers. You are home free. Worry, though, if you start lusting after your daughter's girlfriends.


Porcupine, S.D.: The Frazz cartoon only proves that Mallett is a serious sauna junky. The Finns, who invented the things, pronounce it SOW-na, and since it's a Finnish word (or rather, a Suomi one, to use the Finnish word for Finnish), that's probably technically correct. Doesn't make the joke any better to anyone who hasn't sat through a long lecture on the history of saunas by a Finn, though, I'll give you that much.

Gene Weingarten: But that's ridiculous. If we cared how things are pronounced in other countries, we would say "Osterreich," instead of Austria, and pronounce everything the way the Brits do. The Brits invented English.


Jef explains himself: Gene checked every source for the pronunciation of sauna EXCEPT for the people who invented the damn things, and use them the right way, and sell and maintain them, and ... and eat lutefisk on purpose. I'm not sure that last bit helps in the credibility department, but hey.

Nordics of the world, stick up for me. In my experience, this is actually kind of a sticking point for Scandinavians, with whom I share some heritage whenever it's convenient or flattering.

In my experience, which I seem to be compiling at an alarming rate, I'm also finding that it's a good idea to run to the dictionary and check even those "facts" that seem obvious to me. That, or stop drawing a comic strip that asks its readers to do it every so often.

I stand humbled and chastised. I promise to avoid such inexcusable lapses from here on. Because my only alternative is to draw a crass, crude comic strip for the simpler folk, and I promised Pastis I wouldn't horn in on his territory.

The Finns and Swedes and Norwegians are still encouraged to give Gene hell and salvage a little bit of my day, though. I'm off to flog myself with birch branches.


Gene Weingarten: Jef does this Hamlet mea culpa thing better than anyone I know except Von Drehle. Von Drehle once told me that he was completely useless to the Washington Post except in the sense that his body temperature raised the temperature in the building infinitesimally, lowering their AC cost a little.


Pull my Itzer: 35th year? So you won in 1971?

Gene Weingarten: 71 was my first year writing for a living.


Eating Placenta: Isn't the whole rationale behind that grody practice of eating the placenta the notion that the WOMAN who just gave birth could use the nutrients? Why would the man eat the placenta?

Gene Weingarten: For the same reason he would become a Scientologist.


Too Old Formula: A formula I have always used for relationships is half your age plus 7. This falls out of the requirement that when you are 18 you should not be involved with someone younger than 16, but it scales fairly well. I don't know if there should be a different guideline for lusting, but probably not. And up-lusting for someone older would just be the inverse.

Gene Weingarten: We are comparing apples and watermelons. That is the rule for having a romance. (It would put my youngest-possible paramour at 34, which seems about right to me, actually.)

My definititon -- five years older than one's oldest daughter -- is not a rule. It is a fact. It is not a guide for proper behavior, it is a statement of some internal governor that kicks in for a man with an adult daughter. It also does not bear upon romance -- just a lustful feeling.

I don't think a guy is BAD if he gets all hot and bothered over a girl his daughter's age. I just don't think it happens much.


Matzah!: Gene, in honor of passover I thought I would send you the greatest matzoh film ever made. Enjoy.

Gene Weingarten: Very, very nice. Thank you. Those jibjab guys do good work.


The poll: I would SO eat beetles, talk to the gigolo, see "Pigeon, Anxiously," be more likely to vote for the straight-edge, faithful politician, and drive as fast as I can on the Autobahn! What is wrong with the rest of you people?!

(for the record, I'm a female under 21)

My logic: I know beetles are crunchy and delicious from previous experience, gigolos probably have all the dirt on the other party-goers, "Pigeon, Anxiously" sounds like the most entertaining movie, I trust a politician like that because he's probably not going to waver from his platform when he is among the temptation of lobbyists and power (unlike certain congressional members during the supreme court justice confirmation hearings), and if I didn't drive at crazy high speeds on the Autobahn, I'd get hit for sure.

Gene Weingarten: I'm with you, right up to the politician. There we diverge.


Washington, D.C.: I believe I saw you on Saturday night at the movies. You saw "Thank You For Smoking." I did not say hello, but I used the occasion to contemplate the elusive nature of fame and I reached a profound conclusion which I thought I would share, namely, dude, you do not deserve that woman. That had to be a mistress, right?

Gene Weingarten: If it had been, I probably wouldn't be printing this post.


Was that you...: ...walking down Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda at about 12:30 on Saturday afternoon? You were carrying a plastic Hecht's bag and briefly stopped by Ecker's Clock and Watch Shop. I was sitting outside Cafe Xpress eating a sandwich with my mom.

If, in fact, that was you, you ought to insist that The Post run a new photo of you because you look quite a bit slimmer in person. If that wasn't you, I'm relieved I controlled the impulse to throw panties... virtual or otherwise. Boy would that have been embarrassing!

Gene Weingarten: Gad, what is happening here? Yes, me. I would have laughed at the panties. Your ma probably would not have.


Answer me this...: I heard someone say there are only five places that (in English) are always preceded with "the" as in: The Bronx, The Hague, The Netherlands, The Vatican and The United States. Any more you can think of? I love proving people wrong.

Gene Weingarten: I just finished writing a column about proving truisms wrong!

The People's Republic of China.

The United Arab Emirates.

I'm sure there are others.


Rhymes with Sporange: Marylin vos Savant and Wikipedia claim that "sporange" (aka sporangium, a spore-containing structure of plants and fungi) rhymes with orange. However, this is disputed on various Web sites.

Which leads me to a question about vos Savant. Why is it that the person with the highest IQ in the world has eschewed using her intelligence for medical research, quantum physics, and ending wars and poverty to instead write a trivia/puzzle column for an insipid magazine and be an executive in her husband's company?

Gene Weingarten: She should answer that question! It's exactly the kind of question she DOES answer.

I have researched sporange. First, it is not listed in most dics, and second, it is usually not pronounced as a rhyme of orange (spor-ANGE.) So, no. I have just written a column on rhymes for orange, based upon a discussion we had in this chat last week.


Di, VA: Is it just me, or is there something really weird about marrying your high school sweetheart? Some people seem to think that it's the pinacle of amorous love, but seriously, if I had to be back with the guy I was dating at 16, I think I would die. I can't trust a politician who han't changed emotionally since age 16.

Gene Weingarten: NOW you're talking.

I think it is possible to find one's soulmate at 18, and never want anything else. If it doesn't bespeak a lack of curiosity -- it may not -- it DOES bespeak a lack of experience in matters of romance and intimacy, no? Couple that with no pot....


Pols and pot: Gene, I'm not surprised that you would look disfavorably on a politician who married his high school sweetheart and never did drugs. We ALL, I think, look for politicians whose values and decisions we can identify with. You identify with a debaucherous history of multiple partners and rampant narcotic/hallucenogic usage. Whatever. I identify with someone who was a little too timid in high school and college to carve many notches on his belt before meeting the woman he completely, totally, loves and who decided that he liked his mind fine just the way it was, thank you.

Again -- whatever. To each his own. You elect your STD-ridden pothead, I'll elect my (liberal Democrat) highschool sweetheart-marrying straightlacer.

Gene Weingarten: Understood.

Alas, I spent a shockingly undebauched younger life.


Washington, D.C.: About the beetles in cream sauce. I voted to decline them, but not because of the beetles. I am a woman of a certain age, and cream sauce is fattening. I might have tried the beetles if they came in a nice tomato sauce. Ridiculous, but true.

Gene Weingarten: It was a VERY light clam sauce, quite thin and low-caloric. With capers and no butter.


Barry Louis Polisar!: Gene you just made my childhood memories of singing the "Underwear is Everywhere" song with my family on road trips, all of us screaming out the window. My husband laughes so hard whenever it comes across my mind. Thanks!

Gene Weingarten: That does remind me of a line I remember fondly from Portnoy's complaint. Some of you will know the one I mean. I would print it here, but Liz would literally die. She would just keel over and die. And be found pantsless, and questions would be asked.


Washington, D.C.: Did Dave Barry ever show you his Pulitzer?

Do the others at work bring their Pulitzers into the office? What does a Pulitzer even look like?

Gene Weingarten: Boy, you know how to hurt a guy, don't you?

It's a plaque. I think.


Yawn: Please. Don't let turn into a Gene Sighting chat. I live about 1,100 miles away in a place where, I am fairly certain, I will never spot you walking down the street. Can we put a limit on the number of Gene Sightings we can have per chat? The best two, maybe?

Gene Weingarten: Or we could hold it to none!


Ohtobein, England: Going highbrow for no reason:

Mercury's Song, from "Amphitryon"

Fair Iris I love, and hourly I die,

But not for a lip nor a languishing eye:

She's fickle and false, and there we agree,

But I am as false and as fickle as she;

We neither believe what either can say,

And, neither believing, we neither betray.

'Tis civil to swear and say things of course;

We mean not the taking for better for worse.

When present, we love; when absent, agree:

I think not of Iris, nor Iris of me.

The legend of love no couple can find

So easy to part, or so equally joined

-- John Dryden (1631 - 1700)

Gene Weingarten: That is one hell of a poem, and a very refreshing departure from treacly Romanticism, no? Thanks.


Herndon, Va.: Ref. the bridge named after Mr. Outerbridge -- a descendent his (unsure as to the relationship) became a U.S. ambassador, Ambassador Outerbridge Horsey. To make it even better, the late Ambassador's wife went by the nickname of "Ham." Certainly one of the most interesting named duos in U.S. diplomatic history. I would have talked to him at an Embassy party.

Gene Weingarten: It is impressive.


Preceded with The: The Middle East

The Mid West

The South

The West Coast

The Gulf Coast

The East Coast

The English Channel

The Bering Straight

The North Pole

The South Pole

The Equator

The fact that that chatter heard a rumor with no basis in fact.

Gene Weingarten: Yes.


Towson, Md.: Was The Band great? Were Robbie Robertson's lyrics kinda goofy? Did Joan Baez butcher "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"?

Gene Weingarten: Yes. No. Yes.


Medford, Mass.: Gene, in Kurtz's chat yesterday, he mentioned in passing that you "can't walk through the Style department without bumping into a Pulitzer winner"

So you've got Hunter, and now Givhan... who are the other ones?

Gene Weingarten: Shales. I can't think of another. Oh, yes... Henry Allen.


Gene Weingarten:

Okay, the poll.

First off, the answers to the first question betray the greatest male-female split since we began taking polls, eclipsing even the 2-1 differential in whether visible panty lines are good (men) or bad (women.) This discrepancy is perhaps understandable, on a very basic and stereotypical level. Girls don't like yucky things.

But what is to explain the fact that men are more likely to talk to their spouses at a party than women are? Men are more shy? Maybe! But can someone please explain to me why so many of you of both sexes would spend a party containing fascinating, important people talking to the person you will remain with all the time?

Each question was designed to gauge adventurousness. I would certainly eat the beetles. I'd eat anything that was an actual foodstuff, once, unless it was something that spoke to me of cruelty (live monkey brains, say.) You only live once.

I'm talking to the gigolo. That's something I'm probably not going to get another opportunity at any time soon. WHERE IS YOUR CURIOSITY, PEOPLE? The ambassador will spout only pablum. The architect - sure, I guess, though I doubt I'd have much in common, or that we'd share a patois. The gigolo comes first.

The movie seemed easy to me. The scenario is pretty preposterous - you know NOTHING of any of the movies, so in a crapshoot like that I am going for the film that seems most likely to surprise me. That would be Pigeon, Anxiously, which gives no clue as to what it is, other than something unusual. All the rest sound like predictable genre movies. (And yes, it is kind of sweet that a number of the girls, and virtually none of the boys, went for the weeper.)

The pol? Listen, call me a [EDITED] but I think there is something suspicious about a guy who was a teenager and young adult in the 60s and never even TRIED pot. He was either a goody-two-shoes geek or a ROTC Nazi, or a remarkably incurious fellow. Add to that the wife thing, which might be fine but is certainly kind of dull, and I get a picture of someone I don't think I'm going to like very much. It's not in any way dispositive, but it would move me to some degree against him. Also, that guy is probably a conservative.

Where my answer veers, as it were, is on the Autobahn. I'd like to be the kind of guy who pushes it to 120, but I'm not. I'm hitting 80, and easing off the gas. And yes, I'm ashamed.


Won't Say: Oh My God! I've GOT to get back to work and stop reading this chat.

Gene Weingarten: I also welcome back the guy who gave this up for Lent. I thought he was kidding 40 days ago, when he said goodbye. But he wasn't.

This is significant enough to give up for Lent?


Pittsburgh, Pa.: "Answer me this...: I heard someone say there are only five places that (in English) are always preceded with "the" as in: The Bronx, The Hague, The Netherlands, The Vatican and The United States. "

would "The Azores" count?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, they would. I think we have pretty substantially quashed this. I believe there is also a place in Texas called 'The Dalles." Really. I believe that is where the great quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan is from, if I remember correctly. Maybe it is not Texas.


Clarksburg, Md. (where zoning is merely a suggestion): Gene, this has been bothering me for some time now, and I think you're the only one who could do this question justice.

What is the rationale for playing cockpit recordings from Flight 93 or the heart wrenching 911 calls from the doomed in New York City or distributing gruesome crime scene photos before a jury has reached it's verdict? Seems to me all it does is stoke a thirst for revenge, which is more rightly served up at sentencing if at all. Honestly, it seems as if the DA just wants a convinction, not necessarily justice.

So. What say you? Does this practice make sense, or should I just forward this question to the Honorable John Ashcroft. Such as it is...

Gene Weingarten: They're not playing it before the verdict. They're playing it before the death penalty phase.


Louisville, Ky: You saw "Thank You For Smoking," huh?

I laughed at the cheese/pie gag and that was it. What a stupid, obvious, boring movie.

Gene Weingarten: I thought it was okay. Not terrible. Some lines intended to be funny plopped pretty badly.


No, no, no: I am a hot female, the one who gave you up for Lent. Please....

Gene Weingarten: Really?

Oooooh. It all makes sense now.


Theophyla, CT: Yardley, for Criticism.

Gene Weingarten: He's not in Style. He is in Book World.


Re: Crash: "every single character did one horrible thing, and one noble thing."

What about the father of that beautiful little girl? I don't remember him doing anything wrong...

Gene Weingarten: I believe it was suggested that he trashed the store.


Arlington, Va.: I am a woman who finds the laboratory-PETA guy funny video, although I did agree with some of your points on why it wasn't. So how is it different from a guy running into a herd of fainting goats with an umbrella to make them faint? I found that cruel, the goats cannot control that genetic reflex. And I am very much in the animals are animals camp, ie, don't understand excess devotion to animals even if they are pets.

Gene Weingarten: Well, these goats spend their life fainting. I mean, this happens to them dozens of times a day, anytime anything startles them. I didn't see any particular cruelty there.


Pigeon, Anxiously: "Pigeon, Anxiously" sounds like some immature writer trying too hard to be cool/unusual/attention-getting. People give titles to things for specific reasons. Trying to be offbeat, strange, whatever. That's a turn-off.

Gene Weingarten: But what was a turn-ON? All the rest sounded quite boring and ordinary.


The Autobahn: Could your reluctance on the accelerator be because you don't have a particularly fun and fast car to drive? Having owned a few sporty cars, I can quite frankly say that you get a different feel from them at high speed. If you had the right car, say a 'Vette or a Lotus, you'd probably exceed 80 without even really thinking about it.

Gene Weingarten: Could be. I once hit 100 in the Nevada desert in a rental car, not even realizing I was going above 70.


Come, ON!: You had someone else write nearly half (and quite a funny nearly-half) of your column. You are BRILLIANT!

Gene Weingarten: Well, I had to so SOMETHING. I'm no longer getting Gina to write for free.


Fairfax, Va.: At the party I would MOST LIKE to talk to the world famous architect, but I would probably talk to my wife instead. Most likely we would talk about what it would be like to talk to the famous architect. Then we would say something about how pathetic we are for not talking to the architect. Then we would agree with each other and continue not talking to the architect.

We have actually done this a number of times. It's truly astounding how many famous people we have not talked to.

Gene Weingarten: This has me laughing.


Crash, Md.: You are wrong - there was no suggestion that he trashed the store ... there was, however, a suggestion of previous gang activity. I'm pretty sure that was supposed to be his one bad thing.

Gene Weingarten: Is that right? Could be. I forget details. I do recall that there was one bad thing.

The little girl didn't have any bad thing, of course. Wait, maybe SHE trashed the store.


Re:Shy guys: I'm a male and I voted to eat the beetle and talk to the spouse. I'm a pretty shy reserved guy and also an introvert, so at a party where I don't know anyone, I'm going to talk to the wife. I'm no good at small talk (the introvert in me) and wouldn't even know how to start a conversation with a gigolo.

But food I know. I don't need to talk to food. Just open up and maybe I find a new dish to enjoy.

Gene Weingarten: I think that really hit a truth. Guys are shyer.


The Dalles, Ore.: Killer fishing place used for thousands of years by Northwest Coast American indians, on the Columbia River.

Gene Weingarten: That's it. John's from Oregon.


Theophyla, CT: Book World is in Style, Gene, except on Sunday.

Gene Weingarten: Whold different section. Different staff. Different boss.


Washington, D.C.: Was that you I spotted at the "Thank You for Smoking" showing who was speaking to the gigolo?

Gene Weingarten: That was no gigolo, that was my mistress.


New Carrollton Federal Building, Lanham, Md.: The sign over the middle urinal on the 7th floor of the "A" building, which floods everytime it is flushed, reads:

"Please face wall when using urinal."

Just thought you ought to know.

Gene Weingarten: That's great.

Gene Weingarten: It also reminds me of a direct translation of a word in ancient Hebrew. It means "man" and it translates, literally, into "one who pisseth against a wall."


Double Negati, VE: "Alas, I spent a shockingly undebauched younger life."

Surely you mean you led a bauched younger life, no?

Gene Weingarten: Correct. A disappointingly bauched life. Thank you.


Biker in DC: Gene -

The person who asked about what do you about the mentally challenged driver in the biker incident should just mind his own business. I mean if this person is that concerned about bad driving, why doesn't he call the police about all the old people in his neighborhood who might have bad vision? Or camp out in front of bar and call the cops to report anyone who might have had too many drinks? Surely these people are more accident prone than a properly licensed mentally challenged person who's sober. Everyone has a blind spot. Maybe you, the biker, were in the drivers. I'm sure the driver has enough to worry about. He probably doesn't need more strangers poking around in his life saying he can't do things that most normal people can do. (And if in fact he really can't drive, let the people who know him take him off the road. They are the ones who should feel guilty.)

Gene Weingarten: I am supposing that the poster had good reason for alarm, after talking to this person. And remember, he came up from behind her, then immediately turned into her. Not a blind spot scenario.


There should be a sign: Why didn't you warn us Levey was coming back?

Gene Weingarten: It's quite remarkable, isn't it?


Is it something I said?: Six months ago you posted my comments all the time. Now, no matter how witty and brilliant I am, you never post my comments. Please tell me what I did to be shunned. Or am I simply another victim of your growing popularity?

I blame it all on the Great Zucchini.

Gene Weingarten: Seriously, the chat is getting many more questions. A tipping point was reached about six months ago. It's harder to be posted, which is one reason I started the updates. Many posts that don't make it into the realtime make it into the updates.


That word: In order to see the word that cannot be printed in the WP, you don't have to go to the link. All you need to do is put your cursor on the link reference and there the word is, right in the name of the link itself. So, you're still in the window and the word is visible. Can we use this to make the issue more convoluted? Please? Foiled again.

Gene Weingarten: Excellent!!!! We published the word!


The lust rule: Hmmm...this is actually a pretty tough rule on my dad. He is only 20 years older than I am, so at 54 he's stuck lusting only after 39 year olds? Do young dads get slack?

Although I do recall when I was in the 18-20ish range he told me he was always out of the loop in bars when his co-workers were drooling all over the young co-eds. He almost literally couldn't see them "that way" since they were so close to my age.

Is there some age your daughter reaches where the rule starts to slacken, do you think?

Gene Weingarten: I think so, but I am your dad's age, and I don't think it slackens this early, whatever the age of the daughter. Besides, trust me, "only" 39 year olds is not a major problem.


Accident, AL: Gene, if the bicyclist knows where the driver goes to church, he should consider talking to the man's pastor (minister, whatever) about the accident.

Gene Weingarten: yes, that is what I proposed.


Well, then what about my question?: About why there is a hole in men's underwear if they never use it and just pull the shorts down instead? Huh? I think thats a GOOD question!!

Gene Weingarten: It is. And men's underwear is made with a fly and without.

I was going to say I don't know any men who use the fly, but I realize I have no idea how any men do it. I have a fly, and don't use it.


What's the difference?: Yardley has a piece in Style today (and yesterday too I believe). Also he had a column in Style for many years.



Idiot Savant: Marilyn Vos Savant has the highest recorded IQ because she took the IQ tests several times.

My husband also recently discovered that she was in his high school class, but no one seems to remember her.

And when she changed her name to Vos Savant, why didn't she just pick Pants de Smarty?

Gene Weingarten: Is Vos Savant made up?


Jef Mallett recants: Now I understand.

I'd eat a beetle, or even lutefisk, talk to a gigolo and drive like hell on the Autobahn. But I grew up in the 1970s and wasn't curious enough to try pot or any other illicit drug. And THAT is why I'm the kind of guy who didn't look up "sauna" in the dictionary.

Gene Weingarten: Jef, you should have told me this pot thing before we became friends. Now I have to rethink our relationship.


Definitely NOT 7th Avenue: Congrats to Robin Givhan and all, but I've always had to wonder: Why does the Post care so much about fashion? Washington is not a place one would think of as fashion-forward. If designers started coming out with high-end lanyards for security badges, that might be a different story. Doesn't it seem kind of a fish-out-of-water bear for a fashion writer?

And more question: She obviously has to go to the shows, and be wearing Something Fabulous by Somebody Important. Can she expense her wardrobe?

Gene Weingarten: To my understanding, Robin doesn't have an extensive wardrobe. She tends to dress very simply. I was going to say she didn't dress "fashionably," but the woman knows so much about fashion that I would have to conclude that whatever she wears is, perforce, a fashion statement. Including less is more.


Re: Updates: Please, remind us again -- what is the best way to reach you after a chat has ended? Particularly when you bleg so close to the end of the hour.... bleg?

Gene Weingarten: I was hoping my blegging was not that obvious.

Send it to me at weingarten(at)


No soap: It was very nice of your father and your wife to contrive a situation that would allow you the great pleasure of cracking a joke only you would enjoy (and the additional pleasure of bragging about it here).

Gene Weingarten: I know. I felt honored.


No Fly?!: Are you insane? I specifically remember a boy in my fourth grade who used to pull his pants down to pee. I thought he was the only male in the world who didn't use the fly.

Gene Weingarten: No, no. We are talking about the fly in the Underpants, not the fly in the pants. I don't pull my pants down to pee!


Paris of the Piedmo, NT: The lust rule--very lenient for old-ish dads, too. Were I to father a girl child tonight (which would require a not-yet-located partner), I could lust after eighteen-year-olds while I was fifty!

Gene Weingarten: Sorry, dude. The rule doesn't kick in until the daughter is 18. Before that, all is wrong.


SOWNA!: I can't believe I'm finally seeing this in a public forum! As a Finn who married an Irishman (there has to be a joke there), it took me years to teach him to say sauna correctly.

Thanks Jef!!!!

Gene Weingarten: Good god, people. Sowna is not correct, it is simply Finnish.


Vos Savant: "Born in St. Louis to Mary vos Savant and Joseph Mach, Marilyn opposes the tradition of children taking their father's surname, instead using her mother's maiden name."

Credit Wikipeida.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, good.


No Pot, OK: "I think there is something suspicious about a guy who was a teenager and young adult in the 60s and never even TRIED pot."

OK, just checking here: My mom was a teen/young adult in the 60s and never even tried pot (and no, she's not lying). BUT she does drink on occasion (I've been with her when she's drunk--it's really cute), and she certainly, how does one say this nicely about one's mom... well, she didn't marry the first guy she was with. Would those other factors make you less suspicious of a person?

Gene Weingarten: Yes.


Nowhere in particular: Would you be upset if we...I mean, your children (not that this is one of your children) smoked pot? And where do you hide the good stuff?

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.

My kids are 24 and 21. They can do what they want.

And thank you all. I liked this week, particularly the poll.

Next week, same time.


UPDATED 4.19.06

Gene Weingarten: Well, in trying to come up with the names of Style section Pulitzer winners yesterday, it turns out I forgot the guy I know the best, Tim Page. Tim reminded me of this by finding and forwarding a copy of an e-mail message I sent him at 5:13 p.m. on April 7, 1997, shortly after he won. At the time he was receiving dozens of hearty and heartfelt congratulations from colleagues. This was mine, reprinted here verbatim but redacted:

just remember, you are just little timmy page. who happens to have a f------- pulitzer prize, you s---. whatever people tell you, please be aware we ALL have pulitzer envy and on some small but significant level, hate you.


Gene Weingarten: And I plumb forgot about "B.C." on April 15. Anyone notice anything wrong with this? Anyone have any idea how this got past Hart, high-paid editors, and readers (only one poster mentioned it.) B.C., (April 15)


Washington, D.C.: All the movies were rated R. Which one would most likely have this rating due to flashings of boobies? Gotta be (d) "Somewhere In The Heart."

Yet only 1.8 percent of men realized this. I'm being charitible, even worse would be realizing this and still voting for one of the others.

What's wrong with you guys?

Gene Weingarten: Sir, you are right. And you are a God. This eluded me, too.


Birmingham, Ala.: Gene, my husband, kids, and I heard Dave Barry speak Saturday night, and I did something I haven't done before: I stayed afterwards to meet him and have him sign a book for me. I raised my children reading his columns aloud to the family. I was a little surprised that he is just as funny speaking as he is when writing -- good comic timing in his delivery. Anyway, I told him that I would be participating in your chat today and asked him to tell me something so that you would indeed know that I had met Dave Barry. He thought a moment, then said that I could give you the opportunity to tell an embarrassing story if I asked you about showing a hurricane story magazine cover to some Knight Ridder executives.

That's your opening, so what's the story?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, you've convinced me. Dave has feasted on this story for years, and it is true. He recounted it in the introduction to the hypochondria book.

I was the editor of Tropic magazine at the Herald in the late 1980s. I was not a conventional management type. One day, a group of suits -- big shot Knight Ridder executives arrived at Tropic's offices, apparently as part of a tour of the building. I probably had been forewarned, but forgot about it. When they came in we were engaged in typical Tropic pursuits -- playing Nerf basketball or something -- and I simply had nothing prepared to show them.

Drawing myself up with dignity, I tried to act every bit the Herald Executive. I was supposed to give them a tour of the operation, so I figured I would just show them what we were working on. At the moment, it was a story about a guy who chased hurricanes. And in fact, we were doing something interesting to illustrate it. We had shot a photo, in the studio, of the man hanging from a tree branch. We were going to illustrate the story by rotating the picture 90 degrees, so it would look like he was being held horizontal by a strong wind, and hanging on to a limb for dear life.

So I wanted to show them the picture. So I called over to our art director, Philip Brooker and said, in complete innocence: "Hey Philip, can you show them the picture of the guy getting blown?"

Well, within a millisecond of this escaping my lips, I burst out laughing. I could not control myself. I sank into a chair, pounded my head on the table, completely consumed in laughter. A couple of times I tried to speak, without success, and kept collapsing onto the table. Finally, I recovered, looked up, and... they were gone.


Boxers: I know of someone (female) who did an informal poll back in college asking guys if they use the hole in their boxers or just pull them down.

Only one guy said he used the hole and she told him that he was unique. He excused himself to the bathroom and then came back and said, "Wow, pulling them down really is easier!"

Gene Weingarten: One or two guys have written in to say they use both flys. I find it awkward, like a doctor probing for a bullet or something. (Okay, bad example.) But more than a DOZEN women wrote in with posts like the one that follows.


Washington, D.C.: Gene, I'm a confused girl right about now:

"No Fly?!: Are you insane? I specifically remember a boy in my fourth grade who used to pull his pants down to pee. I thought he was the only male in the world who didn't use the fly.

Gene Weingarten: No, no. We are talking about the fly in the Underpants, not the fly in the pants. I don't pull my pants down to pee!

Does this mean you open the fly on your pants, and then somehow pull your underwear down while your pants are still up and buttoned? This might be TMI, but I was really having trouble trying to figure this one out.

Gene Weingarten: Women are stunned! This seems so illogical.

Here is what we do, girls: We open the fly in the front of the pants, reach in and lower the top front of the undies, to permit escape of the thing that must be drained. Much easier than trying to wrestle it through a maze.

Gene Weingarten: You women find it illogical because... well, there is a fly in the undies. Why are they there? One theory is that it is not a fly at all, but a vent-type arrangement to allow... expansion. I think it's just an outmoded design, and as I said, many briefs don't even have flys anymore.

Now, things may be different with boxers. I can't speak for boxers. Hang on, let me phone Dan.


Yes, Dan confirms it is the same for Boxers.

We guys are over the top, as it were.


UPDATED 4.20.06

Washington, D.C.: Regarding your inadvertent workplace faux pas revealed in yesterday's update:

Early Sunday morning, my wife, father-in-law (visiting from out of town), and I attended the Easter services at the National Cathedral, which we don't normally attend. After a beautiful, inspiring service, accompanied by the gorgeous high Church music that marks the Anglican service, the three of us were walking the grounds when my wife observed, "I love the big organ." After a long pause, I asked my beautiful and devoted wife, "Do you think you could find another way to say that?" At which point her Dad and I burst out laughing.

My wife gave me an Easter gift that will keep on giving.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Baltimore, Md.: "The pol? Listen, call me a [EDITED] but I think there is something suspicious about a guy who was a teenager and young adult in the '60s and never even TRIED pot. He was either a goody-two-shoes geek or a ROTC Nazi, or a remarkably incurious fellow. Add to that the wife thing, which might be fine but is certainly kind of dull, and I get a picture of someone I don't think I'm going to like very much. It's not in any way dispositive, but it would move me to some degree against him. Also, that guy is probably a conservative."

You're betraying your prejudices here. First, okay, the wife thing is just a touch odd -- seems that any minute now they'll get divorced as they see what a raw deal they each got -- but insofar as pot goes, it's perfectly defensible to pass up trying it. In my opinion, life is strange enough a trip without having to supplement it with psychedelics. In my opinion, anyone who feels a need to alter their consciousness deserves pity -- they just aren't interacting enough with the world and its strangeness. I am actually a beer judge (and a professional beer writer), and I actually HATE the buzz of tipsiness, and avoid drunkeness if at all possible. It strikes me as somewhat sad to see someone advocate mind-altering just because the opportunity knocks.

Gene Weingarten: "Anyone who feels a need to alter their consciousness deserves pity ... "

Wow, pretty harsh and judgmental, there. What if it not a "need" to alter consciousness, but a desire, because it is fun? Sometimes. In moderation?

I kind of think the world might not be so screwed up right now if our president would unwind once in a while.

I am not advocating drug use. I don't use pot anymore, haven't for decades. All I am saying is that I remember what it was like to be young and in an urban environment in the 1960s and 1970s. To not have TRIED pot was to be a certain kind of person, and -- all other things being equal -- I'd choose the other kind of person.


I'll eat the beetles: ...but as a woman, I wouldn't want to talk to the gigolo because I think it would be strange to have a conversation with someone who earns a living being charming to women. Can someone turn that sort of thing off?

Plus, I don't think he'd dish dirt unless he'd retired and didn't need to display discretion as a professional obligation.

Gene Weingarten: But isn't strange ... good? Wouldn't you want to hear how an honest-to-god international gigolo comports himself? Wouldn't it be interesting if he charms you, even knowing what he is? Wouldn't it be interesting if he doesn't charm you? Wouldn't it be interesting if he is dumb but canny? Smart but crude?

Aren't you curious?


Washington, D.C.: So the Post cannot mention the Baltimore Sun's sports columnist Peter [EDITED] by name?

Gene Weingarten: No.


Film Gn, AR: Gene,

I was surprised to see that so many men opted to see something other than Revenge of the Gnarbots.

Then it hit me! "Revenge of the Gnarbots" is so obviously a sequel. If you hadn't seen "Episode One: The Gnarbot Menace", you might not be able to follow the plot adequately.

The poll was clearly rigged to underestimate man's insatiable desire for more ___bot-related cinema. Fie on you!

Gene Weingarten: I am embarrassed. This is a good point. But "The Gnarbot Menace" itself was a spinoff. In the first movie, "Astrakhan Warlords of C'noth", the Gnarbots were furry little helpful creatures. They didn't become evil until the gamma ray explosion in minute twelve of "The Gnarbot Menace."


Chantilly Va.: Gene: these qualify as aptonyms, right?

David Rockola: Rock-Ola jukeboxes

Sol Price: Price Club (now Costco for the young'uns)

I have a few more but sadly I am old (45 with 20-month-old twins) and my brain's trivia compartments are becoming overwhelmed.

Gene Weingarten: If David Rockola was born with that name, his is in the aptonym hall of fame.


UPDATED 4.21.06

Washington, D.C.: About your 55-year-old politician. I was there in the late 60s at college in Florida -- and not in a particularly large urban setting. At that time in that place I would guess that 95 percent of the students at least tried pot. Even the criminology students. Of the abstainers I knew, "goody two shoes" does not come close to describing them. "Holier than thou" is a fair description. That particular attitude, the lack of curiosity and experimentation and the fact that such a person did not really experience the same 60s and 70s (no pot? no sexual revolution?) makes me suspicious about whether he can represent MY experience and values.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, you said what I said, but better. I'm trying not to create the wrong impression here. I am not against abstinence from drugs. I am not against being married and faithful to one's high-school sweetie. I am saying that someone who embodied both of those things, and was a young person in this country in the 1960s and 1970s, is probably someone I, personally, am not going to relate to very well.

Is there a twentysomething person out there who understands what I mean, and can supply an analogy to something that might turn you off in 2030 against a politician who is your age? Something he will claim he never did, back in 2006?


Gene Weingarten: This just in, Re: the use of flys:

Flys on undies could be useful for women, too.

One time, I was playing the part of a ghost for a kids Halloween haunted trail. I was to wear a summer weight renn-faire style dress, but the forcast called for freezing temperatures. I found an off-white thermal shirt, figuring it would look skintone-ish in the torchlight, but I couldn't find a women's pair of long johns. Normal tights or leggings wouldn't work - I needed the heavy duty stuff for a long cold night of scaring kids. I just shrugged and picked up a men's pair. Naturally, it had that pocket fly. When I arrived at the trail, I was handed a script. My outfit didn't have any pockets, so I just stuck it in the fly. No big deal, right? I was wearing panties under, and that fly had quite a bit of room. My script was handy whenever I needed to review it. Late in the night, between packs of kids on the trail, the guy dressed as the axe murder stopped by to check the script. He had misplaced his. "Sure!", I chirped as I stuck my hand up my dress and started fishing around for the script. When I pulled it out, he just said "Uh... you keep it." I realized then where he thought I had stuck it, and I called to his fast-retreating back "No, you don't understand! I'm wearing men's underwear!" This did not improve the situation.


Starbucks, Washington, D.C.: This is hilarious!:

Gene Weingarten: Very good, but it goes on about 15 seconds too long. Nice use of the city/state field to advertise a business. Maybe I should put that field up for sale to the highest bidder. You could all be FedEx Field, Raljon, Md.


Arlington, Va.: So with a very questionable segue from the car question... my friend was complaining about Ford. In partcular the Focus, as in "All new 2006 Focuses are on sale," suggesting that it should be Foci. Same for Tauri, Lexi. Lexi was even in the New York Times recently in a car review. I feel that since these are names, they should simply get an -es and be happy. Is there an Official Grammar Ruling on this one?

Gene Weingarten: Sadly, no. For the same reason it is the Toronto "Maple Leafs" and not the "Maple Leaves."


Virginia Square, Arlington, Va.: Great BTB this week -- Barry's song was brilliant and I can see why you like him. Your song attempt... was OK, better than I would ever have done, but compared to his... no contest.

Gene Weingarten: I don't contest any of this, especially the part about being better than you could have done.


Washington, D.C.: A Hax question, but sometimes I think your answers are better. You're in your thirties, female and have been dating someone for three months. About halfway the person gets news that a potential, but somewhat unlikely, move cross-country (to a somewhat crappy city) had become definitely and imminent. He is super excited about it because it involves a cool new job possibility, plus the opportunity to finally be hands-on at another project he's spent a lot of money and time on in the past three years. Lots of the pieces of those things are still up in the air, as are things like where he will live when he gets there, when his house here will sell, whether the project will skyrocket or go belly-up, etc. You've talked about what's going to happen and you (obviously you = I, here) have put out there that you'd be willing to pursue a committed relationship that involved effort and not just "hey -- maybe I'll visit in August."

His response has been that he thinks he just needs to get out there, get settled, figure things out, but he does NOT want to cut things off with you. He obviously likes you, a lot (though apparently not enough). He thought about asking you to move now, but thought two completely unsettled people in new town = disaster. You are a person who would like to be in a long-term relationship approximating marriage in commitment if not paperwork someday and you don't feel like wasting time, if you will, but you also feel like this was a pretty special person. So: do you cut it off entirely right now so that you can move on and ultimately meet someone who is right and for whom the timing is right, or do you give it a month or two and try, for the first time in your life, to relax and just see what happens?

Gene Weingarten: I'm hearing a lot of excuses. From what you've told me this guy is Needing Space. That is not good, or as Christine Lavin once wrote in song to a reluctant lover: "If You Need Space, Move to Utah."


Proposition 13: From your update on Friday of last week, whoa, you are so wrong!!! If my husband was propositioned at work, I think he should tell me. Not because I have to know everything that happens in his life, but that's a pretty big "something." Come on, do people get propositioned by peers at work if they have done nothing to encourage it? Further, hiding or not mentioning it seems like a mistrust of me and my ability to "handle" the truth. It's kind of like a speeding ticket or winning $100 in the lottery. Why would you NOT mention it unless it was something not needed to be hidden?

Gene Weingarten: Good Lord. You are spouting nonsense.

"Come on, do people get propositioned by peers at work if they have done nothing to encourage it?"

Ummm, yes. Ask a lot of women.

I can imagine lots of decent and honorable and innocent reasons not to tell a spouse if you've been propositioned at work, and rejected that proposition. I don't see it as an obligation at all.

And I reiterate: You don't own your spouse. He or she is not obliged to tell you everything that happens to them. He or she is obliged to remain faithful.


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