Chatological Humor* (Updated 6.9.06)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 6, 2006; 12:00 PM

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

DAILY UPDATES: 6.7.06 | 6.8.06 | 6.9.06

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... it's a sickness.

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 .

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ .

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

I was in Ithaca this weekend, helping Molly move from her old house to a new house, between her first and second year at Cornell vet school. Mol had just finished her final exam, which was an enormous essay question divided into two parts. One part called for the student to come up with a complicated postmortem diagnosis of a hypothetical "Cow 282," who was brought in with a series of dire symptoms and was ultimately euthanized when it was determined she could no longer be a productive farm animal. The alert readers of this chat know that this is not the sort of animal-exploitation scenario that is beloved by Molly the Vegan; but this is a serious young woman preparing for a serious career in a serious field; there is a time and place for protest, and it is surely not while taking one's final exams. So Molly answered straightforwardly and (she thinks) correctly. However, this is still Molly. And so, on the question sheet that she handed in with her answers, my daughter carefully crossed out "Cow 282" and wrote in "Sally."

On Sunday morning it fell to me to wake Molly for our long drive back to Washington. Having recently completed several all-nighters preparing for her finals, she was not in the best of moods when I attempted to rouse her at 7 a.m., and began a long string of whiny invective. Most involved the unfair contention that I have become a pathetic old man, the sort of superannuated grandpappy figure who wakes up early and doesn't understand why everyone else can't be bright and chipper at 7 a.m. I protested that I was neither old nor out of it; that as a journalist and chatmeister I am indeed hip and cool and very much in touch with the times, with my finger on the pulse of the populace.

As we began to drive away, Molly found my cellphone, which I had inadvertently left in the car overnight. I asked, with no intent at humor: "Is it still wound up?"

Mol and I had to pull to the side of the road for a full minute, until the laughter subsided.

Okay, lessee. Yes, today is D-day, and also the Devil's Day, 6/6/06. The 666th minute of today is occurring at the moment I am typing this, which is six minutes after 11, and nothing bad has happHAIL ASMODAI ROASTER OF SOULSend so far, so I think we are cool.

Thanks to John Garoutte who wrote all the way from Guangzhou province in China to laud this headline from The Atlantic. It was about the hero athletes of Competitive Eating: "The Horsemen of the Esophagus."

My column on Sunday engendered some mail from people who suggested additional ways the Democrats can still shoot themselves in the foot. My favorite: "We must reach out to the Muslim world by renouncing Christianity and Judaism in favor of their faith."

Please take Today's Poll. You are showing some discrimination, which is good. But not enough discrimination, which is bad. There are definitely correct answers.

The Comic Pick of the Week is yesterday and today's ... Prick City. Yes! Stantis has actually given some non-rabid thought to something, and it turns out, he can be good. The first runner up is Monday's Rhymes with Orange (click back to June 5). Honorable: Sunday's Pearls.

I am willing to officially declare the Pajama Diaries an obnoxious unfunny failure. It seems to exist to denigrate women who work. It doesn't appear to be anywhere online, but keep a jaundiced eye on it.

Okay, let's go.

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Secret Burden: Bless me Father Gene. It's been a long, long time since my last confession, but I gotta tell someone.

I'd read about this popular online adult "swinger" site and my curiousity go the best of me. I my zip code into the search function because I was dying to see what kind of women actually belonged to such a site.

As I scrolled down, I cam across this nude headless torso. I went onto the profile and then I went back to the photo and saw something familiar in the background. It suddenly clicked -- it was one of my wife's good friends "K". I'd always got the vibe that she wasn't very happy with her husband "B" who has kind of a nasty side.

I was so excited to have such a lacivious secret and then it dawned on me -- I couldn't tell a soul on earth:

-- I couldn't tell my wife since she would have taken the mere fact that I looked at such a site as utter betrayal. Moreover she would be angry for not gouging out my eyes for having looked at the photo of her nude friend.

-- I couldn't tell any other women that I know since they would condemn me for being a total perv that lurks about swinger sites.

-- I couldn't tell half of my guy friends since they would have lectured me about the slippery slope away from the straight and narrow that keeps a marriage strong.

-- I couldn't tell the other half of the guy friends since they would horn-dog in one her. Then if "B" found out what happened, I'd be responsible for the homicide of a good friend.

-- I defintiely couldn't talk about it with "K" I know that I'm flirting with eternal damnation, but I can't help lusting in my heart when I mentally place her face on the nude torso.

My real concern, however, is that during the brief time that I was on the site that the NSA "hoovered up" my personal data and now I'm on some sort of secret national pervert look-out list. I'll never be able to get on an airplane again.

For the sin of having peeked, I am heartily sorry. Father Gene, what should I do for my penance?

Gene Weingarten: I believe you are paying your penance right now. You are alone with yourself, and this information. You are the poor slob who hits a hole in one when playing solo. As it were.

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Limerick Request: A geeky website I was reading offered the following challenge while telling readers how to pronounce a somewhat obscure word:

"Note: "synecdoche" is pronounced "sin-ECK-doe-key." Think Schenectady and vasectomy. If you can make a good limerick out of these three words, I'll give you a prize."

Can you do it, Gene? I'll share the prize with you.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, well, first off, those three words do not clearly rhyme, but for the purposes of this challenge, I suppose we must assume they do. Also, "synechdoche" is a figure of speech in which a part of something is used to represent a whole, as in calling a farm laborer a hired "hand."

Ahem.

A vulgar old gent from Schenectady

Made unfortunate use of synechdoche.

When he called a young doctor

The c-word (He mocked her),

She gave him a penknife vasectomy.

------

I'll expect my share of the booty.

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Be Kind to an Anim, AL:: I provide the information about the following event this afternoon (right after your chat) purely as a public service to educate people about animal cruelty, and not because anyone would be interested in the spectacle of naked people engaging in a faux stampede around downtown D.C.

And since Chatwoman's a vegan, I'm presuming she will be participating to show her support, no?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) "Running of the Nudes" to protest the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Location: Outside the Spanish Embassy, 2375 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C.. 1 p.m.

washingtonpost.com: I'll lend my quiet, clothed support from afar.

Gene Weingarten: And I shall post this. We must all do our parts.

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Oxford Town, Miss.: Gene,

I feel compelled to ask you this question because in general I like your linguistic aesthetics so much: why do you write "arse"?

I find that when Americans use British spellings or Britishisms, it comes off as somewhat pathetic and needy. Why do you do it? You don't also say that you stand in the queue at the supermarket, do you? Do you take the lift up to the 10th floor? Did a lorry drive through a puddle and splash you on your way to work today? Have you been having trouble decorating your flat?

I knew a guy in college who had a British accent. Turned out he was from Connecticut but had gone to London once when he was 10-years-old and adopted the accent from then on. We all made fun of him for it, but also because he insisted on playing soccer (which he called football) and was TERRIBLE at it.

Then the next year ANOTHER guy with a British accent showed up and it turned out he was from New Jersey and had never been out of the country at all. Those two guys hated each other.

Thanks,

Jimmy

Gene Weingarten: I use "arse" because Chatwoman won't let me say "ass."

Gene Weingarten: See next posting.

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Post Censorsh, IP:: During last week's chat you referenced the song "Tits and Ass" in A Chorus Line, which made it into the transcript uncensored. Yet the first word of the song's title was also a word that The Post (i.e. Bradlee) famously wouldn't print when John Mitchell made such a reference to Mrs. Graham's anatomy during Watergate.

What gives? Have standards changed in the past 30 years? Are the standards different when the publisher's anatomy is the one at issue? Does the fact that a Broadway show used the word make it permissible in some contexts and not permissible in others? Or is Chatwoman too slow on the [bleep] button?

washingtonpost.com: I can't censor what Gene types here if he doesn't first ask me. He knows he should be adhering to the same standards here online that he is bound by in the dead-tree version. I know he's made some remarks recently that seem to indicate there is a difference. There is not.

Gene Weingarten: But there IS a difference, Lizzie. As there should be. There is a difference in the nature of things that are acceptable online -- pointless but interesting blather -- and what is in the paper. There is also a difference in language. I would argue that "T and A," as the name of a song in a hugely popular Broadway show, probably even made it into the Style section, but even if it hadn't...who is going to object to it online?

And just last week, in the update, you specifically published the group sex joke, while acknowledging that it would not have appeared in the paper.

The repeated contention that There Is No Difference is bogus.

Gene Weingarten: In fact, I shall now EXPLAIN PATIENTLY not only why there is a difference, but why we should not CARE that there is a difference. Okay? Ready?

It is the same reason that it is okay for HBO to drop the f-bomb with great frequency. People pay for HBO. They know what they are getting. There can be no surprise if they go there and receive the f-bomb.

The newspaper is delivered to people's houses, and, presumably, everything in it is there for anyone to happen upon. Granny Rumplemeyer, who would be deeply offended by T and A, might come across this term inadvertently. So the paper must be prudish to avoid offending her granny sensibilities

Granny Rumplemeyer is not reading this chat. First, she doesn't own a 'puter. Second, even if she did, she would be reading the chat about big weddings, not something called "Chatologicial Humor, or Tuesdays With Moron." There is a degree of self-selection.

Now, it is true that Tommy and Amanda Rumplemeyer, 12 and 13 years old respectively, MIGHT read this chat, which is why we do not drop the f-bomb. But they can handle the T and A. They might well have seen A Chorus Line. They are part of the world.

They're different, these chats.

By the way, the whole Granny Rumplemeyer argument will change soon, too. I am 54. In 15 years, I will be Grampy Rumplemeyer, and I won't give a f-bombing f-bomb what kind of vulgarity is printed.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene -- I don't know if you like doing these chats, or if they pay you extra for it, but thanks. And that's from a Red Sox fan, knowing how you'll be especially obnoxious about last night.

Gene Weingarten: Mol and I enjoyed that game, particularly the first inning, when Melky Cabrera scored from first on a wild pitch. Did anyone SEE that?

Apologies to non-baseball fans, but I've been watching the game for 45 years, and never saw this before. The Red Sox were playing the Overshift on Giambi, meaning the whole infield was shifted radically toward right field. Wild pitch. Catcher retrieves ball, throws wide to second base, which is being fielded by the third baseman, because of the Overshift. Ball goes into the outfield. Cabrera heads for third. When he gets to third, he finds it manned by the catcher, who has run there because the third baseman was out near second. So Cabrera, a young outfielder, thinks, hmm, who do you think would win a footrace to home plate -- me, or the catcher, a thirty-three year old block of granite who is encumbered by full catcher's gear? The race is on. It was not close.

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Frogg, Va.: What would you suggest I give young Throckmorton for his high school graduation?

Gene Weingarten: Hi, Vicky! This is Ms. Vicky Fogg, editor and layout person. Throckmorton is the name I gave long ago to her son, Spencer. It was a backhand stab at the somewhat trendiness of the name Spencer, plus the fact that at a young age Spencer resembled a person who might be named Throckmorton. Vicky, I would suggest that you give him a framed transcript of this chat.

Gene Weingarten: Also, a car.

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Not exactly Dublin: Noticeably absent were ethnic lightbulb jokes. Understandable, but here is my favorite:

How many Irishmen does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Two. One to hold the bulb, and one to drink whiskey till the room spins.

I once told this joke at a party. most laughed, but one woman turned sharply an sneered, "that's not funny, my name is Sullivan." I replied, "It is funny and my name is O'Sullivan. at least my grandfather didn't drop the O when he got to America."

Gene Weingarten: I like the joke, and the anecdote.

It is a shame that so much ethnic humor is being lost; it is wrong that it can only be told by the ethnicity in question. Except to the very very closest of friends, I tell ethnic jokes now only about Jews, which means some truly great ones are lying fallow, and may remain so forever.

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Pajama Diaries: For the record, it is insulting to those of us who DON'T work as well. Oops, it is politically correct to add "outside the home", but I hate that phrase.

Gene Weingarten: Noted. But why? Isn't she sort of deifying the stay at home ma?

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RFK, Washington, D.C.: Gene,

Ok, I took your advice and reserved judgement of Alfonso Soriono, and you were right. I love him. But can you send a copy editor over to the Sports section? This was in Monday's story:

Only Soriano remained nonplussed by his performance. He said he had only followed the creed of any good fastball hitter: anticipate pitches and then devour them. As for his 21 home runs, which already put him more than halfway to his career high of 39? "I don't really care about that," Soriano said. His 13 steals excite him more, because he likes running better.

Gene Weingarten: If Sori could learn to be a little more disciplined as a hitter, he would wind up a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He has more natural talent than 99 percent of all guys playing the game.

I misused "nonplused" fairly regularly during the first 30 years of my life, including several times in print. But the Washington Post should know better.

Of all words that are commonly misused, "nonplused" is probably misused most destructively. People who misuse "enormity" are simply making an error of emphasis and connotation. People who misuse "nonplused" are saying the exact opposite of what they mean. "Nonplused" means completely thunderstruck, stunned, so amazed that one is incapable of coherent thought.

It's that "non" that confuses people.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm getting married soon and I have an extremely important question. It will be outdoors and as the guests arrive they will be guided to their seats by very attractive male escorts hired from a local modelling firm, programs will be printed on marble instead of paper, and I will be arriving on a white stallion with a unicorn affixed to his forehead. My husband will have arrived previously on a Clydesdale carrying my ring on a red-velvet pillow, and the 14 bridesmaids and groomsman, wearing matching silver dresses and tuxedoes will be instructed to sing "Isn't she lovely" as he helps me off my mount. My question is, would a tiara be too much?

Gene Weingarten: Here is a measure of how appalling this whole thing has gotten: I didn't realize you were kidding until I hit the unicorn.

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Democratic Platform: Add a plank stating that same-sex marriage must be manditory. Everyone has to marry a person of their own gender.

Gene Weingarten: Not bad.

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Northern Virginia: Michelle Singletary is doing a chat right now on weddings and money. You should chime in.

Advice for couples: my wife and I got married privately, than fed our 60 closest friends and family at a party for chump change, using a famous area ribs/BBQ restaurant to cater. Friends said it was the best wedding food they'd ever had. NEVER go to wedding specialists when what you want to do is just throw a party.

However I did have so much champagne that the following day I had to use the "Morning After Pail."

Gene Weingarten: Morning-after pail. Very nice.

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Was this really you?: From DeNunzio's World Cup blog? You don't strike me as a soccer fan, but I'd be delighted to learn otherwise.

Caught a typo in your story:

"I happened upon a storefront - "McToilets" that was offering "safe and clean" toilets for use at like 3 Euros a pop."

Should be "3 Euros a poop."

Posted by: Weingarten - June 5, 2006 01:31 PM

washingtonpost.com: Blog: Road to the World Cup

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, eleventeen people directed me to this site. No, that wasn't me. But it was one of you, I'm guessing.

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Miami Beach, Fla.: I am currently traveling on business and am staying in a rather spacious hotel. However, it has some curious features. One is that at every threshold in my suite there is a mounted mezuzah.

More interestingly, there is a sign in the elevator bank that says "Shabbat elevator this way" and an arrow pointing to a side door.

My question is, is that sign a joke? As I understand it, wouldn't a shabbat elevator be the stairs?

...OK, I just checked again and there appears to be an actual elevator there. What's going on?

Gene Weingarten: I actually know the answer to this one! There was a shabbat elevator in my hotel in Jerusalem when I went there for a story on terrorism.

A shabbat elevator is preset to stop at every floor, so you do not have to push a button. Pushing a button is "work."

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Pajama Diaries: The reason why she isn't supporting moms who don't work is simple. The strip sharpens the "you are evil because you don't love your kids enough to give up work for them" divide. I love staying home with my kids, and can't imagine doing otherwise. But just like my choice of religion, husbands, and favorite dessert is my personal choice, so was my decision to stay at home.

I don't like the divide being sharpened. If you read On Balance, you can see how angry people are on either side of this issue, and it shouldn't be so.

Gene Weingarten: Right. Gotcha.

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Part-time Act, OR: Gene - While I agree that the words should not be censored, you can't argue you are merely citing the name of a song from "A Chorus Line." The song's proper title is "Dance Ten, Looks Three." I use the song regularly in auditions.

Gene Weingarten: Ooop. Didn't know that.

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Charlottesville, Va.: The funniness of the "how many" jokes depends on the listeners relationship with the group in the joke. There are lots of "how many" jokes referencing dog breeds that dog lovers love (e.g. "how many border collies..." Answer: "Just one, and he'll rewire your house while he's at it.)

At UVa, the answer to "How many Virginians... " is "4; one to change it and 3 to talk about how great the old one was."

P.S. Gene -- I had a dream about you last night! I think I may need counseling. You were very wise in the dream, but not very funny.

washingtonpost.com: I had a dream last night about a bird with a very long needle-like beak. I was worried it was going to turn its little head suddenly and shatter the beak off on a branch or something.

Gene Weingarten: Liz is clearly concerned about the fragile nature of existence; how all we plan for and dream of can be shattered in an instant; how nature is cruel and beauy is transient. Either that, or she was dreaming about a, um, "long beak."

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Dracu, LA: Vampires are afraid of SUNLIGHT, ya dummies. We'd fear a lightbulb about as much as we would a T-bone and a star of david.

Vlad.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed. It is the reason that one did not reach the Top Three. There are only three really good ones, peeps. Four, if you stretch it.

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Shameon, ME: I'm guilty of peeking into other people's shopping carts, seeing what they've bought and mulling over what it means. At the Costco over the weekend, my husband and I saw a guy wheel out two cases of Heineken and two cases of adult diapers. His guess was that the guy had an infirm relative living with him, and he was drinking the Heineys to cope. My take: It was a big sports weekend, and he didn't want to get up out of his Barcalounger to go to the bathroom.

Anyway, I realized that I do this because I suffer from "cart shame." It may have stemmed from the time (again, at Costco) when I ran into a vice president of my division with not a thing in my cart except the 'til-menopause box of Tampax. He appeared not to notice, but I was horrified.

There are times when I stop at the store to grab a couple of things I really need; say, a couple of cucumbers and some Vaseline. But, of course, I can't go to the checkout with those items and risk being the butt of a bag-boy laff-fest. So I toss in a couple of other random items, even if I don't really need them, like Mini-Wheats and hair elastics. Or salad mix and Tide. Whatever will dilute the effect, you know?

So, am I a sick puppy?

Gene Weingarten: This is a form of neurosis I have not yet encountered! It is highly entertaining! I like the vaseline and cucumbers!

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Friendly neighborhood copy editor: Pass this along to people near and dear to you who design pages:

Q: How many art directors does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Are you sure we need to go with a light bulb here?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, good.

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Letters to the Edit, OR: Hey Gene, I found this letter in last week's The Economist. As it pertains to two of your fancies, I just had to share it wish you:

SIR - Please do not ever mention George Bush. And Winston Churchill in the same sentence, even if you must break all the rules of grammar to do so.

Gene Weingarten: That's excellent.

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Well Read, Washington, D.C.: As part of my job, I read several newspapers a day -- the Washington Post, the NY Times, the Wall St Journal and the LA Times. I would like to add another west coast paper to the list, preferably a "conservative" one to add a little more balance (I have the WSJ to be my conservative east coast paper). Do you have any suggestions?

Also, what makes a bad newspaper exactly? I know for example that the Washington Times is not considered to be a "good" newspaper, but what does that mean?

Gene Weingarten: In the case of the Washington Times, it is because the paper allows its political views to color its news coverage. What is wrong with that? The reader has no way of knowing what is "true" and what is slanted, to make a point. To me, this breaks a very important covenant with the reader. When the Times isn't busy doing that, it can be a pretty good paper.

I am not an expert on West Coast papers, but if memory serves me correctly, the Portland Oregonian is a reasonably good paper with a somewhat conservative bent. I could be wrong about their politix, though. Any Oregonians out there who can confirm or deny?

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Washington, D.C.: Today is my birthday.

For the first 15 years of my life, I believed that D-Day stood for Dooms Day, since that's what my older brother told me.

Then I spent another 15 believing it was Disembarkation Day.

And now, at year 31, I know the truth (thanks to Hollywood). It is the apocolypse, and apparently I am the devil's spawn and wearing "the mark".

Sigh. Where should I turn myself in for burning at the stake?

Gene Weingarten: Do you know what it REALLY means? It means Day-day. As in, today is the day. Really.

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Bethesda, Md.: Since there is no way to track who I am, I feel only semi-embarassed to admit that for some reason I decided to Google your "friend" Rebecca, the recent college graduate mentioned in last week's chat. (Ok, fine, I am 23 and wanted to see if there was a picture of her!) What I found was a picture and an article she wrote last year as a "special" reporter to The Post. It is VERY well written with genuine funny moments. I think you owe it to your readers to link it.

Gene Weingarten: Rachel, not Rebecca.

Liz? Search for Manteuffel and Washington Post.

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washingtonpost.com: Trafficking in Politics: It's Bumper-to-Bumper , ( Post, Aug. 28, 2005 )

washingtonpost.com: Sorry. The above link was not the one referenced: For Her Part, Actress Plays Audition Odds, (Post, July 3)

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Somewhere, Md.: Gene, last night I got the classic "I see you as a friend" talk from a young woman I've been seeing for a few months. I am a college student with hardly anything left in my bank account who is trying hard to conserve money until I get a job lined up. Believing that our relationship had reached a level where I needed to start taking her out to do some fun things, I spent a good chunk of my remaining cash on outings with her in the last week or so. When she broke the news to me, one of my first thoughts was, "Why did you let me spend all this money on you if I'm just a friend?" This is not the first time I've been burned immediately after making a significant investment in dinner, a present, etc. Women seem to feel very little guilt over letting men spend lots of time and money on them only to let them down in the end. I know that my effort and money do not buy a woman's affection, but surely some of my frustration here is justified. What can I fairly expect from women on this matter?

Gene Weingarten: Nothing. Your frustration is not justified. I'm guessing this woman decided to tell you because she REALIZED you were beginning to spend more on her than she felt you should, given your lack of a future together.

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Ethnic Jokes: Two comments....

- Ethnic jokes are great bacause they give a situation to a joke in one word. I can announce that the subject drinks a lot, is cheap, is dumb, etc., with one adjective.

- I use ethnic jokes to gauge sense of humor. Sullivan has none. If you can't laugh at your own group (assuming the joke's funny), you have no sense of humor.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, see the key is that the joke must be funny. An unfunny ethnic joke is a disaster. Then it has no point but to hurt.

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Shabbat Discussions: Thank you for not holding these discussions on Saturdays.

This reminds me of a tale someone connected to the TV show "Fridays" told me once. They did a comedy sketch that made fun of Hassidic Jews. They were surprised that they did not receive a single complaint from a Hassid. Then, someone pointed out: the show is on Friday nights after sunset. No Hassids were watching.

Gene Weingarten: Precisely.

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Medford, Mass.: As a disgusting Yankee fan, did you have any thoughts, especially of the schadenfreude kind, on the Post's Jeffrey Maier article?

If Angelos does end up drafting the kid this week, is there any reason left to root for the O's?

Gene Weingarten: My thought is that it is an enormous publicity stunt. (the kid who caught Jeter's bogus home run in 1996, killing the O's in the playoffs, might be drafted by the O's.)

I think it's a pub stunt because no one really thinks this kid is good enough, or will ever be good enough, for the majors.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene -

I have to know the answer to this and I don't know where else to go. I could potentially ask my girlfriends, but even though there is rarely a TMI situation among girls, this might be it. So, here is what I want to know. If you are a girl peeing within hearing distance of others and you suspect that the slight muscle exertion used to pee will also cause, um, a noise, do you possibly use toilet paper to prevent that noise?

washingtonpost.com: No no no... you stop until the feeling passes. It always does.

Gene Weingarten: No one connected with this chat in any way has any shame at all.

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Matrimony Balo, NY: Speaking of things that aren't funny and you've heard before (like the lightbulb jokes), what are we to make of Bush's new push to limit marriage to heterosexuals? Of all the things he's done to contribute to his designation as Worst President Ever, it's certainly not the most destructive, the most dishonest, or the most far-reaching, especially considering it'll never pass. But it may be the most despicable. Trying to prop up your failing power base by pandering to bigotry against a minority has a "kicking a dog" feeling of just being petty and mean. In the Worst President debate, is there any other candidate (or runner-up -- I think the winner's clear), who has actually wanted to change the Constitution to take away the rights of citizens?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, there is a first runner up! Bush's father. He pioneered in this form of phony-baloney, take-away-your-rights pandering with his anti-flag-burning foofaraw in the late 1980s. But at least that one was not bigotry, it was merely demagoguery.

Dionne said it well in his op ed piece today; Bush may be going too far, this time. Even his conservative base has to understand they are being played for idiots.

An actual knowledgeable historian can probably correct me here, but the first national effort to eliminate rights, at least in modern times, was probably Prohibition. That was passed under the benign auspices of yet another clueless president in the worst-ever pantheon, the supremely moronic Warren Harding.

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Snorting in cubicle 203: I literally just snorted because I was laughing so hard at something in the chat and I remember that even though I have my headphones on at work -- other people in the office can still hear me snort and now I am laughing at my own stupidity so hard I am crying and snorting. I am a mess.

Gene Weingarten: Just don't let that accident happen to you. The one that Liz was just opining about.

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How many surrealists...: does it take to change a lightbulb?

Two.

One to paint the giraffe purple, and the other to fill the bathtub with machine parts.

Gene Weingarten: Also, good. The subversive ones tend to be good, unless they aren't.

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Anonymo, U.S.: After reading the first post, I have a question for you. When you type a phrase in a Google search, it fills in the last phrase you searched for that starts with that letter. I was at my boyfriend's apartment when he asked me to search for museums in our city for something fun to do. I typed in "(Our City) m--" for museums, and it populated "(Our City) massage parlors erotic."

I was horrified, but he laughed it off and said he thought it'd be better than porn. I asked why he confined the search to our city if he was looking for visual models and not to actually DO something with them -- why they needed to be conveniently located. He said the fantasy is more realistic if it actually -could- happen. Then he grimaced and said he'd never DO it, he just wanted to pretend.

I clearly wasn't snooping, but I can't get it out of my head. I don't think he's actually hiring escorts (the disgusted look on his face was enough), and I'm definitely supportive of porn and, um, taking care of your business when you're on your own. So how do I calm myself down, even knowing that my boyfriend isn't really calling up hookers in the greater metropolitan area?

Gene Weingarten: Um.

Geez, I dunno.

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Animal, DR: Gene,

In light of the book you're working on, what is your opinion of aggressive measures to sustain the life of ill and aged pets? There's a guy in my neighborhood who has a lovely but very elderly Irish setter. One day I saw him lifting the dog's hind quarters so it could climb a flight of stairs. Not long after, the pooch was in a kind of doggie wheelchair with its rear legs suspended and only front paws touching the ground. I know this guy must really love his dog, but I couldn't help wondering how the poor canine felt trussed up in that contraction and whether it might have been better if it were allowed to go gently into that good night.

I haven't owned a dog since I was a kid, but I've had several cats in recent years, including one that became diabetic and needed daily insulin injections. When it seemed they were suffering too much from old age and infirmity I had them put to sleep, much as I would have liked to keep them around. These were tough calls, but it seemed like the right thing to do for these guys. Maybe it's different with dogs.

Gene Weingarten: I think this is a matter of common sense. Too often I have seen people preserving the lives of their pets way beyond the point where I think the pet had any decent quality of life left. I cannot help but feel that this person is keeping the pet alive selfishly, to forestall his own grief.

Harry was a couple months shy of his 13th birthday when we put him down. He was not in pain, and enjoyed a hearty breakfast on his last day of life. But what had happened was that his hind legs -- weakened for two years -- finally completely gave out. He could not stand, and clearly this frightened him. Yes, we could have equipped him with a dog wheel chair, and he would have learned to cope with his fear and new disability for the 6 months or year he had left on earth, but we decided this was a cruel way to deal with what was, in effect, OUR problem. WE didn't want him to die. He had no fear of death -- but we knew he was just facing a long, scary, debilitating decline.

We put him to death with good conscience.

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D-Day: Don't forget H-Hour!

Gene Weingarten: Correct.

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Shopping neurosis: You haven't encountered this before? I'm afraid of seeing people I know when I'm at the store buying underwear, because they'll know I'm buying underwear. It's just as bad if I'm buying socks, because socks are near the underwear and they'll think I'm buying underwear. I'll bet it's quite common, which is why there are very few people near the underwear display.

Gene Weingarten: You have to be a girl.

I love girls.

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Arlington, Va.: Q: How many Vietnam vets does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: You don't know, CUZ YOU WEREN'T THERE, MAN!!!!!

Gene Weingarten: Good!

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New York, N.Y.: If we're talking about the first time a President worked to restrict rights to secure his own power, didn't Adams get the Alien and Sedition Acts passed?

Gene Weingarten: Sounds right. I was thinking more modern times, but yes. Lincoln also suspended habeas corpus.

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Old Dogs and Sandwiches: Here is the best response I can come up with to your statement of the difference between Dean Young's plugging the sandwich shops in Dagwood and your use of the chat with respect to the Old Dogs book:

You make two arguments. The first argument says that Young will profit by increased patronage of the sandwich shops as a result of the free advertising while you have already been paid for the Old Dogs book and have nothing to gain materially from increased sales of the books. I believe that most book deals involve an advance against royalties. If sales reach the point where royalties exceed the advance, the additional royalties are paid to the author. If your deal is structured this way, you could profit from the free publicity in the chat. In addition, your ability as a writer to command better deals in the future is tied to the sales of this book, so you stand to profit in that way also.

Your second argument is that you are using the chat to gather material that will improve the book, thereby providing a valuable service both to your chat audience by allowing them to have their beloved pets included in the book and to your Old Dogs book readers by allowing you to write a better book for them. This argument is more persuasive, but leads to the conclusion that if Dean Young were to use his strip to solicit sandwich recipes from his readers the plugging would be justified. His strip readers could have the satisfaction of knowing their sandwich preferences were worthy and his sandwich customers would benefit by the inclusion on the menu of these additional and superior sandwiches.

Gene Weingarten: This is in reference to an item in last week's chat update, where a reader contended that my publishing the website of the old dogs book was just as bad an ethical violation as Dean Young advertising his new sandwich shops through the comic strip. I said I saw an important distinction.

There is something wrong with your analysis: My book will not be published until the fall of 2007. There is no way publishing this website in the spring-summer of 2006 is going to affect sales of this book one iota.

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Washington, D.C.: If the flag burning amendment does get passed, the first thing I'm doing is burning a flag in protest.

Honestly, could Senator Clinton be more wrong in her support of this?

Gene Weingarten: Sen. Clinton is involved in the great quadrennial pander parade.

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"Long Beak", VA: HA! I just spit my lunch all over my computer screen! Spaghetti isn't the easiest thing to clean up.

washingtonpost.com: Friggin hilarious, he is.

Gene Weingarten: Liz said "friggin." I think that is prohibited speech.

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Washington, D.C.: So, I'm a shiksa attending my first bris later this week. Anything I should know? My only knowledge of the ceremony comes from television (Seinfeld and Cheers).

Gene Weingarten: Oh, man.

It will be bad. I'm sorry. I apologize to all Jews within the reach of this phosphorus, but it will be bad. No one really LIKES what happens at a bris; observant Jews, or even respectful non-observant Jews, accept it and even revere it as a ceremony that dates back to the true ancients, but no one really ENJOYS it, let alone the little baby being brissed upon.

My son was not circumcised in any public ceremony; it was done by the obstetrician, and even we parents were not there.

My wife -- a shiksa like yourself -- attended one bris. It was a dignified, tastefully-done affair, in the home of good friends of ours, and I think it is fair to say my shiksa was not entirely comfortable. I think it is also fair to say neither was I.

For observant Jews, however, this is a very big deal. If memory serves me correctly, it is the only religious ceremony in the Jewish faith that is considered so holy t that it may be performed on the Sabbath. (Absent extraordinary circumstances, the bris must be performed on the eighth day after birth.)

My advice: Be a good little shiksa. Do NOT faint.

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Surealist Lightbulb Redux: The correct surrealist ligthbulb joke:

How many surrealists does it take to change a lightbulb?

To get to the other side.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, also good.

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Neuros, IS: I developed "cart shame" after a Friday night grocery store trip where I purchased a bottle of wine, pint of ice cream and cat litter. The cashier looked at me and said with a smirk "big night?" I've never been able to shop the same since.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

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Anonymo, U.S.: What? Gene, you write paragraphs on paragraphs in response to everyone else, and I get three words?! Am I really to infer that you think my boyfriend actually IS cheating on me? Now I'm panicked -- I figured you'd be the one man to tell me to calm down and tell my boyfriend he's darn lucky to have such a supportive girlfriend... except, y'know, funnier.

Gene Weingarten: You're right. I should have been more explicit.

1) I'm not sure why he would be looking at local massage parlors, to be perfectly frank.

2) The fact that he didn't come up with some other distancing excuse ("Oh, that wasn't me, Fred was looking....) is a good sign.

3) Give him the benefit of the doubt. Even if he did visit -- and he may very well not have, probably not -- that's not exactly cheating.

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Leesburg, Va.: A couple of weeks ago a chatter mentioned a technique he used to fall asleep quickly. He would imagine a word on a blackboard, and then imagine that the word was being erased. I decided to try out this little trick last week. The first words to pop into my head were sexual. I figured, if I was going to go to sleep right away, I should try and dream about something sexual. This got boring real quick, and I started to think about Civil War battles, then Civil War Generals, then Presidents. Thinking of Presidents got me thinking about the idiot we have in office now. This got me thinking about current events. I ended up tossing and turning for the next couple of hours. Finally, my wife sat up and told me that if I didn't stop tossing and turning that she was going to kick me out of the bed. I fell asleep a couple of minutes later.

Gene Weingarten: Another good approach!

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Cooperstown, N.Y.: Noting that there have been female professional baseball players, do you have any theory on why no female has yet reached the major leagues? And do you think that may change in the near future?

Gene Weingarten: Well, it hasn't even happened in GOLF, yet -- almost, maybe -- where size and strength are not paramount.

I don't think we'll see it, but if we do, she will be a lefty relief pitcher.

(The problem here is the incredible degree of difficulty to reach the major leagues.)

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Cart shame: Ok, I am about choking on my lunch trying to stifle the giggles at my desk. But it did remind me of a friend who had to make an emergency trip to the store for Preperation-H (as in, he was about screaming on the way there and even applied it in the car before driving home).

He picked up a half gallon of milk to "cover" so it wasn't the only thing he picked up. I still crack up when I think of that.

Gene Weingarten: I am really suprised by cart shame. I like it a lot.

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Rockville, Md.: How many flies does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Two. But how the heck to they get in there?

Gene Weingarten: Not bad.

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Hum, OR: My girlfriend and I have been debating whether something is funny (I laughed out loud during the movie, she says it's not funny at all), and we need the Great Arbiter of Humor to rule if it is funny.

We recently saw the movie "The Giant Buddhas" about the Taliban's destruction of the two massive stone Buddhas along the ancient silk road. During the movie they chronicle an Islamic Afghani woman who is living in Toronto and follow her back to the site of the Buddhas where we father once took a pilgrimage to visit. When she gets to the site of the Buddhas' destruction, the camera pans in on her face full of pain, and she says in an sorrowful tone: "Jesus!"

Gene Weingarten: I haven't seen the movie, but that sounds excellent. I also have a feeling Buddhists would not find that particularly disturbing.

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On a Soap B, OX: Every time so mention that computer generated child porn might be acceptable, I have very visceral negative reaction. Rather than just scream "You're wrong" I decided to try and put this into words.

I don't remember you specifying that one could NOT use real images of actual children in any way but I am assuming that to be understood.

True child pornography seems to me to be the confluence of three of the worst things people can do: coercive sexual acts; betrayal of a true trust; and, stealing a child's innocence. Even if one could create child porn without involving children, I just don't think that the argument that it replaces the real thing holds water here. I believe that it is inherently evil and the world is a better place without it. That removing some abominable acts from its creative process, is simply trying to divide infinity. To paraphrase our jingoistic idiot-in-chief, this is a case of drawing a line in the sand and standing steadfast. One cannot give ground on this issue, not one inch. If there is an individual out there who cannot live among people without scratching this itch then I am sorry but they must be the ones to lose, not society.

I doubt that I have persuaded you or even put forth much of an argument, but thank-you for listening.

Gene Weingarten: This is carrying through a debate from a few chats ago; and yes, the entire discussion involved whether it is "wrong" for pedophiles to create virtual child porn (computer generated, not victimizing any children) for their own use. I think you have probably summarized better than I could why it's hard to label this "wrong." 1) There IS no coercive sexual act 2)There IS no betrayal of trust and 3) There IS no stealing of innocence.

To me, the awful thing is child molestation. If some pervert is sexually interested in children, and sates his hunger by creating porn, it's no different to me than if he sated his hunger by drawing dirty pictures. If he keeps them to himself -- I can't condemn this. Condemning it comes close to outlawing thought, and I can't go there.

I don't really want to dwell on this subject more, because it makes my skin crawl. But if you are going to be coherent and consistent on our right to think what we want, you cannot have exceptions because they happen to skeeve you out.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll. Very simply, there are three good jokes here, one runner-up good joke, and a vast sea of awful mediocrity or worse. The three good jokes are;

Group one - the lawyer. Yes, it is just a lawyer joke, but this one is particularly clever and even subtle.

Group two - The "dull people." Clever, sophisticated, and funny.

I am proud of you; you got this.

Group three-psychics. A clever subversion of the joke - the only really clever subversion here.

Runner-up: A tree in an enchanted forest.

"Nun." is either terrible or somewhat clever, depending on your taste for absurdity and silliness. I could go either way.

Now in judging the worse, you have to ask yourself what makes up a good joke: Cleverness, truth, surprise. The rottenest of these will be illogical, telegraphed, and stupid. I go with "tough-guys piece of me," though a reasonable case could be made for the naturalists and candles.

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D-Day: To the French, it was J-Jour! (I learned this from an old Achenbach column!)

Gene Weingarten: I EDITED that column. It is how I knew it was Day-day. Which Joel pointed out sounded really infantile.

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Washington, D.C.: This chat is so funny! I am relieved to see that there are so many other weirdos out there besides myself..how come I never meet them?

washingtonpost.com: Yahoo Weingarten Chatters group

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. Plus, I am reliably informed many of them will be at the Nats-Phillies game this weekend. Section 437.

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Dreamla, ND: UVA's comment reminded me--why aren't dreams funny? At least mine aren't. Is it just me?

Gene Weingarten: I have had dreams so funny they woke me. And I laughed.

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Real D-Day: Gene - you are wrong about D-Day. The military lettered all the days of the war. A-Day is when planning starts, B-Day is when the President gives the order to start positioning, C-Day is when the flow of forces actually begins, and D-Day is the first day of hostilities.

But then again, that doesn't explain H-Hour, which is the first hour of hostilities. Now I have confused myself. Thanks.

Gene Weingarten: Well, you have confused yourself because you are flat out wrong. This is not debatable.

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Slovenly, Md.: It was raining on Saturday morning, so I decided to stay indoors and clean my bathroom. I had not cleaned it in months. I recently bought a new electric toothbrush, and now I have discovered a wonderful use for the old electric toothbrush: I cleaned the tile grout in my shower. It did a terrific job! If it had a longer handle, I would try to clean the toilet with it, too.

Gene Weingarten: Hey, you know what is a good product? And I say this as a skeptic, a Luddite: The electronic, sound-wave toothbrush. Sonicaire, or something. It's expensive -- $200 -- but I've used it for a couple of years and it really seems to do a better job than those circular floor-buffer types.

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Boston, Mass.: Gene, Count me among the legion of 20-something fangirls who (heart) you (but I only heart you like a dad). I am amazed at the amount of poop shame in this chat among women of my age, as it is a luxury I can't afford. I have an interesting syndrome that isn't well understood, so I've been volunteering for clinical trials for the past two years. The latest trial I'm on is funny, but I can't figure out what makes it funny, and I know that you will know.

For this study, they are MRI'ing my brain while receiving a pain stimulus and accupuncture simultaneously. The pain stimulus is in the form of a balloon that is inflated to distend my lower intestines, inserted through the backdoor, if you will.

So which is funnier - that I'm being shoved into a tube, blown up with a balloon and stuck with various needles, or that I giggle when they release the balloon, which causes an artifcial flatulant noise? I know that I'm disturbing my doctor and the clinical coordinator everytime I laugh.

Tell me O Wise One, I'm dying to know!

Gene Weingarten: YOU CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHAT IS FUNNY ABOUT THIS?

What ISN'T funny about it?

Can you tell me what the syndrome is? It'll stay a secret with me and the tens of thousands of readers of this chat, I assure you.

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Yokota AB, Japan: I'm disturbed. I'm vacationing in Melbourne and Sydney and I notice tremendous amounts of cleavage (in Melbourne only, sigh) and VPL in Sydney and I want to share the news with this chat. Australia is great, by the way. Seriously, I saw more cleavage in Melbourne, in late fall weather, than anywhere I have been while living overseas the last 9 years. Also, I just noticed that all the chats at 12:00 on Tuesdays begin with the letter "w" except this one, but then Gene's last name starts with W, so I guess it all fits. Intentional?

Gene Weingarten: You should write a travel book: The Cleavage Guide to the World. Review every place specifically and only by the amount of cleavage shown.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene,

My sweet, kind, funny husband wants to go back to school to be a high school teacher; not only that, but he wants to do one of those teaching fellows programs where you have your degree paid for then you work for a couple of years in the D.C. public schools. I very much want him to be happy, but I'm just really frettting about this. You hear such terrible things about the DC schools, and he's not going to be at Wilson, ya know? Plus, he's 35 and after the year of school will be making less than 40k. It's not just the money although that is a concern (we live frugally but I would like to buy a house at some point, not to mention save for kids); I guess I'm just worried that he's being overly idealistic and doesn't really know what he's getting into. Do you think this has the potential to be really rewarding? Should I just get over it and let him do his thing? He's had various non-profit jobs but this is the first one I've seen him get really excited about.

Many thanks for your thoughts.

Gene Weingarten: I think, within the law, people should pursue what they are really excited about. I feel this intently.

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In my defense : I should note that this woman let me spend money on a date last night and then told me afterward that she didn't want to go beyond being friends. She also told me that she had decided this before that night, so I believe she should have informed me before that date. You are right; a woman can only be expected to let you know that you should stop your efforts as soon as she has made up her mind. She can't be blamed for her actions when she was still getting to know you. However, I have found that some women are willing to take advantage of generosity beyond that point.

Gene Weingarten: This is an anonymous forum, so I feel I can say this: You sound bizarrely cheap and self-centered.

She told you the day after she decided, and you feel "taken"?

This is a complaint one would expect from George Costanza.

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GrossO, UT: Gene: "But if you are going to be coherent and consistent on our right to think what we want, you cannot have exceptions because they happen to skeeve you out."

True enough. Remember, ladies, even a quick peek into the heads of most men would be highly disturbing.

Gene Weingarten: Absolutely true.

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Arlington, Va.: Cart shame is completely common among women. However, I have definitely also noticed men checking out other people's groceries -- sometimes people will even smirk at other people in line or the person whose groceries they have been looking at. One of the eternal questions for me along these same lines is, why do publishers continue to put bodice-ripper or gilded covers on romance novels when most women also have romance novel-buying shame, although they are perfectly happy to read them and would likely buy more if the covers were more discreet?

Gene Weingarten: Good question. Maybe I am just not judgmental, but I never draw conclusions from the contents of other people's carts.

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Better than Yours?: Stephen Colbert delivered the commencement address at Knox University

"I have two last pieces of advice. First, being pre-approved for a credit card does not mean you have to apply for it. And lastly, the best career advice I can give you is to get your own TV show. It pays well, the hours are good, and you are famous. And eventually some very nice people will give you a doctorate in fine arts for doing jack squat."

Gene Weingarten: Well, if that is typical of the rest of the speech, yeah, probably. Good lines.

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East End Zone, Giants Stadium: How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Six. You got a problem with that?

Gene Weingarten: See, I did not include that one because it is too good.

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Ohmy, OH: Last week's survey rounded up annoying cliches ... but what really grates me are professionals who misspell words like minuscule .

Shocking, isn't it?

washingtonpost.com: Fine, you win.

Gene Weingarten: Heh heh.

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Buy outs: Can I say how horrified I was when I looked at the list of people leaving The Post for early retirement?

washingtonpost.com: Washington Post Staffers Take Early Retirement , ( Post, June 1 )

Gene Weingarten: It was pretty shocking.

Actually, I qualified for the buyout, barely. I am 54 and have been here 16 years. I might have considered it, but I cannot understand numbers, so I had no idea whether it was in my best interests or not.

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Passion for your job: People who are drawn to teaching are because they love it, not because there is much money in it. Happy, fufilled spouses are much nicer than high-paid stress-out spouses.

Gene Weingarten: Precisely my point.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: "The Cleavage Guide to the World."

I have an entry: Edinburgh, Scotland. Which is also apparently the home of the highest proportion of well-endowed women in Europe.

Note: I am a woman and when I pointed it out to my husband (we were there on vacation and to attend the British Open golf tournament), he said, "Really, I hadn't noticed." I think he was lying.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, he was, but he loves you.

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Practice Safe Browsing: Dudes: Learn how to erase your search history, your browser history, and the autocomplete record from your search bar.

This is essential on a computer that your significant other might potentially make use of. Trust me.

Gene Weingarten: I believe Windows Washer does this. Not that I have any subversive reason to use it.

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Washington, D.C.: Is is wrong to tell a woman you don't know that she looks great. I'm talking about some random person you see on the metro or at a store or wherever, someone you don't want to date or really have anything to do with, other than to say, you look great?

Gene Weingarten: I don't think it's "wrong" but it is risky, and, worse, kind of wildly inappropriate and egocentric. Do you think a woman cares what you, a stranger, think of her looks? That you deign to declare her hot?

Uh uh. Bad idea.

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Sopran, OS: Christopher & Juliana doing "it" in the diner parking lot about an hour after meeting at the AA meeting. Yeah, right.

...or do I just lead a sheltered existence?

Gene Weingarten: That sort of thing happens all the time! Don't you read the Playboy Advisor?

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Washington, D.C.: Since we're on the topic of info you can't share. I know that a good friend frequents prostitutes. He is married. Do I tell the wife? Openly? Anonymous hint?

Gene Weingarten: Neither. None. It is not your business.

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Frog Level Flats, Va.: Re: best newspaper lede ever.

Several years ago a wit in the metro section of the New Orleans Times-Picayune came up with the best newspaper headline ever. It ran over a story about the possible relocation (to make way for commercial development, if I remember correctly) of a suburban cemetary:

"Remains to Be Seen If Graves Are Moved."

Gene Weingarten: Very good!

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Indianapolis, Ind.: You had to know this was going to happen:

How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a light bulb?

None. "I'll just sit here -- in the dark..."

Gene Weingarten: See, now the only reason I can publish this is that i am a Jew.

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Massage parlor: Wait, do I understand you correctly? If I go to a massage parlor and partake of the happy ending, I haven't cheated on my wife?

Gene Weingarten: Not the same as if you were porking her best friend, IMHO.

There are gradations.

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Online Post vs. Dead Tree Post: Your HBO analogy makes no sense. People pay for the printed version of the Post. The online version is free. Following the HBO vs. network analogy, the online chats should be sterile, and the paper Post should be chock full of f-bombs.

Gene Weingarten: It's not a question of paying. It's a question of seeking something specific, as opposed to having it all out there for everyone to read.

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Shiksa who's been there:

I've been to a couple of brises (is that the plural?). I enjoyed them way more than my date every time. Both involved wine before the actual ceremony, and usually the child's mother in another room pretending this wasn't happening and most of the men at the party carefully NOT looking at what the rabbit was doing. I was one of the few people who looked with curiosity. I think it may have been more humane than my son's circumcision, which was done in the hospital.

Gene Weingarten: The rabbit!

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Schenectady, NY: Oooh, that's quite good. I'll let you know if we win.

(I almost submitted this to Peter Baker by mistake...)

Gene Weingarten: We will win.

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Fear of people knowing you buy underwear?!?: How do you think I feel? I'm pregnant. Everyone knows I had sex.

Gene Weingarten: See, this is sort of my point. We are all human. We poop. We eat. We have sex. We buy both cucumbers AND vaseline.

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New York, N.Y.: I thought Ed Helms had a great piece on the Daily Show last night, concerning the possible repeal of the New Jersey full-service-only gas pump law.

"What's the worst that could happen if people pump their own gas?"

Gas company shill: "They could get attacked by a bear."

Gene Weingarten: Excellent. Sounds like Aykroyd as the toy company exec defending "Bag O' Glass," pointing out that you can strangle yourself on a jumprope.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, thanks all. Good chat. I will be updating as usual, but ... NO CHAT NEXT WEEK. I'll be out reporting a story.

Two weeks from today. Ta.

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UPDATED 6.7.06

Gene Weingarten: The subject of shopping cart shame provoked a deluge of anecdotes, a rude, unstoppable torrent, like the contents of a overstuffed cart in a 12-items-or-fewer line. Here is my favorite, from Sarah Gaymon, an old friend:

I had a foal with a recurring case of diarrhea and the vet had me giving her 60 ccs of Kaopectate twice a day for quite a while. This meant that I was going through an 8 oz. bottle of Kaopectate every two days. I'd usually buy a number of bottles at a time -- it's pretty expensive when you're buying a lot of it. (The foal loved the flavor so I stuck with the same brand for ease of administration.) Many cashiers would say something like, "Oh, my!" when a half-dozen bottles of Kaopectate came down the conveyer. I'd say, "It's for a horse," and the cashier would look relieved.

One day I found it on sale at a local grocery store and swept about a dozen bottles into my cart and headed for the express checkout. The guy ahead of me, who only had one or two things, glanced at the small mountain of Kaopectate bottles, picked up his items off the conveyer, and said, "Please. You go ahead."

I replied that it wasn't necessary, but he insisted, "Really. Go ahead."

I did.

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Gene Weingarten: Likewise, I heard from several people who were tickled by the post from the penny-pinching George Costanza guy who was peeved that his date let him spend a chunk on a meal before dumping him. The best was from a reader named Mary Ellen, who shared this e-mail she received from a guy (she theorizes it might be the SAME guy) after a bad night out:

"Hope you enjoyed dinner last Friday. I've been thinking about the date since it ended and decided that an e-mail is probably the best way to say what's on my mind.

First, I was more than a little nonplussed at the timing of your 'let's take a step back' speech. Frankly, I thought it was something that you could've told me before dinner. I mean, seriously, you had to have some notion about what my expectations were with going to just about the most expensive restraunt in the city. But that aside...

Second, I think that I'd like to take several steps back. I've thought a lot about several issues and have decided that I'm going to go a different direction...

Regards..."

------

Mary Ellen points out:

1. It was not a particularly expensive restaurant; and

2. Yes, George, she HAS shared this correspondence with more than one girlfriend, you dorkface.

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Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: What the hell happened to your front garden? Every time I pass by (I'm the tall woman with the two big dogs) and see you pulling tree stumps out of the barren ground, I want to ask. But I'm way too cool to pester a celebrity (except online).

Gene Weingarten: This is one of my favorite posts in a long time.

You have been watching someone else. My front yard is intact, tended exclusively by my wife, who cannot be mistaken for me. No tree stumps. Lovely greenery.

Wouldn't it have been great if, like, you propositioned this guy, and he accepted, and everything?

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Cube Farm, Washingon, D.C.: Re: your reply to Washington, D.C. that it is "wildly inappropriate and egocentric" to tell a woman she looks great. I wouldn't say it's wrong so much as it's all in the delivery.

One day last winter, I was walking along the platform at the Gallery Place station when a man smiled at me and said "Wow, you are a very beautiful woman." No hint of lasciviousness. And it was winter, so I wasn't showing any skin below my chin. I turned and thanked him, to which he replied "No, thank you."

And that was it; we both continued on our way. He didn't come onto me or anything -- he simply paid me a compliment, and it made my day.

(For the record, he was probably in his early 40s and I'm in my late 20s.)

We like feeling pretty and knowing that we can still turn a few heads. That man proved that you can tell a woman she looks great without being a sleazeball. Go ahead, tell us we're hot... just don't expect that we're going to sleep with you.

Gene Weingarten: I've received a number of similar posts, and none of the other sort, so I acknowledge error. I suppose. I still wouldn't do it, unless it was my intent to start something.

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Anonymous: A male friend was out buying sanitary napkins and ibuprofen one night and the cashier kept telling him how nice he was to his wife and she should be very glad to have him. The stuff was for him -- he had had hemorrhoid surgery.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

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Shopper's Shame: I get the underwear buying shame, too! Even when I know that I could not possibly bump into anyone I know because I am in a department store in a strange city in another country, it still requires a concerted effort before I can bring myself to walk around the underwear department without trying to look as though I am confused and lost and not meant to be there. And I've only started making this effort because my face isn't expressive enough to communicate, "Well, this is a surprise! This is the last place I expected to find myself today. Though, I suppose, now that I'm here, I might causally just buy some underwear. I mean, not that I CAME here to buy underwear."

And when I'm in the supermarket, buying ready-made meals you just have to pop into the oven, I feel I am being judged for being so immature and unwomanly.

Thank you, Gene. It's such a relief to confess at last.

Gene Weingarten: I am guessing there is not a man on Earth who suffers shopping cart shame. I mean, if there is, I'd like to hear from him.

I would happily stroll up to the counter with a watermelon, a hand drill, KY Jelly, and a copy of Penthouse.

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Early buy out: Do you think it is in The Post's best interest to lose these people?

Gene Weingarten: No.

The Post is no different from any other big business: It could definitely profit from a good house-cleaning, but one driven entirely by (lack of) merit, not by demographics. Targeting only older employees would be like targeting only Jews, or only women between 39 and 52, or something. It's arbitrary, and so you are bound to lose good people.

(I am not comparing this Reduction In Force to a purge, at all. This was voluntary, and I don't think anyone left who did not want to leave. I am just saying that this wound up getting rid of some very good people.)

I suspect if you gave Len Downie a knife and the right to purge whomsoever he wanted, he would make The Post a BETTER paper with an equal number of cuts. But things don't work that way.

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UPDATED 6.8.06

Gene Weingarten: Several males have written in, with excruciating embarrassment, to report that they, too, suffer shopping cart shame. The best letter was from David. I am going to reproduce it below, including David's every-e-mail signature quote at the end. I cannot answer for David. I cannot explain David. I can only report David accurately:

You said today that you'd like to hear from a man, any man, who suffers shopping cart shame. Well, I'm a man and I have it--intensely, at times.

I deal with it by getting extra stuff that I can pile on top of whatever I don't want people to see--and then I studiously avoid eye contact with the cashier.

Of course, I don't know if I'm the best example of guyness for your sample. After all, it's my wife who's the engineer, she fixes all the electrical outlets in the house, and she only has about three different color words in her vocabulary. I've got a degree in the social sciences, I do all the cooking, and "taupe" and "ecru" are a natural part of my daily language use.

--

David

Jeanne's Two Laws of Chocolate: If there is no chocolate in the house, there is too little; some must be purchased. If there is chocolate in the house, there is too much; it must be consumed.

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Gene Weingarten: And then there is this variation of cart shame, as reported by Elena:

I also have food shame. At the movies, I always get a small popcorn. If I really, truly want a medium popcorn, or, God forbid, candy, I make my husband wait in the food line. Likewise, when we order pizza, my husband has to answer the door, or at least be clearly visible when I answer the door, so the delivery guy doesn't think that whole pizza is just for me.

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Oxford, Miss.: Girls don't try to cover the sound of peeing when others are around. We all know that peeing is natural, and everyone does it. We just don't poop when others are nearby because that it is a gross, noisy, smelly affliction that would be offensive.

Gene Weingarten: An ... AFFLICTION?

washingtonpost.com: Just to clarify, it is not the sound of peeing I was talking about covering.

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Gay Marriage: Gene -- I agree with you about Bush's pandering to his base on the gay marriage amendment, and the GOP's willingness to legislate bigotry. But let's face it, the Dem's response has been pretty candy-arsed as well. How many of them have said that they don't approve of gay marriage, or don't think a constitutional amendment is right, but then don't take any lead on proposing an alternative, such as civil unions, which would provide most of the legal protections that gays are really seeking? Basically, they're all saying in their own way that gays and gay rights are political poison.

Gene Weingarten: Both sides realize that forcefully backing the rights of gays to marry -- same as everyone else, which is the only defensible, moral stance -- is political suicide. Yes.

How sad is that?

Here is my yardstick: Does anyone have any doubt that 50 years from now, gays will have full marriage rights? Not "civil unions," which is a separate but equal argument, but full rights? Of course that is the case. It is fair and right and is clearly the direction in which a civilized society is going to go.

So what we have here is the last lingering tyranny of the bigots, playing to an uninformed constituency, playing to their fears and misunderstanding.

You know who supports complete civil rights for gays? People in big cities and college towns. You know why? Because those are the places where straight people actually KNOW gay people, because those are the places where gay people feel free to be out. And straight people realize that gay people are ... normal. Just people.

The giant Defense of Marriage thing is mostly supported by people who don't KNOW any gay people (or think they don't) and so don't understand that gay people are us.

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Hepatitis: Gene - My mom got hepatitis something when she came back from a year in France. It wasn't necessarily related, but when I told her about your condition she said that is the one she had and, oh you know that means you can't drink and I got sick when some food cooked with sherry wasn't cooked long enough. Etc. etc. Well, I said -- if you had Hep C then you still have it and are dying. So then she wasn't sure which one she had and I had to break the news to her that she probably had eaten something with fecal matter on it. Which Hep is that? A or B?

Gene Weingarten: A. Your ma ate poop.

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Hyattstown, Md.: Gene, I know you're a dog lover, but I had to put my cat to sleep on Saturday and I am absolutely distraught. I reacted stoically when my parents passed, and I lost my brother to a drunk 10 years ago, but none of that compares to the pain I feel now, and I feel horribly guilty. I mean, I'm a 42-year-old male and I'm sitting in my cube calling on every shred of willpower to ensure no one hears me cry, which I'm doing all day. Why didn't I react this way to my family, is there something wrong with me?

Gene Weingarten: Animals are pure innocence and trust. With the exception of the death of a child, nothing more clearly underscores the implacable unfairness of death and loss. I would hazard to guess that in reacting to the death of your cat, you are also feeling the loss of your brother, and your parents. It is all one nexus of pain. This one is breaking through your phony stoicism, your cat's final gift to you. It's healthy.

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Cart shame riddle: My sister once got a raised eyebrow buying the following items, and only the following items -- D batteries, adult diapers, KY jelly, and a banana. She was 25 years old, and used all items for one activity. Can anyone guess what it was? There is a right answer, but points for originality.

Gene Weingarten: I'll just put this out there, and see what we get.

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Telling wife about prostitute habit: I'd argue this is a situation where you have to make the friend tell his wife, because he is endangering his wife's health and possibly her life by sleeping with prostitutes, if he also has sex with her. I'd use the "okay, dude, you're threatening your wife's health, so you tell her she needs an HIV test or I will" method.

Gene Weingarten: A few people made this point. It's one I hadn't considered, and I don't think it is invalid.

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Washington, D.C.: Speaking of cucumbers and vaseline. When packing to move my junior year in high school we found many rolls of duct tape, two large jars of vaseline and romance novels under my parent's bed. My dad looked at us, then at the collection, us again and said, "no wonder she doesn't mind when I'm away on business"

Was it wrong to be horrified at the time, but laugh now?

Gene Weingarten: I'm trying to figure the duct tape, and failing.

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UPDATED 6.9.06

Gene Weingarten: Holy cow. Check out this comic from Scranton, Pa.. I think it can be safely said that the cartoonist is calling Barry Bonds a, um, Richard.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm not sure whether this is an aptonym, but this gentleman recently had his conviction affirmed for threatening a police officer.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. This is not really an aptonym, but it is a fabulous name: "Robert Joiner-Die."

It will become an aptonym if he goes to prison and becomes a member of the Aryan Nation.

washingtonpost.com: Note that the above link will open as a PDF.

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Re: Nonplused: I have a similar problem with condone. The seemingly negative "con" got me and it took me until college to realize it means to support, not the opposite.

Gene Weingarten: It doesn't really mean to support. It means to fail to object to, to permit, or to overlook, usually something wrong or offensive. This is an important distinction, because the expression "I neither condemn nor condone that" is nonsensical. If you do not condemn, you condone.

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Baton Roget: Gene, what is it you have against online thesauruses? Looks about right to me!

Main Entry: arrogant
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: egotistic

Synonyms: aloof, assuming, audacious, autocratic, biggety-, bossy, bragging, cavalier, cheeky, cocky, cold shoulder, conceited, contemptuous, cool-, disdainful, domineering, ego trip, egotistic, haughty, high-handed, imperious, insolent, know-it-all-, lordly, overbearing, peremptory, pompous, presumptuous, pretentious, proud, puffed up-, scornful, self-important, smarty, smug, sniffy-, snippy-, snooty-, snotty-, stuck up-, supercilious, superior, swaggering, uppity-, vain

Gene Weingarten: Very clever, smartass. But I am going to answer your question directly. Here is what is wrong with it.

I am now looking up "arrogant" in the index of my Thesaurus, and before I even GET to the definitions, I get this breakdown: Contemptuous; defiant, haughty, imperious, insolent, proud, sure, and vain. Each of these words has its own separate page, each filled with dozens of synonyms.

In other words, the book Thesaurus provides a hugely greater range of meanings for the original word, depending on nuances of usage.

Arrogant, indeed! You, sir or madam, are an idiot.

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Shanghai, China: Since we're on the subject of ethnic humor, here are some good gentile jokes:

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A gentile goes into a clothing store and says, "This is a very fine jacket. How much is it?"

The salesman says, "It's $500."

The gentile says, "OK, I'll take it."

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Two gentiles meet on the street. The first one says, "You own your own business, don't you? How's it going?" The other gentile says, "Just great! Thanks for asking!"

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A Gentile man calls his mother and says, "Mother, I know you're expecting me for dinner this evening, but something important has come up and I can't make it."

His mother says, "OK."

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A Gentile man calls his elderly mother. He asks, "Mom, how are you feeling? Do you need anything?"

She says, "I'm feeling fine, and I don't need anything. Thanks for calling."

Gene Weingarten: Excellent! These are, of course, Jew jokes. Point taken.

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New York, N.Y.: Any good strategies for how to convince a shiksa wife that a bris is a good idea? Tradition isn't going to cut it. How about a chance for a family gathering?

Gene Weingarten: You said "cut it."

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Spoons and Columbus: Can you explain the "Brevity" from June 2nd? It shows Columbus finding a fork in a sofa and thinking "A Spoon!"

Huh?

Gene Weingarten: Columbus found America, but thought it was India.

washingtonpost.com: Brevity, (June 2)

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Watch Your ...Huh?: Gene, could you please explain the Sunday Watch Your Head? I hope The Post keeps this strip, but this installment is way beyond me:

Gene Weingarten: Robin busted the Burger King! It's funny! What's not to understand?

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