Chatological Humor* (Updated 7.14.06)

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Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 11, 2006; 12:00 PM

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

DAILY UPDATES: 7.12.06 | 7.13.06 | 7.14.06

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 .

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 don't know if you've heard, but the federal government has declared this National Fraud Awareness Week. This week, it is the duty of all Americans to familiarize themselves with the many ways that new technologies are making us more vulnerable to identity theft and all sorts of scams and hoaxes. Accordingly, I have set up a special fund to do battle against fraud. Please send cash contributions to me at The Washington Post. I will make sure they are put to good use.

In other news, I regret to inform you that the American woman's insane determination to battle the scourge of the Visible Panty Line, despite clear and convincing evidence that men LOVE the scourge of the Visible Panty Line, has now reached alarming levels of desperation and degradation. I thank Dawn Penny for this disturbing LINK .

Ladies, the madness must end. Haha. I said "end."

Thanks also to Teresa Brown, who found this sentence in an msnbc.com story about the Shuttle launch:

"Anvil clouds, which could spark lightning during the launch, persisted within 23 miles of NASA's Kennedy Space Center, in violation of launch rules."

My column last week provoked several letters from people wanting to know if it was a verbatim conversation with Nat Benchley, and whether he was really that mean. The answer is, yes and no. Yes, the column accurately reflected an exchange of e-mails Nat and I had. No, he was not really that mean. We had conspired ahead of time about what the engine of the column would be: That I would be fishing for compliments, and he would keep sending up old boots and driftwood. Not surprisingly, he is a funny man.

Okay, Today's Poll is a particularly intriguing one, I believe, and thank you all for responding in such large numbers and with such unerring inaccuracy. There is only one answer as to what we should make of this comic strip, and I will explain midway through. Seriously. Only one answer. This one is not even close, except for the question of whether The Post should have pulled it, which is arguable.

Thanks to Joseph Barnard, for nominating THIS Mark Trail for Comic Pick of the Week. It certainly was entertaining.

The real Comic Pick of the Last Two Weeks (CPOTLTW) is the July 4 Candorville , which is just diabolical. First Runner Up is the July 9 Doonesbury . Honorables: June 30 Rhymes With Orange (scroll back), June 29 Mother Goose and Grimm , June 30 Baby Blues , June 28 Wizard of Id , July 8 Speed Bump and July 9 Opus .

Okay, let's go.

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Arlington, Va.: When did snark become a real word? I admit I used it myself when I thought it was just some stupid made up word, but people are taking it seriously. Then I was able to just stop reading blogs to avoid it. But then CBS Sunday Morning did a story about blogs and they said it nearly every other word. Now, I heard some old person use it as a verb in the lobby. It needs to stop. My normal stance in favor of every dumb thing becoming a word was before I realized the depths of human stupidity. I'm implore you, implore your fans! Leave snark in the lingual gutter where it belongs.

Gene Weingarten: I'm a word purist, but I'm not with you on this.

One of the great things about the English language is that (like the American society) it is constantly changing -- constantly getting new blood. And as with American society, that new blood tends to be genetically hardy. Immigrants in general are tough and ambitious. So are those words that arise from the grass roots and take hold strongly enough so dic editors have to note them.

As I proceed with this inane analogy, I am finding I like it more and more.

What I object to in our language is lassitude and ignorance winning out. e.g., accepting "infer" as a synonym for "imply." This is a crime -- like when immigrants arrive to be parasites through crime, instead of helping our economy by filling a need. But where a new and descriptive word arises, filling a need, I'm all for it.

Thirty years ago, there was no precise word for "nerd" or "wonk," you know? And those are good words.

The dic currently defines "snarky" as "touchy or irritable," which seems to me to be an evolving definition. Snarky will come to mean something between snide and irritable -- snidely irritating. And "snark" will soon come to mean one who is snarky.

(Wikipedia suggests "snark" is a contraction of "snide remark.)

It's colorful and authentic. We want color and authenticity from new words, and new immigrants. I don't mind either.

I reference the next posting.

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Washington, D.C.: I snortled at least three times at this week's BTB!

BTW, Liz, I still grin when I think "Sorry Bluto" hehe.

Thanks to you two for making my week!

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: Cementimental Journey , ( Post Magazine, July 9 )

Gene Weingarten: See, "snortled"! Another good word that does not exist, yet.

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Cloverly, Md.: Is it just me, or did the poll link to the wrong cartoon? Made it kind of hard to answer the last question!

I was all set for some group complaining about the use of the word "lunatic" as offensive.

Gene Weingarten: No, a few of you are misunderstanding. Both links are correct. The lunatic cartoon appeared last week. The outhouse cartoon appeared in 2003.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: They've got to be kidding. You have to dig pretty deep to find a religious slur in this strip. It reminds me of the people who see satan worship in the Proctor & Gamble logo.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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Ogling, ME: Gene, not long ago you mentioned that you look at women in a sexual way something like 50 times a day. That got me (female) wondering about my many male co-workers: Gene, are they ever really listening to me when I talk about sales figures and marketing ideas, or are they just pretending to listen while they play some smutty mini-fantasy in their heads? I find this possibility extremely disturbing!

Gene Weingarten: Men in the workplace respect you for your abilities, and are relating to you the way they would relate to any other valued colleague. They do this because they are especially aware that women in the workplace, particularly attractive women, face a subtle and hurtful form of benign sexual discrimination, and so are particularly careful that they do not give you any cause to suspect they are dealing with you in anything other than a respectful and professional manner, which, in fact, they are not.

Okay, you want the real answer? That's not it, but it's not all that bad, either.

I assume from your question that you are a hottie. Men you deal with are completely aware, at all times, even when they don't want to be, that you are a hottie. It makes them a little uncomfortable, and a little excited, and sometimes a little tongue-tied, in dealing with you. But that's as far as it goes. They are not constantly imagining sexual gymnastics in their head. They are not removing your clothes every time you turn around. Men are not animals. Adolescent humans, but not animals.

That was a real answer. It applies to most decent men in the workplace, and most men in the workplace are decent.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene,

Mark Trail has now gone several consecutive months without being bashed across the back of his head and tied up. Do you suppose this is the longest he's gone without a concussion in his adult life?

Gene Weingarten: I don't think he's punched anyone in a long time, either. It is troubling.

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Voom, Va.: What kind of bug leaves a waxing gibbous shaped bite?

Gene Weingarten: That would be a female gibbon.

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San Francisco, Calif.: Today's Chronicle front page, above-the-fold headline: "Newsom's Oympic Vision Sees New 49ers Stadium". So, what was the worst prominent typo in your time at The Post?

Gene Weingarten: When I was in Albany New York, one of the other local papers (Maybe the Schenectady Gazette) had a headline that was supposed to read "Portrait of a Great Lady," but for at least one edition, the "d" was dropped.

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The Hart Comic: I put that the Post should have pulled it -- not because it's offensive, but because it's just a bad (as in not funny or clever) strip. Then I started thinking a bit more... Is un-funniness a good enough reason to pull a strip?

Gene Weingarten: Apparently not.

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Maidens, Va.: The following was published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Sunday. Good way to go out or could he have benefited from some editing?

Frederic Arthur (Fred) Clark

Frederic Arthur (Fred) Clark, who had tired of reading obituaries noting other's courageous battles with this or that disease, wanted it known that he lost his battle as a result of an automobile accident on June 18, 2006. True to Fred's personal style, his final hours were spent joking with medical personnel while he whimpered, cussed, begged for narcotics and bargained with God to look over his wife and kids. He loved his family. His heart beat faster when his wife of 37 years Alice Rennie Clark entered the room and saddened a little when she left. His legacy was the good works performed by his sons, Frederic Arthur Clark III and Andrew Douglas Clark MD, PhD., along with Andy's wife, Sara Morgan Clark. Fred's back straightened and chest puffed out when he heard the Star Spangled Banner and his eyes teared when he heard Amazing Grace. He wouldn't abide self important tight -censored-. Always an interested observer of politics, particularly what the process does to its participants, he was amused by politician's outrage when we lie to them and amazed at what the voters would tolerate. His final wishes were "throw the bums out and don't elect lawyers" (though it seems to make little difference). During his life he excelled at mediocrity. He loved to hear and tell jokes, especially short ones due to his limited attention span. He had a life long love affair with bacon, butter, cigars and bourbon. You always knew what Fred was thinking much to the dismay of his friend and family. His sons said of Fred, "he was often wrong, but never in doubt". When his family was asked what they remembered about Fred, they fondly recalled how Fred never peed in the shower - on purpose. He died at MCV Hospital and sadly was deprived of his final wish which was to be run over by a beer truck on the way to the liquor store to buy booze for a double date to include his wife, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter to crash an ACLU cocktail party. In lieu of flowers, Fred asks that you make a sizable purchase at your local ABC store or Virginia winery (please, nothing French - the -censored-) and get rip roaring drunk at home with someone you love or hope to make love to. Word of caution though, don't go out in public to drink because of the alcohol related laws our elected officials have passed due to their inexplicable terror at the sight of a MADD lobbyist and overwhelming compulsion to meddle in our lives. No funeral or service is planned. However, a party will be held to celebrate Fred's life. It will be held in Midlothian, Va. Email fredsmemory-yahoo.com for more information. Fred's ashes will be fired from his favorite cannon at a private party on the Great Wicomico River where he had a home for 25 years. Additionally, all of Fred's friend (sic) will be asked to gather in a phone booth, to be designated in the future, to have a drink and wonder, "Fred who?"

Published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 7/9/2006.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. Terrific. It needs a little editing, but why quibble?

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Washington D.C.: Hi Gene - In your last chat you mentioned that you detest celebrities but that you don't let it affect your relationship with Steuver or the Reliable Source crew. But what do you think of Liz's celebrity obsession? She seems to have it a whole lot worse than the aforementioned. Not only that, she suggested that people get their fashion advice from some lame-a** cable TV show. These tendencies would seem to suggest that Liz is indeed heading down a dark path to vapidity. Is it time for an intercession and would you be interested in leading it?

washingtonpost.com: "What Not to Wear" is not lame-a** and you'd do well to watch with pencil in hand.

Gene Weingarten: I know Liz. Liz is a friend of mine. "Liz" and. "Vapidity" will never again be in a sentence together.

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Snarks: What is the problem with "snark"? It's a perfectly fine word, invented by Lewis Carroll. Next you'll be complaining about "wabe" or "quark" (which was James Joyce's word, not Carroll's, but the principle's the same).

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, he invented the snark, a mythical bird that is hunted. It was his version of the "snipe."

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Louisville, Ky.: Has anyone from the Asphalt Museum had you charged with terroristic threatening yet?

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: Cementimental Journey , ( Post Magazine, July 9 )

Gene Weingarten: No. The Asphalt Museum appears to be someone's living room.

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Kensington, Md.: That link is HILARIOUS. In an effort to avoid VPL, sometimes I just go commando. It's fun, I highly recommend it.

Gene Weingarten: I have learned, from reading the site, that there are certain, um. Erk.

WELL IT SAYS YOU HAVE TO LAUNDER YOUR PANTS MORE OFTEN, OKAY?

Ladies, I didn't want to go here. You made me.

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Washington, D.C.: If it's National Fraud Week, then this is the perfect story: Scamming the Nigerian Scammer .

"The tables have been turned on at least one Nigerian scammer after an online vigilante successfully played him at his own game with an intricately laid "anti-scam" operation.

"The campaign netted a life-sized wooden carving of a Commodore 64 computer keyboard which was sent all the way from Africa to the scambaiter who is code-named Shiver Metimbers."

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I stopped communicating with these people for columns when other people, with a lot more time and creativity, did it so much better. This one is terrific.

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Bethesda, Md.: I've just been reading "Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway" (in keeping with one of this chat's more common themes, it has been my bathroom literature of late). Question: which came first, his book or your column of similar title? And did you have to ask permission of Dave, or he of you, to use the phrase?

Gene Weingarten: It's a really good book, perfect-pitch political satire.

My column already had that name when Dave's publisher chose it, but neither Dave nor the publisher had made the connection. Once they did, Dave asked if I minded, and I said of course not. Why? Three reasons:

-- At least one person came up with "Below The Beltway" before I did. That was the title of a collection of political cartoons published by Jimmy Margulies in 1998, two years before my column started. So the name didn't exclusively belong to me, anyway. I had no claim on it.

-- Even if I had, objecting to it would have required me to come to grips with everything I have stolen from Dave over the years in the sense of timing, joke setups, philosophies of humor, SPECIFIC WORDS, etc. I really, really didn't want to go there, you know?

-- Who gives a crap?

Read the book, though. It's one of Dave's best, which is saying a lot. It had the misfortune of coming out around 9/11, which may have limited its sales at least slightly, being as how people maybe didn't want to read the truth about how screwed up our political situation was. Buy it, now. Let's see how many copies Amazon will sell in the next two hours.

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Washington, D.C.: I randomly came across this archive from Sept 10, 2002. Much of that discussion was related to Hart's BC-christianisms. At the top, in the introduction, was the following:

Gene Weingarten: Also, I hope everyone noticed the B.C. that appeared on Saturday, because it was an astonishing event. It was a last gasp -- the death rattle of a once-great cartoon.

Johnny Hart long ago abandoned the strictly prehistoric conceit -- he has included references to airplanes and such, and of course Jesus Christ -- but these could be seen as playful anachronisms, unstuck in time. On Saturday, Hart acknowledges a time in the future, with date and everything. It is a pathetic surrender to time itself. Metaphorically, it speaks volumes.

It is also idiocy. It is as though, at the end of a Tale of two Cities, Sidney Carton walks up to the guillotine during the French Revolution, and says "It is a far better thing I do than I have ever done. It is a far better world I go to than I have ever known. It is a world in which some guy named Abe Lincoln is going to free the

slaves."

The letter below addresses an additional point beautifully.

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Rockville, Md.: What did you think of the BC comic strip that ran in the Post on Sept. 7? In case you missed it, I'll recap: Two cave women are talking. This is their conversation:

"It's too bad e-mail wasn't around in the first century.

Why is that?

St. Paul could've converted the world in a nanosecond."

Personally, I'm offended by the strip. On four counts. First and foremost: It isn't funny. Second, it is blatantly religious. The Post has pulled B.C. strips in the past, for carrying too much religious content. I think someone was asleep at the switch this time. Third, it is utterly anachronistic. These are CAVEWOMEN! What could they possibly know of the "first century", let alone e-mail? Remember, the name of the strip is "BC", and the action therein takes place a good half-million years BEFORE the "first century." And finally, the strip's punchline assertion is dumb. E-mail is "around" today. And instead of just one, there are hundreds of thousands of people willing to use it to tell St. Paul's story. But has the whole world been converted? In a nanosecond, or a decade? What's your opinion?

Gene Weingarten: It is the last point in here that I love. Total idiocy in concept, design, and execution on the part of Mr. Hart.

Gene Weingarten: This is revisiting a point I have discussed a few times: Johnny Hart has on several occasions given direct evidence that his strip is not, in fact, about pre-historic cavemen, but about post-historic cavemen: Survivors in a post-apocalyptic Earth. There was a strip a couple of years ago where two of the characters find magazines from "back" in the twentieth century.

I actually talked to the head of Creators Syndicate, Rick Newcombe, about this. He said that Hart is simply being playful about time, and hasn't thought it through that deeply.

I think Hart thinks things through much more deeply than Newcombe gives him credit for. This one today is a clear example.

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Potomac: Johnny Hart lost it long ago, and he needs to retire--and he and his company need to retire his racist, bigoted and prejucided "comic" strip. Of course the outhouse strip was a "slam" against Islam, and of course the turtle-bite was a slam against Islam, and of course the menorah strip was about as anti-Jewish as anyone could be. Johnny Hart needs to apologize, he needs to stop putting religion in his strips, and, again, he needs to retire. Today. Enough is enough.

Gene Weingarten: I think Johnny's greatest sin is lying about all this, frankly.

You are going to be a little surprised by my conclusions about this particular strip, though.

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Baltimore: Gene, toward the end of our last chat, the subject of stars on the American flag came up. (BTW, did you see George Will's column that as of this week our nation has comprised 50 states for longer than it did 48, setting a new record for consistenct. So now it's time to end taxation without representation.)

Anyway, what I was wondering is -- you know the 1800 election went several ballots in the House because the Federalist states kept voting for Burr, creating 8-8 ties. But the Star Spangled Banner that flew over Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812 had 15 stars and stripes.

Did a state disappear sometime during the Jefferson administration?

washingtonpost.com: George Will: Interstate Ribbons of Commerce , ( Post, July 9 )

Gene Weingarten: Does anyone know the answer to this?

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uh, OH: Did it bother you that, when Henry Allen told a version of the roo-roo joke, (he called it chi-chi, for some reason), the punch line did NOT include "a little"? Can you now admit that Dave Barry is correct in the telling of the joke?

washingtonpost.com: Ken Lay's Last Evasion , ( Post, July 6 )

Gene Weingarten: Approximately 40,003 people referenced this article. And yes, Henry and I and Dave Barry exchanged emails about it, too. (Dave: "Chi chi???? Doesn't the Washington Post have a stylebook???")

If you search the Web, this joke exists both as roo-roo and as the infinitely inferior chi-chi. The fact is, this joke has been badly mangled in the telling many, many times, most famously by Martin Mull in "The Aristocrats."

Henry did the best he could. The joke cannot really be TOLD in a family newspaper; too many necessary elements must be eliminated. If you eliminate the specific nature of the crime of roo-roo, you then do not understand why the tribe might want to perform roo-roo prior to death. Etc.

As for the wording of the final line, this remains the single widest gulf between Dave and me, in a friendship that is otherwise sound.

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Typos: Paper where I work once printed a story about the local food bank. Unfortunately, the "r" was left out of the name "God's Pantry" in the headline.

Gene Weingarten: Nice. I often think some of these "typos" are subversion by some printer.

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Wivenhoe, Essex: What Hart did is really clever - he wrote something that can be read as a wordplay joke on the literal meaning of "lunatic" (luna = moon), or as a smear on Islam, involving its crescent moon symbol. The use of the word "crescent", which is completely unnecessary to the wordplay joke, makes his real intention clear.

What a jerk.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, this is basically correct. My analysis follows.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, the Hart cartoon.

First off, many of you didn't get it. Some of you got only one meaning, some got only a second meaning, and many of you had no idea what to make of it at all.

This is a brilliant, brilliant comic strip. Both amusing and clever. And diabolical, and deceptive, and hostile and smart. Hart still has an active, curious, seditious mind. Whatever else you think of him.

Yes, I'm serious. This strip is making two points at the same time. The one most readers see first is a political statement. The insect that bites in the shape of a "crescent moon" is radical Islam. And if you have doubt about this, consider the star. Johnny is not only giving you the crescent moon, but the accompanying star. This is brilliant use of symbolism, and stealth. That is why he did not actually SHOW the crescent moon bite. It would have been too obvious.

The other joke? A silly but effective pun. A luna-tick.

When the Post's comics editor, Suzanne Tobin, called the syndicate and asked about this, they flatly denied there was a political intent to this comic strip. They were either being idiots or liars. The truth here is obvious. It's inescapable. In fact, as is clear from your responses, it's the MAIN point, as people see it. (And yes, if Johnny's intent was benign, he could have told this joke without a "crescent" moon. He could have said the bite was in the shape of a "half" moon. Clearly, "crescent" was the point he was trying to make.

Now, should The Post have pulled it?

You can go either way on this. I do not see this cartoon as hatred of Islam - it is a statement about Crescent Moons that BITE, which is to say, Islamic terrorism. I don't see anything wrong with Johnny Hart condemning Islamic terrorists.

That's one way of looking at it. Another is this: Why is the syndicate denying it? Are they a little uncomfortable with it, maybe? And why should they be?

Maybe because they know or suspect where Johnny's own heart is, and find it troubling.

Which brings us to the final point: The story I wrote in 2003. I was mostly convinced, but never entirely convinced, that the main allegation of that story was correct, until now. Because although Johnny could plausibly deny that first one, there is simply no denial here.

And that first one was pretty disgusting. It's not defensible, politically, the way this one is. That one was just comparing an entire religion to feces.

So I'm still on the fence about whether The Post was right in pulling it. My feeling is that a newspaper's default position should be to run a comic strip, unless there is a really compelling reason to kill it. I don't think there is a compelling reason, taking this one strip alone.

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"Snortled": "Chortled" is already a portmanteau, coined by Lewis Carroll in "Jabberwocky," meaning "chuckled and snorted." So "snortled" would mean, I guess, "chuckled and snorted, then snorted some more." What are we, German? We don't need a word for such a long phrase.

Gene Weingarten: No, it would mean snorted and chuckled, then snorted some more. A subtle and important distinction.

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Wonderland: I'd like you to reconsider your support of snortle.

It's presumably an awkward combination of snort and either chortle or chuckle -- but chortle was itself a combination of chuckle and snort, from Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll. Thus snortle is either a misuse or simply redundant.

A better-needed word would be fartle for methanous laughter.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, okay. I'll go with fartled.

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Yellowknife, Northwest Territories: I'm surprised by your contributors. The strip is clearly offensive. Any question about its purpose should have been gone by the time we saw the tiny star.

And yes, The Post was right to pull it. It's called editing, people! It's only censorship if the government's insisting that the strip be pulled.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, but what about my point that he was criticizing Islamic terror, not Islam?

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We need Gina for this one: I've been reading the new "DateLab" feature in the Post magazine with growing horror. The most recent Bachelor Number 1 provided this charming description of his "usual type": "Blond, but not ditzy; granola, but shave their legs; creative girls with interesting stories; and, sure, the anorexic with big boobs thing is hard to turn down."

"The anorexic with big boobs thing"? Could someone tell him Barbies are in aisle 14 at Toys 'R Us? Gene, please discuss.

Gene Weingarten: I really like Datelab so far, precisely BECAUSE of things like that. I like how people are being honest. The guy is a jerk. He showed it, without understanding how it made him look. What's not to like?

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Columbia: Since I trust your judgement more than Hax's:

I've been seeing this girl for nearly a year. As we're both college students and as she lives in a different state, I haven't seen her since about the end of May, but have obviously been talking to her regularly. I haven't noticed anything different in her conversation. However, I recently inadvertantly stumbled across a few messages between her and one of her ex-boyfriends from her home town that seem to indicate something might be going on between them. It's only circumstantial, but pretty suspiscious. I really wasn't trying to snoop at all, my original intent was only to leave her a cute message, although once I actually started looking into those messages, it became snooping and I feel terrible about it because it's a betrayal of trust on my part. But if my worst fears are true, it's a pretty ugly thing they've got going on behind my back. To further complicate the issue, she's currently out of the country on a study trip and more or less out of contact for a few more weeks. And I'm supposed to fly up and see her shortly after she returns from the trip. I don't know what to do. It's eating me up because I really don't want these things to be true, but I can't even talk to her. Help me!

Gene Weingarten: You should not trust my judgment more than Hax's, for the simple reason that Carolyn actually knows what she is talking about in matters of the heart. I only know what I am talking about in matters of the Hart. Hahaha. Do not try this at home, people. I am a professional.

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Re: In a sentence together: Gene Weingarten: I know Liz. Liz is a friend of mine. "Liz" and. "Vapidity" will never again be in a sentence together.

"Liz is not the kind of person prone to vapidity."

Being in a sentence together does not have anything to do with two things being associated together in a positive manner. You just linguified with a snowclone .

Gene Weingarten: This strikes me as a really weenie website, yes?

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Anonymous: Q: What the heck leaves a Hart-shaped bite mark?

A: A fanatic.

Gene Weingarten: Yes. But he would have spelled it Heart, for plausible deniability.

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Glover Park, Washington, D.C.: Deadspin, a sports blog, has proposed a Mark Trial drinking game for each time the animals appear to be saying something. Maybe this could be expanded to include some of the other old school cartoons.

Gene Weingarten: That game would suck. You'd have one drink a day, max. Well, two, max.

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Candorville: I'm not diabolical enough. Can you please explain it?

Gene Weingarten: His ghost has come from the future to warn him about something, but clearly, he has gone senile in his old age.

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Kensington, Md.: Gene, there must be a way to pull "Pajama Diaries" early. It is simply boring. Stale jokes and dumb cliches. It's horrible. Today's strip illustrating the pre-kid and post-kid woman's purse made me skip the second half of my bagel. We just returned from a week in Maine and read the Boston Globe almost daily. What's wrong with "Sylvia"? I love that strip.

Oh, and Liz, the hubby and I are still cracking up. We loved your response in Friday's update when asked about language in this chat. Toothless Lester. You should write a humor column.

washingtonpost.com: Pajama Diaries cartoonist Terri Libenson , (Live Online this Friday, July 14 at 1 p.m. ET)

Gene Weingarten: Today's was a particularly lame Pajama Diaries. You knew where it was going, and there wasn't a single thing in that second purse that was even vaguely interesting or funny.

(Liz, can we link to this?)

Also, I think it would be a bad idea if Liz got a humor column. Because we need her full-time devotion to celebs. Yeah, that's the ticket.

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Washmeout, D.C.: This is a serious question, but I can try to keep it light. In a city that is basically full of poop, what do you think of this growing popularity for voluntary colonic irrigation/colon hydrotherapy? Is this "procedure" healthy or necessary or is it quackery with a twisted side (unless recommended by your MD)?

I've been noticing second floor "clinics" around the Capitol Hill area and I will admit to being curious as I am someone that stress hits in the digestive tract first. I'm wondering if, though it can't be AT ALL comfortable, I am missing something worth bending over and checking out. To poop or hydro-poop? Thanks

Gene Weingarten: From the era of that quack Kellogg and his Battle Creek clinic in the late 1800s, enemas and high colonics have been a recurring fad of people with money and too much time on their hands. Is there anyone out there who has tried this "therapy" and found it helpful?

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Double Standard, S.O.P.: It's still interesting how so many contributors here are more than willing to take offense on behalf of Islam, when they have no problem at all with The Post publishing material that is blatantly anti-Christian.

I'm sure that were the U.S. a fundamentalist Moslem country, these people would act exactly opposite... no, wait: they would have been beheaded already for speaking their minds.

Gene Weingarten: I am probably wading into a zitstorm here, but I'll take the bait. What do we publish that is blatantly anti-Christian?

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Lanham, MD: Gene-

Awhile ago, there was a discussion and poll in this chat room about true love. (I think. The topic may not have been quite so general.) Anyway, a point was made about knowing what would destroy a loving relationship, if one ever spoke it aloud. Well, my husband of 28 years did just that this weekend. What do I do now?

Thank you.

Gene Weingarten: See, this sort of post terrifies me. Because it is serious, heartfelt, you really want advice that I am incapable of giving expertly, and a wrong answer could have bad ramifications. You want to ask Hax, or a professional counselor. Seriously.

However:

I do believe that just as there are actions that cannot be undone, there are things that cannot be unsaid. And I think there is a subset of that group, a small subset, that is: Things that, once said, will hover forever, and poison forever, and can never be overcome. You need to come to grips with whether this is one of those things.

In a magnificent piece many years ago about the suicide of her father, Roxanne Roberts tried to explain this sort of event, and used an unforgettable metaphor: It's like putting a dollop of red paint into a can of white paint. You can mix in more white, and more white, and keep stirring like the devil, but you can never get rid of the pink tinge.

Is it like that? Because if it is, then you may have to consider all options. I hope it's not. Forgiveness and growth is much more healthy.

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washingtonpost.com: Sorry Geen, but current "Pajama Diaries" toons are not available online.

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Honeymooner: As a recovered hypocondriac, perhaps you can help me. My new husband is a hypocondriac about me. He's constantly worried about my health regardless of the fact that I rarely get sick and my family lives to be very old. (His family, on the other hand tends to live shorter, more sickly lives, such as his mother, who will most likely not make it to 50) He's particularly worried about when I get pregnant: I want to to go to a midwife and have natural childbirth, he'll probably want me on bedrest as soon as I conceive. (this probably isn't helped much by the fact that it took me two days to go to a doctor when I broke my foot a couple of years ago) Do you have suggestions for getting him to lighten up?

Gene Weingarten: This is transference hypochondria. I have it with my kids. I also have it with my wife, who is the opposite of a hypochondriac (apparently like you.) I have never come up with a good term for someone who is the opposite of a hypochondriac. My wife could have sudden weight loss, blood in her stool, a sore that won't heal, a mole whose appearance has changed significantly in the past week, a painless lump under her armpit, slurred speech, and no sensation in one side of her body, and she would try to "walk it off." Drive me crazy.

There is not much you can do, beyond hold your ground, as my wife does. You can't be a slave to his fears. But he loves the heck out of you. When you tell him you intend to work through pregnancy, do it lovingly.

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Bowie, Md.: From last week:

Waldorf: Hey, I think the Britney Spears in that picture in the Post is hot! I'd marry her!

Gene Weingarten: "Waldorf" says it all.

So is geographic bigotry acceptable? I'm from PG County, so I probably didn't get the joke.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, geographic bigotry is fine.

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Lost in Hawaii, Literally: I have a confession. For decades, I have no gotten what the "no soap, radio" joke is. I assume there is something I am missing, but I can't figure out what the humor is between the lack of soap and a radio, not can I think of any analogous hidden meaning that would make this funny. Would someone please explain to me what the joke is? I would really appreciate it.

Gene Weingarten: First you have soap, right? Then you DON'T have soap, but there is still radio! The radio never goes away!

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Washington, D.C.: The question was: "Did a state disappear sometime during the Jefferson administration?"

The answer: In 1800, there were sixteen states. The flag had last been updated in 1795 to fifteen stars, to include Vermont and Kentucky. The idea of formally adding a star for each state didn't come about until 1820, though, when the flag was updated to 20 stars.

So, there were sixteen states, but only fifteen stars.

Either that, or Jefferson was a mean drunk who hated Georgia. Wouldn't let anyone mention that state in his presence, and went to far as to rip its star off the various flags.

(And if this comment gets printed, I'll be three for three for this chat -- a chat trick.)

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. And congratulations.

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The Mojoless Jeremy: Gene, just wanted to let you know that I've been to about 5 games so far this season, and the Nats have lost every single one. I blame you. And Livan Hernandez.

Gene Weingarten: Holy CRAP! Really?

This is Jeremy Weiss, the guy who broke my curse!

Maybe I passed it on to him? Maybe he ABSORBED my curse.

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Womens Christian Temperance Union: We endorse the Mark Trail Drinking Game.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

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Inquiring mind: What exactly is the origin of the phrase "going commando?"

Gene Weingarten: I don't know. Might commandos not wear undies, for some reason?

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Datelab: Hey. That guys should look me up. I am anorexic with big boobs. But he should probably know that I am not much fun to take out to restaurants. In fact, I don't really like doing much except obsessing about food that I don't really eat. But how can I get him my #?

Gene Weingarten: So, like, you saw nothing wrong with that guy's general attitude toward the ladies, eh?

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Rockville, Md.: Luna is our moon. Lunatic is a related word. Perhaps "crescent moon" was a bit too much, but are you sure he was doing a religious take? I sense a lot of grumps out.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I am ONE HUNDRED PERCENT CERTAIN.

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Islam vs. Islamic terrorism: In both strips, I think Hart was making the (inaccurate) claim that Islam is a religion of terrorism. I hear this claim constantly from many conservative Christians. It looked like Hart was making no distinction between the religion and the violent extremists. Most Christians would be upset, and rightly so, if a cartoonist used someone like Eric Rudolph to slam Christianity.

Gene Weingarten: I think you have summarized why the Post pulled it. The confusion of message.

I think his message was more narrow than that, but I see your point of view.

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State of Dismay: Re: VPL/panties/no panties/laundry.

OK, I guess I realize, ICK, that men may wear the same clothes for days without doing laundry.

But women? OK, speaking just for myself, I do laundry every day. And I WEAR panties every day. Come on, your clothes get icky. Am I alone in this?

Gene Weingarten: I am just saying what this website, run by women, says.

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Laurel, Md.: Didn't the Post once print a famous typo about what President Woodrow Wilson and Mrs. Galt (the future second Mrs. Wilson and acting Presidentress of the U.S.) were doing at a theater instead of watching the play?

Gene Weingarten: Not exactly. The Post said that the President spent the afternoon "entertaining" Mrs. Galt, but they dropped the "tain" in one edition. Wilson LOVED it.

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Lost in Hawaii, Literally: I still don't get it. What is funny about the radio still being there?

Gene Weingarten: Because there was a time when it was not there, and then it is there. But the same cannot be said for soap.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Gene,

On the subject of going "commando", Slate recently did an " Explainer " piece on the origin of the phrase.

Gene Weingarten: Ah, good. I don't have time to read this, but I hope it upclears things.

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Washington, D.C.: In Shansby's illustration with Sunday's column, he uses the military insignia of a single white star on a round blue background on a short ribbon of two red and one white stripes. At least I assume it's a military insignia; I think I've only noticed it on airplanes and tanks in war movies. Anyway, I was just wondering if there's a name for it, as well as its history and usage (since you had some useful trivia about the flag a couple weeks ago).

washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway: Cementimental Journey , ( Post Magazine, July 9 )

Gene Weingarten: I have no idea what that is. I'll ask him.

Gene Weingarten: Does anyone know?

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Islam vs Islamic Terrorism: You could equate Eric Rudolph with Christianity if the Christianity refuses to distance itself from Eric Rudolph. Christianity completely and whole heartedly rejects Eric Rudolph. Forget about terrorism...why do Muslims not reject the price put on Rushdie's head. There's a big difference here.

Gene Weingarten: I think you are being very broad in your use of "Muslims."

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Commando!: In some climates, soldiers avoid undergarments because they (the skivvies) might harbor rashes, parasites, etc.

You wouldn't know, man, because YOU WEREN'T THERE!

Gene Weingarten: Okayy...

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re: HONEYMOONER: Tell your husband that bedrest is medically/physically bad for you. It leads to bone loss, muscle loss and possible thromboembolism that can kill you. I speak from experience as I spent the last 12 weeks of my pregnancy in bed. I had the first two and had to wear elastic hose to prevent the latter.

Gene Weingarten: Ooooooooooh, this is very clever!

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Wash, ME: So, does State of Dismay take her dry-clean-only clothes to the cleaner after each and every wearing? Some clothes get icky with one wearing, some can be worn multiple times before icking enough to be washed or cleaned.

Gene Weingarten: That was my assumption.

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Charlottesville, Va.: Could you ever get enough soap so that there wouldn't be room for radio?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, theoretically. That is the subtext of the joke.

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Lost in Hawaii, Literally: Thank you. I think I now understand it, although it doesn't seem that funny (yet: like me think about it some more.)

Actually, I am just sending this in to try and get my hat trick for this chat.

Gene Weingarten: Congratulations!

You have all of us laughing, so thank you, too.

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Alexandria, Va.: Oh please. Blantantly hostile to Christianity? If only. Would that the Post would treat ALL religions and their regressive moralities with the same critical eye it has reserved for, say, Scientology (see Richard Leiby). We would all be better off if our news media would do more to expose organized religion of all kinds as the pre-scientific claptrap scams they are.

Gene Weingarten: Oooooooooh.

Here is a guy who need a hug!

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Well done, Gene: I have never read a more artful explanation of the "no soap, radio" joke. You have me laughing out loud, I enjoy the joke so much.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. Well, that is my business, explaining humor.

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Washington, D.C.: That star on the blue field against the red and white stripe is the US identifier for much of its military equipment. It's been in use since at least WWII.

Gene Weingarten: Ah. Thank you.

See, I WASN'T THERE.

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Crofton, Md.: The chatter from Bowie committed geographic bigotry when he referred to his home county as PG County. There has been a very vocal movement in that county to be referred to as Prince George's County because "PG" is somehow considered demeaning.

Gene Weingarten: PG is demeaning? Can Pthep, who lives in PG, explain this?

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Washintgon, D.C.: Do they ever takes words OUT of the dictionary? I mean its been years since I've used thee, thine, and thyself. Although I have used the favorite, "A pox on thee!" a few times.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, believe it or not, the dic is very much alive. It employs many, many editors who are constantly adding and deleting words.

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Lewis Carroll: Is it just me, or does anyone else get mad or skeeved out at the mention of Lewis Carrol? The man was a serious pedophile and wrote stories that we now read as children or pre-teens. That's just f'ed up.

Gene Weingarten: My memory is that the man was a serious wannabe pedophile, but there is no evidence he acted on his desires, with Alice or anyone else. Can someone elucidate?

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Cabin John, MD: re:"Double Standard, S.O.P."

We've discussed this before. It's okay to mock Christianity in this country because Xtians are a thundering majority. They can take it. Muslims - and Jews, and Blacks, etc., etc. - are minority populations and mocking them is cruel and unfair given the power that the majority already possesses over them.

Gene Weingarten: But how does this newspaper mock Christianity? I just don't believe it.

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Snowclo, NE: Man, I am a devoted word nerd, and I'm a serious NY Times crossword junkie, and this site makes even me think, "Wow, those guys are dweebs".

Gene Weingarten: I know, I started reading it and was feeling like I'd walked into a party at the REALLY BAD fraternity.

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Kensington, Md.: Yes, when I go commando (never in dry-clean only pants because I don't own any of those), the pants ALWAYS go in the hamper afterwards.

My husband finds this to be royally sexy and it's hard to keep him off me once he figure out I don't have panties on. Good for the marriage and all, ya know?

Gene Weingarten: Thank you for sharing that. I really dasn't dwell on this subject.

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For Lost in Hawaii: If you Google "No Soap Radio," Wikipedia has a great, in-depth article on the joke's history, context and variations. You can really appreciate the soap/radio dichotomy that way.

Gene Weingarten: This is very nice and sweet advice. Go ahead, Lost in Hawaii.

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No Soap, Radio: I refuse to believe that a person who reads this chat wouldn't have googled the meaning of the no soap joke. Are you sure he wasn't trying to trick you up?

Gene Weingarten: Sounded totally real to me.

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Former PG Resident: I was born in PG County, I grew up in PG County, I went to college in PG County. The only reason I moved to MoCo was to be closer to work. How is PG considered demeaning? I used that all the time as a resident with nary a thought. It is an abbreviation, just like MoCo or NoVa.

I suspect there are hypersensitive politicans pushing this, unwilling to be associated with a "tainted" term, since PG county is associated with crime and poverty. If you change the name then the problems disappear, you know.

Gene Weingarten: So if I change my name, I will become respectable?

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State of Disarray: All this vituperation over religion!! I find myself increasingly on the same page as comedian Richard Jeni who said it all sounds like arguing over who has the better imaginary friend.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, Bill Hicks once commented about the fact that a certain religion had begun to ordain women. He said, "That's great. Really! Women, men, people with two gills and trunk, all the same to me! I won't listen to any of em."

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(mildly) Smolderi, NG: Re: "Sorry Bluto"

Ever since that comment I've been trying to let it go. I am compelled to come to the original poster's defense - what he described is a real problem I have also suffered.

From early puberty on I could not find pants that fit my legs and my waist at the same time - my thighs and 'gluteus' are just too big around. No matter how flat my stomach was I was always wildly past the 'acceptable' weight for my height by those silly charts they used to use - even when using the 'large frame' column.

I like clothes shopping just about as much as any other guy. Gene - how much would you enjoy spending three consecutive weekends trying to find pants whose pockets don't make your waist look like Dumbo? Back in the day pleats were a savior, and they still help.

I do have to say though that the problem has largely dissipated now that 'relaxed fit' has become so ubiquitous. I haven't tried flat front since that particular revolution, but I will next time I need pants just to see. I have to belive though that pleats look better than pockets that attempt to swallow passerby with each step - and sometimes even when standing still.

I may be Bluto now, but I wasn't then. Respect my pain! Wah!

washingtonpost.com: Feel better? And ever heard of a tailor?

Gene Weingarten: Liz is just so, so ... snarky.

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Flag Burning: Hi, Gene,

As a Marine brat, and a Marine wife, I'm having some problems regarding the flag burning amendment. I had understood that when the flag becomes tattered, faded, or otherwise unsuitable for display, it is to be burned with honor. My husband, who is prepared to die for this country, has burned our porch flag when it has become faded from the sun.

Those esteemed politicians who are protecting us from our freedoms know or ought to know this. What do they want us to do? Fly unsuitable flags? Put them in the garbage with dog poop?

This proposed violation of our constitution has really gotten under my skin. I hear the freedom of expression arguement all the time, and I wonder why no one brings up this mundane objection.

Gene Weingarten: This issue has nothing to do with what anyone wants us to do or not do with the flag.

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Pat the Perfect, P.G. County: Yes, there are a number of people in Prince George's who have proclaimed that it is disrespectful to county residents to call the county "P.G." No one calls rich white Montgomery County "Mont," for example, and therefore "P.G." is obviously a contemptuous slur. Also, the argument seems to be, "P.G." makes people think of a county that is always in the news because of crime, police brutality, mismanagement, etc., and this is terribly unfair. The current slogan for the county is:

"Gorgeous Prince George's."

Gene Weingarten: B...but what about Moco?

You people are too thin-skinned. That's typical of PGers.

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New York, N.Y.: Gene, changing your name to Xander Fundlebum would make you respectable.

Gene Weingarten: Noted. Thank you.

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Relig, ON: Because of today's poll, I thought I'd ask you this: do you ever get tired of defending your atheism? I'm more agnostic, than athiest, mostly because I can't prove there's not a higher being, but I've been questioned about it quite a bit lately. I feel like I'm being judged. People ask me all the time why I don't believe in god. If I were a Christian, would it be okay for me to as a Jew why they don't believe in Jesus?

Yeesh. Oh, and poop.

Gene Weingarten: I have never been asked to defend my atheism. I mean, ever. You are constantly being questioned about this?

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PG County: I interviewed for a job with PG when I got out of grad school. I did the interview by phone from LA (where I was living at the time). She asked me if I thought I understood the county, its people, and its issues. I started my answer with the words "PG County", and she interrupted me to tell me that county residents find that abbreviation to be condescending and offensive. Having lived in Laurel for the first 22 years of my life, I was not aware of this. Everyone I knew when I was little called it PG County. I don't at all understand the argument against it.

Gene Weingarten: I find it fabulous that a chat devoted in large measure to deciding whether BC slurred Islam, we have devolved into deciding whether PG slurred a county. This is a great chat.

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The original bluto: Hey there Lizzie Gal. Yes, I have heard of a tailor. I've bought hand-tailored made to measure suits. And guess what -- I'm more comfortable wearing pleats. Properly made pleats do not look like floor-to-ceiling curtains, and they make it possible for us large-glute men to have COMFORTABLE pants.

We already know you have no honor, as you declined to meet me at dawn a few weeks ago in the Luxembourg Gardens. Show the merest modicum of humility and give it up.

washingtonpost.com: Snortle.

Gene Weingarten: I am really enjoying this.

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Carroll (Author, not County): Probably won't make your chat in time, but there has been a great deal of post-mortem psychoanalysis of Lewis Carroll, and it generally agrees with your statement: Fascination with pre-pubescent girls, did photography and drawing, but never known to act upon them and was viewed as a man probably mentally incapable of actually carrying out any actual sexual wishes, if he indeed had them. Unhealthy obsession, probably; pedophilia, no. Start with Martin Gardner's "The Annotated Alice" for further insight and sources.

Gene Weingarten: Good, that's what I thought. So we can read him in peace. Indeed, he is the sick pillar of the community we were postulating about some weeks back -- a man worthy of MORE honor.

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4,872nd: Gene - From Achenbach's Sunday article in the Post Mag:

... Hell is adding a lower circle -- like, so far below the 9th it's more like the 4,872th.

4,872th?

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha. I shall have him respond next week.

Which reminds me, we are done. I will be updating as customary. See you next week.

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UPDATED 7.12.06

Gene Weingarten: This is delicious. It is from an anti-abortion Web site. I was alerted to it by someone whose Web address is Angrypregnantlawyer. This guy is just wildly angry at a pro-abortion screed, and he quotes from it liberally, as it were, annotating it with his own diatriabe. He seems unfamiliar with the nature of the Web site from which this screed was taken. The Onion.

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S Street NW, Washington, D.C.: UM, Gene, I'm a historian who studies Wilson. Wilson was NOT amused by The Post's "entering" typo. In fact, Edith could later barely force herself to be civil to Mrs. harding because she was best friends with Mrs. McLean, and Edith blamed Mrs. McClean for the "accident."

Gene Weingarten: Okay, now, I too, am something of an expert on Wilson, though not a historian. But I did write the piece linked to below, about Wilson's love affair prior to his marriage to Mrs. Galt. And I seem to recall that although Mrs. Galt was angry, Wilson himself was quoted by associates as being tickled to death. Only he could never tell HER.

You callin' me out on this?

washingtonpost.com: An Honorable Affair, (Jan. 10, 1999)

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That star & stripe thingie is a rondel: AKA roundel.

Go to wikipedia and be enlightened.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. It even has a name.

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Ann Coulter w, HY: This question has been really bothering me. Do men find Ann Coulter attractive based solely on her thinness and long blonde hair? If you put 30 pounds on her and get rid of the long tresses and dye job, she would be pretty homely. Heck, just get rid of the hair.

I am wondering if men who realize she's just a plagiarizing hate monger think she is attractive as well?

For example, let's just say George Allen is good-looking. As a liberal female, I would never find him attractive or sexy due to our different political views. Besides, men can't hide behind long, blonde hair.

Gene Weingarten: Ann looks pretty scary to me. I don't find her attractive. But I do find her interesting: I don't believe she is serious about her shtick. I think she is a gigantic work of performance art.

As far as plagiarism, if you are referring to the link below, that is total nonsense. A ridiculous cheap shot. These things are not plagiarism.

washingtonpost.com: Shameless, (MSNBC via YouTube)

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Shmuel converts on his deathbed: Which reminds me of a true story.

My grandfather was not a particularly devout Jew. To make things easier for his kids, he planned and payed for all of his funeral arrangements (right down to the refrigerated transport from Boca). He picked a Rabbi for the graveside service, but stipulated that if it was raining, he wanted a priest. He said there was no reason to drag the Rabbi out in the rain.

For what it's worth, it was pouring and they called the Rabbi anyway.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I am laughing.

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Richmond, Va.: I am a woman and I certainly don't wash my outer clothes each time I wear them. I don't have the money to be buying new clothes as often as I would if I washed them all the time.

I only wash outer clothes if they don't pass the eye or sniff test.

Gene Weingarten: Five hundred or so women said the same thing.

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UPDATED 7.13.06

Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: I'm female, and I wear some clothes 10 times before washing them. Pants (and I am using this in the American sense, if anyone else is reading, "trousers") just don't get dirty that fast. And excessive washing wears them out.

Seriously, laundry every day? Isn't there a disease for that?

Gene Weingarten: Here's another one of the 500!

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Washington, D.C.: Is there a link for the Roxanne Roberts piece you mentioned?

Gene Weingarten: Liz?

washingtonpost.com: The Legacy, (Post, May 19, 1996)

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Lewis Carroll: Lewis Carroll, like Lord Baden-Powell (founder of the Boy Scouts), was more than a little creepy when it came to little girls (or little boys, in B-P's case). But there's no good evidence that either was actually a pedophile. They may have wished they could be one, but Victorian mores and manners, and perhaps their own morality, kept them in check.

Or, perhaps, they were just the types that never really grew up and were more comfortable around kids.

Nonetheless, it hardly takes away from the genius of the Alice stories.

Gene Weingarten: Nor from Baden-Powell's good work. You know, I really do believe that to have harbored and resisted a terrible temptation gives someone an extra degree of goodness. Especially, in the case of both of these men, having succeeded of putting their desires to a use that helped society.

washingtonpost.com: FWIW, Marilyn Manson is directing and starring in a Lewis Carroll biopic, due in 2007.

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Washington Post hostile to Christianity?: Your reader must be referring to the "Handy Crucifixion Tips" article in last week's Home and Garden section.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

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New York, N.Y. (formerly D.C.): I'm coming in just under the wire here, but a couple of weeks ago you talked about a commencement speech you assisted a young girl with, in which you advised her to say something along the lines of, "Jewish girls, eat your heart out."

As a Jewish woman, if I had been in the audience, I would have been offended, and more importantly, I would have felt attacked. I was surprised that you, Gene, who ordinarily are a pretty sensitive observer of human behavior, thought this was funny.

Gene Weingarten: Good God. I did not write that. I would not have written that. I wrote that the girl told the Jewish boys, who had looked at them with desire, that although they might one day marry them, for the time being they were off limits. So (to the boys) "eat your hearts out."

You see the difference, I trust.

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Iowa: What's the joke in Monday's Mother Goose and Grimm? I don't get it.

Gene Weingarten: A little odd and tasteless, and slightly off. "So, you joined the cult. Became one of them. Joined the dark side." Etc.

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UPDATED 7.14.06

Richmond, Va.: Don't know how many people watched the Cup, but did anyone notice that, right before Zidane lay the smack down on Materazzi, M-dog gave him a big ol' nipple twist? (Video)

Gene Weingarten: It's funny to contemplate, but I don't see the requisite hand rotation, or any indication of pain by Zidane.

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Tooje,WY: Meyer, a lonely widower was walking home along Delancy Street one day wishing something wonderful would happen into his life when he passed a pet store and heard a squawking voice shouting out in Yiddish:

"Quawwwwk...vus macht du...yeah, du...outside, standing like a putzel...eh?"

Meyer rubbed his eyes and ears. He couldn't believe it. The proprietor sprang out of the door and grabbed Meyer by the sleeve. "Come in here, fella, and check out this parrot..."

Meyer stood in front of an African Grey that cocked his little head and said: "Vus? Kenst reddin Yiddish?"

Meyer turned excitedly to the storeowner. "He speaks Yiddish?"

"Vuh den? Chinese maybe?", the bird said.

In a matter of moments, Meyer had placed five hundred dollars down on the counter and carried the parrot in his cage away with him. All night he talked with the parrot. In Yiddish. He told the parrot about his father's adventures coming to America. About how beautiful his mother was when she was a young bride. About his family. About his years of working in the garment center. About Florida. The parrot listened and commented. They shared some walnuts. The parrot told him of living in the pet store, how he hated the weekends. They both went to sleep.

The next morning, Meyer began to put on his tefillin all the while saying his prayers. The parrot demanded to know what he was doing, and when Meyer explained, the parrot wanted some too. Meyer went out and hand-made a miniature set of tefillin for the parrot. The parrot wanted to learn to daven and learn every prayer. He wanted to learn to read Hebrew so Meyer spent weeks and months sitting and teaching the parrot, teaching him Torah. In time, Meyer came to love and count on the parrot as a friend and a Jew. He had been saved.

One morning, on Rosh Hashanah, Meyer rose and got dressed and was about to leave when the parrot demanded to go with him. Meyer explained that Shul was not place for a bird but the parrot made a terrific argument and was carried to Shul on Meyer's shoulder. Needless to say, they made quite a spectacle and Meyer was questioned by everyone including the Rabbi and Cantor. They refused to allow a bird into the building on the High Holydays but Meyer convinced them to let him in this one time, swearing that parrot could daven.

Wagers were made with Meyer. Thousands of dollars were bet (even odds) that the parrot could NOT daven, could not speak Yiddish or Hebrew, etc. All eyes were on the African Grey during services. The parrot perched on Meyer's shoulder as one prayer and song passed -- Meyer heard not a peep from the bird. He began to become annoyed, slapping at his shoulder and mumbling under his breath, "Daven!" Nothing. "Daven...parrot, you can daven, so daven...come on, everybody's looking at you!" Nothing.

After Rosh Hashanah services concluded, Meyer found that he owed his Shul buddies and the Rabbi over four thousand dollars. He marched home, pissed off, saying nothing. Finally several blocks from the temple the bird began to sing an old Yiddish song and was happy as a lark. Meyer stopped and looked at him. "You miserable bird, you cost me over four thousand dollars. Why? After I made your tefillin and taught you the morning prayers, and taught you to read Hebrew and the Torah. And after you begged me to bring you to Shul on Rosh Hashanah, why? Why did you do this to me?"

"Don't be a schmuck," the parrot replied. "Think of the odds on Yom Kippur."

Gene Weingarten: An old joke, told well. For all you non-Jews, "davening" is a form of prayer, where you rock back and forth while chanting to yourself.

Gene Weingarten: Tefillin is a kind of prayer thing of some sort. You strap it to yourself.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene, I have a personal preference question for you. I assume that you and the rib receive The Washington Post at home (alright, I know that you do because I occasionally run or walk my dogs past your house [but not in a stalker-ish kind of way, really] and I've seen it in your front yard.)

Anyway, I too live in the District of Columbia, and when I receive the paper on Saturday, the Sunday comics, circulars and The Post Magazine all come in a fetching yellow plastic bag, which is actually a frustrating bag, because one must rip it to access the paper goodies within, but in ripping it, the bag becomes useless as a poop receptacle. But I digress. The question at hand is, do you read the Sunday comics and the Magazine on Saturday, as I do, or do you save them until Sunday?

Gene Weingarten: I read 'em on Saturday.

Another reason The Post is a better paper than the NYT: The Times carrier has begun KNOTTING the bag! Useless for poo!

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College Park, Md.: What about racial nick names? I've heard friends refer to the (now defuct) Landover Mall as Black Flint and the Blue Line toward Largo as the Soul Train. I think it's cute but don't know if, as a caucasian, I can use these names. Thoughts?

Also, when will The Post drop "Peanuts" to make room for a LIVING artist?

Gene Weingarten: All of those are bad and indefensible. I declare this as an Outsider. Whereas I endorse the term The Jewniversity of Pennsylvania.

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Osolom, IO: There is a phrase that has recently received a lot of play recently and it is driving me crazy.

"Carrot or Stick"

What the heck does it mean?

I understand that it is supposed to mean, "You have a choice, take the carrot(reward) or get the stick (punishment).

Shouldn't it be, "The carrot and the stick"? The carrot is hanging from a stick in front of a mule/horse/ox as an enticement to move. But isn't the point that the dumb animal never gets the carrot because the stick keeps it always out of its grasp?

If I'm wrong and it is the carrot or the stick, what kind of bargain is that anyway? Who cares about a carrot? I can come up with lots better incentives/punishments than that.

How about:

"the Corvette or the clap"
"the massage or the wedgie"
"the Winnebego or the ricaroni"

"Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld today said that the recent proposal to Hamas was a classic 'french kiss or sour milk' proposition."

By the way, here's a great game that my wife and I play that you can all play at home. Whenever those drug ads appear on TV and the announcer lists all the side effects, we start adding our own to his list in an attempt to see who can be grosser. Big fun. Extra points for doing it in big announcer voice.

Gene Weingarten: The stick is not the stick holding the carrot. The stick is the stick whapping the arse.

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Red Trooper: I had to write in and tell you this -- I was talking to my dad yesterday about something funny you wrote in your chat and he mentioned that he bought his 1994 red Isuzu Trooper from you several years ago. I am happy to report that he still loves that car and drives it all over town, and my mom still hates it because she can't get in and out of it while wearing a skirt. As a big fan of your chat, I was happy to learn that we share a car bond!

Gene Weingarten: As a human being I am delighted that the car has lasted so long! It makes me proud that it turned out to be such a good deal for him.

As a guy, however..... THE DAMN THING'S STILL ON THE ROAD? I GAVE AWAY THAT CAR????

Thank you.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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