washingtonpost.com
Chatological Humor (UPDATED 4.27.07)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 24, 2007; 12:00 PM

DAILY UPDATES: 4.25.07 | 4.26.07 | 4.27.07

Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

On Tuesdays at noon, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is updated regularly throughout the week, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

This Week's Poll: Door A: 35 and Younger| Door B: 36 and Older

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Yes, I missed you, too. Thank you all for your words of welcome, your affectionate chastisements, your enthusiastically flung undies, and whatnot. I'm not going to post many of these sentiments because they are repetitive and embarrassing, but I will let this one speak for so many of you. It is from Hope Reister, whom you surely recall is the Official Baby of Chatological Humor.

In the many, many pages that follow we will be discussing lots of events of the last five months. Dozens of you have asked about Murphy, who was a teeny pup when we last spoke but who who is now nine months old. She has blossomed into a beautiful young woman who drinks out of the toilet: Murphy.

Over the last five months I have received dozens of tips about aptonyms, and I will be sprinkling them through the next few weeks. I do want to mention that the person who finished dead last in the National Marathon, in 801st place, was named Stephen Fattman. This eagle-eyed observation was sent in by Greg Lewin, from Denmark.

In the last five months, many bad things happened; our poll today is about one of the worst. But I'd also like to mention the death by suicide of Rich Jeni, a really talented standup comic. His death permits me to reveal a Previously Unrevealed Fact.

A few years ago I wrote a column in which I reported what happened when I sold some useless items on ebay, just to see what I could get. One of those items was listed as The Funniest Joke Ever Told, and I agreed to tell it exclusively to the buyer, and not reveal it to anyone else for at least a year. There was fierce eBay competition for this item; as I recall, it was won by a young woman who paid $1.50 for it, and declared herself more than satisfied.

This joke was told to me by Dave Barry, who heard it from Rich Jeni. I don't know if Jeni made it up, but he told it terrifically. Since I am no longer contractually obligated to withhold this joke, here it is:

A guy buys a used motorcycle. He gets a good price on it because the finish is not in great shape. The seller warns him that to avoid rust, he must make sure that he applies a light coat of Vaseline to it, if it looks like it is going to rain.

That same day, the guy is going to meet his girlfriend's family for the first time. He picks her up on his motorcycle. On the way over, his girlfriend warns him that her family is a little weird, with odd customs: "Whatever you do," she says, "do NOT speak during dinner. Anyone who talks during dinner, even a syllable, has to wash the dishes."

So they get to the house. The guy is totally not prepared for what he sees. It's a big house, and it is covered, floor to ceiling, in dirty dishes. There are dirty dishes on the bookshelves, on the furniture, dirty dishes in the chandeliers, in the fireplace. The floor is covered with dirty dishes except for small footpaths that have been cleared.

So they sit down to dinner, and, not surprisingly, no one says a word. After about 15 minutes, the guy realizes something: He can do anything he wants, because no one will raise a word of criticism. He can do ANYTHING. And he's feeling a little horny. So he gets up from the table, walks over to his girlfriend, pulls her from the table, lays her on the floor, and ... has sex with her! Right there. On the floor.

They finish, get back to the table, and no one says a word. The guy is pretty pleased with himself. About 15 minutes later, he's still feelin' a little spunky, so he grabs his girlfriend's mother, and does the same thing to her, RIGHT ON THE TABLE.

No one says a word.

About five minutes later, the guy looks out the window, and sees that it's starting to rain.

He says: "Does anyone have any Vaseline?"

And the girlfriend's father leaps up and says, "It's okay! I'll do the dishes!"

----

Rich Jeni, take a bow.

---

Has anyone seen the Washington Post's odd new freebie program called Post Points? The other day I got an e-mail from my friend and grammar guru Pat the Perfect, directing me to a certain page in the Post and asking me what I thought of the Washington Post Marching Diaphragms. Here they are.

These things have faces and actually speak.

So I asked Pat: Would it freak you out if your diagphragm had a face on it?

She wrote back: "I would at least want the expression to be happy. And I wouldn't want one that said, "Are you sure this is the right person for you?" or "Do you think this will really solve the underlying problems in your relationship?"

Today's poll ( Door A: 35 and Younger| Door B: 36 and Older) is disturbing, obviously. You answers so far reveal a remarkable lack of agreement, one that I didn't really expect. I am going to give you my answers pretty early, because I'd like to hear your reactions. Yes, I can understand why he did what he did, and I will tell you why.

No comics picks today. I found the last week of comics really tepid; not sure if it is because I've been away so long, or because they were really, really tepid.

Let's go.

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While you were out: So many interesting things happened in your absence, and we suffered for lack of your analysis and edification. Right after your hiatus began, there was that mysterious, terrible smell in New York, which New Jersey was quick to disown. There was a love-sick astronaut in diapers. There was a World Health official advocating circumcision named Mr. De Cock!! Please, help us make sense of these things.

Gene Weingarten: When the DeCock aptonym arose (ha, it provided the first moment in the hiatus that made me long (ha) for the return of the chat. I actually gave the item to Dave Barry, for his blog, so it got widely disseminated. (ha) Then came the astronaut in diapers, and I was nearly in tears. Then came a third thing. I was able to hold on to this one though.

I learned from a friend of mine of the following true anecdote, which he contends is the greatest test for whether a person is male or female. I think he's right.

Many years ago, in Washington, at a fancy party, a young, dashing, married United States senator was hitting on a woman. She was extremely flattered, and definitely interested. He invited her up to his hotel room, right then. It was clear that this was to be a one-night thing, maybe even a one-hour thing. She wanted to do it.

But she declined. She declined because she was wearing really bad underpants.

Now, I have this story on unimpeachable authority. It's true. My friend contends that every woman understands this woman's decision entirely, and no man does. So far, my testing of this story has confirmed this view.

Ladies? Guys?

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Wecanstayfrien, DS: Gene. You know I love you. It's just that... well... while you were away, I've had to move on. I'm with Joel now. It's just recent, but he was there for me when you were not. I hope you understand. We can still be friends. Maybe we can meet for lunch sometime?

Gene Weingarten: Or, um. Well, you know, Joel and I are really good friends, so, um, we could, like, all, you know ....

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Fred from New Orleans: Gene,

I will dispense with the obligatory "Welcome Back" and get down to brass tacks. This question which I submitted to you in your last chat on Nov. 28 still needs to be answered. (BTW, thanks for using my questions/comments on the buffet line). What would your life be without the Rib? Would you be a rudderless street person haunting the soup kitchens with your baffling and oxymoronic treatise on street musicians who play Strats, VPL's and the best way to score, uh, extra-legal drugs? Or would some other Joan of Arc guide you to the promised land, if not just a decent house with regular dinner hours?

I will persist in asking this question until you answer or my fingers bleed red but still weep from the lack of an answer.

Fred

Gene Weingarten: If I answer will you go away?

I would have found another rib.

I am disorganized, dysfunctional, immature, incompetent, lost at everyday affairs. There are two reasons that I am not a wino in the streets: 1) I know these things about myself, and 2) They scare me.

Ergo, I know what kind of partner I need, and would always seek out same: smart adult who will tolerate me in return for love.

Also, funny. I believe I wrote this before: Some months ago, I was discussing just this with the rib. I only half jokingly told her that if she died, I would probably remarry within three months. She said: "If I died, you'd remarry within three DAYS. You'd need someone to handle the funeral."

So. Yes.

Actually, my column for this coming Sunday addresses this very dynamic.

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Washington, DC: Gene, just wanted to say thanks for keeping your word and setting a good example for the chat children by coming back to us. That's at least one good example you've set for the young folks... I am trying to think of more, but that seems to be it.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I promised.

I could have used more time.

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Silver Spring, M.D.: Gene! So much has happened since you were away. We bought a house, we're trying to have a kid... Any advice on the latter?

Missed you terribly.

Gene Weingarten: You need to have sexual intercourse with your spouse.

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Don't go back to Rockville: Strange coincidence in having Hart and Parker die within two weeks of each other. I suppose you didn't do a piece on Hart because you've already had your say in the Post but do you have any more thoughts on him and the fact that apparently B.C. will be continued through some sort of recycling? Also which of the new comics would you vote off the page?

Gene Weingarten: In the chat about my cover story a few weeks ago, someone asked about Hart, who had died two days before. This was my answer:

Gene Weingarten: I tried to write an appreciation of Johnny for today's paper, but failed. It was coming out nasty, and that was bad.

Johnny Hart was one of the greatest cartoonists who ever lived. "B.C." during the first few years of the strip was breathtakingly brilliant; really, if you're too young to remember (everyone but me is) go on ebay and buy a few of his very early collections, from before about 1963.

One of my favorites:

Peter, the smart one, declares he is going to travel across the earth dragging a forked stick in the sand, to prove that two parallel lines never meet. He starts out toward the right of the page. In the next several panels, you see him dragging that forked stick through desert and tundra and jungle, with parallel lines following him the whole way. Finally, he returns to his friends from the left of the panel, obviously having completely circumnavigated the globe. They all look down. The two forks of the stick have been abraded down into a single nub. The parallel lines have met.

Another one: The cavement discover this lumpy creature and decide they have to name it. Peter says: "Well, let's name it for its most obvious characteristic. What is it?" And Thor answers: "It eats ants." So they decide to name it an "eatanter."

Another one: They decide to name that muscle in the chest that pumps blood. Peter decides to call it a "Hart." And B.C. yells at him: "Bootlicker!"

Hart was a genius. Then he got weird and scared, and it made him selfish and intolerant and preachy. I hope he's in heaven, because it was REALLY important to him to get there. It warped his priorities.

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I still cannot forget Johnny telling me that he was worried about something: He didn't think his mother was in heaven, because she had not been pious enough, and hadn't known the right way to pray for Jesus. That bothered him because he knew he was going to heaven, and he thought that if his mother wasn't there, it would depress him. He'd loved his mother.

Then he brightened and said -- "You know, it wouldn't be heaven if people were depressed there, so God will probably wipe all memory of my mother out of my head, so I won't miss her."

He found this thought comforting.

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Washington, D.C.: It's almost 24 hours before the chat, and the page that will eventually contain said chat is already THE MOST READ ARTICLE on the entire site. If WP.com knew about this, they'd have to give you a raise. Too bad we can't tell 'em.

So, since we last chatted, I've gotten pregnant and completed about half of the process. Got anything humorous observations on the condition? It's a pretty funny state, what with the magical-shape-changing boobs, the farting, the expandable pants, the critter with a mind of its own poking my insides... Really, it's too bad you never got to try it. You'd get a kick out of it, I think.

Gene Weingarten: Amazing about the chat; I was watching the numbers yesterday with a combination of disbelief and pride.

You pregnant babes scare me a little. I find myself anxious around you, and the later in the term, the worse it gets. Er, for me. More to the point, I am so in awe of pregnant women that I am uncharacteristically gullible about their condition. For example, you mention farting. This is not a symptom of pregnancy with which I am familiar, but I am perfectly willing to accept it on your say-so. The squishing and displacement of organs and whatnot and are likely to produce all sorts of physiological reactions, and it is no business of mine or any other guy's to question it. You could pee on my shoes and tell me pregnancy compelled you to do this, and I wouldn't squawk.

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Definitely female: Yep, I absolutely believe the panties story. Heck, I'll even hide bad undies from my husband of several years!

Gene Weingarten: Right. Is there any man out there who understands this?

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Ribsters: Gene, You have more than one rib. Chatwoman is your virtual, online rib. What would you do without her?

Gene Weingarten: Not to mention Pthep, Gina and others. He's a virtual polygamist.

Gene Weingarten: And others. True. I actually have close relationships with women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. I need a 60-plus penpal. Anyone want to volunteer?

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Washington, D.C.: I answered both that the Killer was clearly insane and, had he lived, needed to be institutionalized, and that I could understand why he did it. Although at first glance, these answers could be considered contradictory (unless I'm similarly insane) I believe they demand each other. There are two primary definitions for insanity in this country. I believe this killer's actions indicate that he was absolutely aware that what he was doing was wrong, but I would still argue, without the benefit of an evaluation, that his mental illness compelled him to act out violently.

On the second part, I think we all understand that our society is full of isolated, imasculated, and mentally ill young men and from time to time, some of them will act out with irrational violence against the targets of their jealousy and anger. This happens in every country, but these young men only have semi-automatic weapons in America.

Gene Weingarten: I could not have said this better, though I will try later on.

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Washington, D.C.: I was walking my dogs near your house about a month ago when your dog started barking ferociously at us. As we reached your house -- my dogs completely silent and ignoring the barking -- your dog tucked his tail between his legs and dashed for the front door, where he stayed until we were safely past. I was very impressed. Please, wish him well from Tabasco and Shayna, who do not often get to feel like alpha dogs.

Gene Weingarten: Honestly, this doesn't sound like Murphy. Check the picture in the intro.

Murphy loves everyone. She approaches all dogs with wagging tail, and all people the same. She is the only dog on earth who loves the mailman.

Our mailman (you ready for this?)sticks his fingers through the mail slot so Murphy can lick them.

Murphy is like this with everyone. Er, except for burglars, whom she kills. She has killed several burglars already.

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Falls Church, Va: Are you still looking for the person who named Murphy? Because it may have been me. I submitted the name because I had recently discovered a raccoon in my backyard who frequently ate my trash. So I named him or her Murphy, because it's the only last name/first name that doesn't make me want to destroy. So I think I submitted it to you for that reason.

Gene Weingarten: Nope, it was someone else who had a dog named Murphy.

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You botched the joke: He doesn't say "Does anyone have any Vaseline?" as this would compel him to wash the dishes. Instead, he simply pulls from his pocket the small jar of Vaseline that he carries for a rainy day.

And you call yourself a professional.

Gene Weingarten: Well, it's illogical either way, actually. But no, I think it is less illogical if the guy speaks. Otherwise, by speaking the dad has to do the dishes anyway. He is acknowledging that the guy spoke first, but volunteers to do the dishes to save his butt. As it were.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Can you explain why George Bush calls Alberto Gonzalez "Fredo"? Is it because he can't get his name right, or because the guy reminds him of the ne'er do well Corleone brother who gets whacked in a fishing boat?

Gene Weingarten: I think it is that he thinks he is Alfredo, not Alberto. But, you know, Fredo fits.

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Washington, D.C.: Dear Mr. Weingarten,

As a well-respected and reasonable man, surely you will agree that the Virginia Tech policy prohibiting students from carrying concealed weapons on campus must bear the blame for this horrible tragedy. This policy did nothing but create a victim rich environment, practically begging this psychopath to shoot unarmed students and professors like so many fish in a barrel, safe in the knowledge that they would be unable to respond in kind. If only one of those fine young Virginians had been carrying a weapon on that horrible day, he could have stopped the killer. Schools already require students to purchase and carry a lap-top computer with them. Maybe now they will see the wisdom of requiring students to purchase and carry small-arms. Only when every student has a gun will our campuses be truly safe.

Gene Weingarten: You know, both Chatwoman and I first read this post as sarcasm. But the fact is, I saw some nutty report last night on CNN making exactly this whackjob point, seriously. So I dunno.

I have no more patience with the NRA and the gun loonies. Cho did what he did because he had the guns, and he had the guns because we are a gun-insane country led by spineless pols who won't take a principled stance.

No, NRA gun loonies, we do not want a society where everyone is strapped and packing and spoilin' for a fight, and everyone is getting the drop on everyone else and seeking high ground and everyone is feeling badass and powerful and whatnot. Go away, NRA gun loonies.

We are a gun crazed society and the whole world is laughing at us.

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Mexico City: Gene,

Glad to have you back. Just writing from Mexico City in the hopes that you can respond with one of your famous "noted" when a person writes in with a comment that deserves no response.

Gene Weingarten: Notado.

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Over There: I'm pleased with the appropriateness of Boris Yeltsin's death being announced by a Kremlin official named Alexander Smirnov.

washingtonpost.com: Former Russian Leader Boris Yeltsin Dies, ( AP, April 23)

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

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Commando girl: It wasn't a senator and he wasn't married, but I was in a similar situation. I am, however, smart. So I excused myself, went to the john, and threw my drawers in the garbage.

Gene Weingarten: Oooooooh. Thank you.

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New York, NY: I am a man, and I understand the underwear thing. Understand it, mind you. But I still wouldn't not sleep with an attractive woman because of it.

We men would find away around this. Like go in the bathroom and walk out naked; hit the lights real fast, pretend to be kinky and blindfold the woman. We can be quite resourceful when required.

Gene Weingarten: A guy answer.

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Granny Panties: Your theory is correct. I actually have had friends that purposefully wore the "Time O' The Month Panties" (ladies - you know what these are) when going on a date with a new guy. That way they were guaranteed not to sleep with him on the first date.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.

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Washington, D.C.: Welcome back, Gene

Any thoughts on Vonnegut's passing?

Gene Weingarten: I remember reading Cat's Cradle and deciding that I wanted to be a writer.

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Washington, D.C.: You've written about 25 columns since we last talked. Do you have a favorite among 'em?

Gene Weingarten: Hm. I liked the one responding to Christopher Hitchens's inane claim that women have lousy senses of humor. I had all my funny girl friends write the column for me. However, I think my favorite was the column in which I responded to a reader who chastised me for wasting three minutes of his time with a lousy column. Liz, can you link to that? Search for "Alvin Datt."

Gene Weingarten: This was one of those rare experiences for a jurnalist where you start phoning people and EVERYONE says EXACTLY what you'd hoped they'd say, only better.

washingtonpost.com: The Time Bandit, ( Post Magazine, Jan. 28)

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Austin, Tex.: Gene,

We need a follow-up to your Cat in the Hat last week, called "I Don't Recall". Please. Pretty please. With sugar on top?

Gene Weingarten: Oooh, that reminds me.

My Cat in the Hat parody took quite some time to write; the meter and word selection are not that easy to replicate. It contained, among other things, two bits of punny wordplay. One was obvious, one was less obvious. Tom the Butcher could not find the less obvious one. I accused him of being an idiot. When I showed him what it was, he alleged that not one reader would find it. I then informed him, again, that he was not only an idiot but a defensive idiot, and showed the poem to two very intelligent women of my acquaintance. Neither found the second pun. This bothered me because I HATE HATE HATE when T the B is right.

Can ANYONE find it?

Liz, please link to the column with the Seuss parody. Search for Novak.

washingtonpost.com: Burning Bush, ( Post Magazine, April 15)

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Not funny, Joke: No offense to dead comics, but that joke was not only unfunny but kinda offensive. The basis of the punchline is fear of homosexual sex.

The rason this is offensive is that you have a character "the father" who permits amoral and offensive things to happen in front of him. He watches his daughter have sex, allows a stranger to have sex with his wife on the table in front of him, all without making a sound or argument. But, when it comes to homosexual sex, he makes a stand. The other interpretation is that he was indifferent to the rape of his wife and daughter and only cared when he would be violated.

Gene Weingarten: Uhhhh. Okay!

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Southern California: Is there something wrong with me if I kinda do understand why Cho did what he did? I hated high school so much and seriously considered suicide during my first year of college. I'd go to concerts just to get in the mosh pit and pound people and get pounded on. I'm feeling better now, but my family still thinks I'm an angry person with a quick temper and a violent streak. If you took a look at me, you'd see a mild mannered bespectacled nondescript Asian female.

Gene Weingarten: Ahh, thank you. This was the post I was hoping to elicit, from someone, in response to question two. My pre-conceived bias suggested it would be from a man; so much for my pre-conceived biases. Thank you for your honesty. My poll analysis follows.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, the poll.

I debated question one, in my own mind, a lot. I was not sure of the answer, and because I was not sure, I decided that NBC probably erred. I almost always am in favor of publishing, so the fact that this gave me pause tells me the answer should be no.

Choice one is not the right answer because part of the job of journalists is to decide what not to write or air. Just because it is germane doesn't mean you have to put it out there. There are a lot of examples of things that were never published for reasons of taste, national security, and so forth. Not a good rationale.

Answer two might be right, but answer three is stronger. I think there is a greater chance that a marginal individual will find support in that video -- video is much stronger, viscerally, than a mere recitation of facts, since the facts can be delivered in context. The video is what it is, a killer's show in which he is the star.

I think NBC screwed up, but I feel bad for them. It was not an easy decision.

That sort of brings us directly to question two. Like the previous poster, I can understand this. Like the previous poster, I have some inside knowledge here.

Many years ago, after Son of Sam went on his rampage, I had a conversation with someone I knew very well. This was a marginal character, someone who always seemed like a misfit: No dates, poor socialization skills, dressed oddly. He even had an imaginary girlfriend. This guy told me that he totally understood Son of Sam, and told my why. It was chilling, but I got it.

You live you life being taunted by everyone you see. Not directly, but indirectly, by example. You watch a boy and a girl in close conversation, and you know you could never do that, you fantasize about what they are going to do next, and you hate them for it. You hate the ease with which normal people interact. You take it all personally, internalizing every single normal person, every normal relationship, as a direct assault on you.

At the point you snap, everyone is your personal enemy. Everyone. Killing strangers becomes like killing strangers in war. I get it. We need to recognize this earlier.

And yeah -- question three? Sorry. This guy is nuts. Either you deal with this like a totalitarian regime and just stow him away and kill him, or you accept that he's nuts. He needs help. The reality is, this guy would never be released.

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Hey, Gene!: I have a question: How much of my husband's, shall we say, carnal interest in me has to do with ME, and how much does it have to do with interest in the act in general? Background: together almost nine years, married almost four, an infant daughter. I'm sure I'm not the stunner I was when we met, and I'm also sure my appearance isn't helped by the exhaustion that stems from getting up two or three times a night with the baby and working full-time. So, his unflagging interest is puzzling to me. I'm really not complaining, just curious. What do you think?

Gene Weingarten: He loves you intensely, body and soul.

He also should send me some money.

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Wow, I guess that I am getting old: So for the first time I was in the older category for one of your surveys. I didn't expect it to upset me so much, but it did. Probably doesn't help that I am a mom of three. As someone from the other side of the great divide, do you have any advice for a 36-year-old to stay young like you do?

Gene Weingarten: I know. It was almost cruel, setting the divide at "36." I mean, you've passed the unnerving 35, you have a long way to go before the dreaded 40, and POW, we hit you with this.

You probably need to have an affair with an 18 year old.

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Murphy: Weekend before last, my Boston terrier saw Murphy in your yard and introduced himself. She was very polite. With my encouragement, he was very polite also.

Murphy is indeed a beautiful young lady.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Washington, D.C.: Speaking of guns, you're already like 30 responses ahead of the "Gun Bias" guy... If nothing else, I missed the pure amount of chatting that goes on during your discussion. Few others respond to as many questions. More reading for my lunch hour...

washingtonpost.com: Chattiest Postie of the Week: Gene Weingarten, ( Fishbowl DC)

Gene Weingarten: I do a lot in advance. But thank you.

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Guns?: You appear to imply that Cho isn't innocent by reason of insanity but that the gun laws are to blame.

Gene Weingarten: Cho is innocent by reason of insanity, and gun laws are to blame for the fact that it happened.

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Delray Beach, Fla.: Dear Gene and Ms. Liz (& Pat if she is around),

Sometime in the middle of June I will give birth to a baby girl who we have decided to name Zoe. But I am undecided on whether or not to spell her name with the umlaut or without. I figure that most people will leave it off when writing her name anyway, but that could also lead people to believe that the e is silent in the pronunciation when it isn't. My husband has no opinion on this as he plans to call her Zo regardless.

And yes, we plan to order a print of the Baby Blues strip from a couple of weeks ago commenting on how many kids in Zoe's class share the same name. It will be a nice companion piece for the print of a Heart of the City strip that I got for my son Dean when he was born.

Oh, and welcome back. I'm glad to have the extra diversion while at work.

Gene Weingarten: You want the umlaut. It's vaguely intimidating and faintly evil, which is cool. Anything becomes more evil with an umlaut. Put umlauts over the a's in Santa Claus, and you have the patron saint of Nazi children.

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Washington, D.C.: So let me get this straight. You took four months off to write a story about a guy playing the violin in the subway. Maybe two days to set it up, one day to run it, five days to write it up (maybe 10 more for the inevitable re-writes). Three weeks tops, rounding up. What did you do with the other 3.25 months. Are you secretly working for the CIA, like that guy in the movie, only pretending to be a stupid chat host, but secretly plotting and killing Boris Yeltsin? Do you think we can't see through this little charade.

By the way, we missed you at first,and then forgot about Tuesday's altogether. How bout that Gonzalez guy.

Gene Weingarten: I can't say anything about that Gonzalez guy because he is my wife's boss.

But if he weren't my wife's boss, I'd probably observe that he's one funny little incompetent lickspittle toady suckup buttboy Tweedledum.

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Arming Everyone: I find the proposition that citizens should wander around amazing. Obviously, none of these jackasses has ever served in the military, where weapons, both military and personal, are strictly controlled (i.e., kept under lock and key) and where outside of combat every damned bullet or piece of brass has to accounted for. Haven't they seen the pictures of police officers hiding behind trees and cars? Don't they realize that those folks know how dangerous it is when even one person is waving around a fire arm, forget three or four?

Gene Weingarten: Honestly, these people are nuts.

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Puns: Here is my guess:

Pun One: the lefts and the rights

Pun Two: NOW

Gene Weingarten: correct on one, incorrect on two.

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Possible, Pun.: bites...bights. Bighting with teeth versus a sound bite of speech?

Gene Weingarten: No. Holy crap. THIS IS NOT HARD. I can't STAND that Tom was right.

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Washington, D.C.:"I remember reading Cat's Cradle and deciding that I wanted to be a writer."

That was my reaction when I first read Breakfast of Champions. I wonder how many people decided they wanted to be writers because of Vonnegut.

What a loss.

washingtonpost.com: Ahh "Breakfast of Champions" -- Wide open beaver straight ahead!

Gene Weingarten: Uh, yes ma'am. Okay, ma'am.

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Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: I felt completely alienated and alone in high school. I wrote violent stories about the bloody demises of my most hated classmates (with a teacher's encouragement, no less). The stories were a harmless outlet for my anger, and, really, ended up being therapeutic; they allowed me to express my anger in a harmless way.

I knew would never, ever, EVER hurt anyone; hell, I had suicidal thoughts, but didn't act on them because I knew how much pain it would cause my family.

I DIDN'T WANT TO HURT ANYONE. Not even emotionally. Not even myself. Not really. Only in my imagination, which I could separate from reality.

I guess I'm trying to say that this week's poll was incredibly difficult to answer, as none of the choices accurately reflected my feelings. A tiny part of me understands why the VT shooter did it, and yet I find it incomprehensible.

How do you not ask for help? How do the people around you not see that you so desperately need help, and force you to get it? Why is it so easy to buy a couple guns and murder nearly three dozen innocent people?

I just don't understand, and yet I do. And I find that paradox incredibly disturbing.

Gene Weingarten: If I may: You DO understand, quite clearly. You don't particularly want to face the fact that you do understand.

Me, too. I'll explain anon.

Gene Weingarten: ER, I mean as I already explained. This is the peril of answering things out of sequence.

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Showers vs. Bathrooms: I have been bothered by your belief that showers should be fast and don't understand why it could take a long time. Then I realized that I feel the same way about men using so much time in the bathroom. Perhaps it is "unwind" time, and it is not nice for women to chill in the bathroom.

Man, I love the anonymity of chats!

Gene Weingarten: I have completed a shower, including shampoo, in less that two minutes.

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Under the pants: Am I disqualified on the underpants question if I'm a gay guy? Because I've had that issue.

I'm a fairly big, masculine, built kind of guy, and sometimes when I'm in a situation where there is the possibility of some, ahem, quick action, the reason I'm being hit on is because I've created an image of being a he-man sort of person.

However, on occasion, usually for athletic reasons, I will wear "tighty-whities." I feel being seen in them immediately prior to a sexual situation risks destroying the image I've created in my potential, um, "friend"'s, head and precipitating an embarrassing disillusionment. This has actually caused me to decline full, um, activity.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.

See, people, we're back. Fully. Full speed.

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Arlington, Va.:"bag Dad" is on fire.

Gene Weingarten: THANK YOU.

How hard was that????

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Federal Employee, Everywhere: Hygene,

SO glad to have you back! I foolishly scheduled a dental appointment during your re-launch, so I'll be reading the transcript Tuesday afternoon, but my request is for this and all other Tuesdays: can you please use a NSFW label on links that might get me noted by my Agency's IT Stasi? I don't mind bumping up against them every now and then, but 8 or so times in 90 minutes every Tuesday starts to make me concerned. Many thanks, and glad to have you back

-A Hot Federale in ATL Who Hearts You

Gene Weingarten: In a special secret communique you folks can't see, Chatwoman appended this to your question:

"NSFW" means Not Safe For Work. Just in case you didn't know. And you might not. Cuz you're an old fart.

----

Well, it just so happens I didn't know. Okay? But now that I do know, I'm not sure what I can promise. I work at the Washington Post; we can basically look at anything we want at work, since virtually anything can be germane to journalism. So I'm not sure what the strictures are. Lizzie won't let me link to dirty words or pictures of genitalia. What other things would summon your thought police?

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Gone to the dogs: Gene, any thoughts on Murphy (a girl dog) vis-a-vis the departed Harry (a boy dog)? You always portrayed Harry as an idiot, whereas Murphy seems quite sophisticated for her age.

FWIW, we adopted a girl dog 10 years ago who has turned out to be the most polite and intelligent animal I've ever been around.

Gene Weingarten: All dogs are idiots.

God, do I love dogs.

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Umlauts: Only one umlaut per word, please. It's some sort of rule that I learned while picking up my very useful degree in German.

Gene Weingarten: Right. But Santa and Claus can each have one.

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Alexandria, Va.: Im just curious and maybe you know the answer, has a pitcher ever hit for the cycle?

washingtonpost.com: What does this even mean?

Gene Weingarten: I really doubt it. Babe Ruth possibly, when he was pitching for Boston, but cycle-hitting is pretty rare.

Don't worry your pretty little head about it, Cwoman.

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Ribless: Gene-

I am seeing a man (I'm a woman) who appears to be in need of a rib. Empty fridge, never cooks, minimal furniture, gets a haircut three times a year. He's sweet and funny (and attractive) and is terribly eager to please me (without being ingratiating). His life isn't a complete mess, but there are a lot of things he could be doing better, for his own sake, and he seems to need the presence of someone else to motivate him.

I'm not sure I want to be the rib. I want him to be successful (as a person) on his own, not because he's living up to my standards. Can you give me some encouragement? Is life with a feckless but malleable man worth living?

Gene Weingarten: It depends if you are going to resent being the competent adult. If you are, then stay away.

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Oakton, Va: Were your two word puns

1 - Cancer and malignancy

2 - trampling of feet - left and RIGHTS.

Gene Weingarten: We already got it. Check back in the file.

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Pat the Perfect, ME: Do NOT put the umlaut on Zoe. Do you really want to give your kid a three-letter name that will still be regularly misspelled? (Actually, people will still regularly spell it Zoey; just brace yourself.)

My previous dog, Zoe, never used the umlaut.

Gene Weingarten: Well, if she HAD used the umlaut, I bet she would have been a better watchdog, Pat. I knew Zoe. A total pushover.

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Your favorite comic: Gene, you suck! hahahahahaha! Man, that never gets old.

This is sure to be unpopular, but hear me out. Three of my brothers went to Tech, and I once lost a good friend to gun violence, but I contend that I could get up on stage in front of a crowd of good and moral people and get laughs from a bit about the VA Tech massacre. As long as the punchline is aimed at the shooter I think it would work. Why would I even want to? I dunno, part of it would be the challenge, but there's also a cathartic effect in having a laugh at someone who caused us pain. I even have a bit roughly formulated in my head.

I did a tsunami bit scant days following that disaster and it killed. I still do that bit. (The joke being on Americans and their clumsy efforts to help victims.)

Do you have thoughts on this? And if I did this bit in the next couple weeks and taped it would you like to see the result?

DG

Gene Weingarten: Hm. Maybe. If this is Dave the standup comic, I know who you are and you know how to tell a joke. But I would tread easy and stick to Cho. Jelly and Spanky is fertile ground.

But I dunno, man. Yes, I'd like to see the video.

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Paging the Empress: Does the Week 710 contest include kitchen appliances, as well as kitchen utensils?

Gene Weingarten: Empress?

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Cooperstown: Only 248 players have hit for the cycle. So I doubt a pitcher has.

Gene Weingarten: Well, if anyone, The Babe.

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Judgment call: Since we're exploring moral judgment today, I wondered if you might give some of your expert advice. A friend (not close, though) has recently announced that he's leaving his wife. They have 2 young-ish kids. He still likes his wife, and she does not want the breakup. They plan to stay friends. He gives no reason beyond not loving her anymore (he says there's no one else), and has refused to see a marriage counselor. Other friends and I are trying not to judge, but it's difficult. Do you think people can just fall out of love? What would you do? Sorry this isn't funny.

Gene Weingarten: I think the presence of young children makes this morally indefensible. You are obliged to try a lot harder than this guy seems to be trying.

There probably IS another woman. IMHO.

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The cycle: Dear Liz:

It means a single, a double, a triple, and a home run, all in the same game, all by the same person.

Signed,

A gal who married a baseball fan and a Little League coach.

washingtonpost.com: Thank you. I'm glad someone is interested in my baseball tutelage.

Gene Weingarten: Liz will forget this by tomorrow.

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From a bunker somewhere in Berlin: Please tell Herr German-Degree taht "Gotterdammerung" has two umlauts in it.

Gene Weingarten: Ooooh. I like this debate.

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Arlington, Va.: Why is it that people on bikes insist that they are "part of traffic" and then instantly proceed to pedal through a red light. You can't have it both ways. Are there jay-walking-ish laws that are just never enforced?

Gene Weingarten: As a New Yorker, I applaud jaywalking if it is done correctly. I also have no problem with bikes swooping thorough a red light, if they are discommoding no one. They're sleek and small and nimble and who is hurt if they take a shortcut at no one's expense?

Know what I don't get? People riding bikes on the sidewalk. They're obnoxious and dangerous. THAT's what should be regulated. I also object because bikes on the sidewalks tends to define Washington as a jerkwater town. You'll never see that in New York.

Gene Weingarten: Bike-riding on the sidewalk is weenie. Weenies do it.

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We love you!: Welcome back, you couldn't have started your chat up again at a better time. I hope that you are really going to discuss your poll, which was brilliant. For nearly a dozen years I suffered from horrible depression. My parents chose to ignore it, my friends didn't know how to deal. Fortunately I was too much of a chicken to act out violently (I'm a girl, so my biological prediliction would be to hurt myself, not others). I am lucky enough that I finally did something for myself, got help, and got better. A lot of people can't get help and the people around them either cannot, or choose to not see what is wrong with them. I know cutters, my brother did plenty of pot and acid to escape it, and his best friend committed suicide. I really, really hope that if anything good comes out of this horrible tragedy it is that people pay closer attention to their loved ones and ask them if everything is okay every once in a while, and then actually listen to the answer. Sometimes that is all it takes to get someone on the road recovery.

Oh, and start flippin' enforcing the few gun laws that we have in this country!!

Gene Weingarten: You said it. Thank you.

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Washington, D.C.: If the Flash happened to be running past L'Enfant Plaza while Josh Bell was playing, would he stop? For how long? I think he can be excused for not giving any money, because it doesn't look like his suit has pockets.

Gene Weingarten: People, people, people.

You guys don't really understand The Flash, do you? He travels at the speed of light. This means that, in effect, he stops time. If the Flash arrived at L'Enflant Plaza and liked what he saw, he would dart back to his house, get money, and return between two notes from that Strad. You wouldn't even realize he had left.

However, The Flash would not have given money, or stopped. He's a jerk.

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Portland, Ore: Scientific study of dogs' tail-wagging-- I think it's no coincidence that Italians came up with this study. They're very into gestures.

Gene Weingarten: This is very cool. And it confirms what I have noticed. Dogs wag left when they are a little scared, and right when they are happy.

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Rich Little, Canada: Do you think I could be any more lame?

Gene Weingarten: Could you please ask the same question again using one of your hilarious impersonations? Do Calvin Coolidge or Will Rogers.

Gene Weingarten: The Correspondents Association got such a black eye with their gutless choice of Rich Little this year that they're going to have to come back next year with someone who makes Colbert look tame. Imus, maybe!

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Washington, D.C.: Gene! We've missed you! Now that you're back, I think it's high time you filled us in on the status of all the projects et al that took you away from us: How's the movie script with Dave Barry going? What about the comic strip with Dan? When is Old Dogs coming out? When is your next cover story? Did you miss us? Has Molly had to stick her hand up any animal arses lately? Are you glad to be back?

Gene Weingarten: Dave and I are finishing the movie. Almost done. Dan and I are still writing and our partner, David Clark, is still drawing. With any kind of luck you'll see this in the newspapers within a year. Old Dogs will be out in the spring or summer of 2008. My next cover story will come out when I wish it to come out, or when Tom the Butcher makes me, whichever comes first. Yes, I do. Molly is finishing her second year of vet school, and yes, she has rectified many animals.

You know, I am thinking that the cows at Cornell vet school must love Molly, because she is little -- five four and petite. There are some really big guy vet students, too, with substantial forearms.

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Washington, D.C.: I'll bet the Flash could hit for the cycle, even as a pitcher.

Gene Weingarten: Duuuh, all he would have to do is lay down four bunts. He runs to first on one, second on two, third on three, and does an inside the parker on the last.

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Washington, D.C.: While you were unceremoniously dumping us during your last chat, you gave as your reasons "..writing a book. Writing a movie with Dave Barry. Writing a new, dreadful, immovable cover story on deadline. A comic strip, with my son." Now that we've gotten over things and have agreed to take you back, can you tell us how these things are going? Was that "dreadful, immovable cover story" the Joshua Bell piece, because, if so, you should ALWAYS do dreadful immovable cover stories.

Gene Weingarten: It was. It had to run on a certain date. Thank you.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene! I missed you! I've been saving up a story for you involving the sense of smell. So, a few months ago I was seeing a dermatologist. One of the products she had given me to try was an exfoliator -- not the scrubby kind, but a gentle chemically kind. Anyway, the first time I tried it in the shower, I gagged and barely was able to stop myself from throwing up. I didn't make the connection at first but, after 2-3 times, I realized something was off and stopped using it. The next time I was at the doctor's, I told her what happened. According to her, for a small percentage of the population, the smell of papaya (when broken down) triggers a gag reflex. I'm certain that I'll be at a nice restaurant at some point, there will be papaya in something I eat, and I will vomit on the table.

Anyway, I brought this story up a few weeks after the second doctor's visit to a group of friends. I also told them that I had recently discovered that artichokes really make my pee smell, but that I'm not one of the people who get asparagus pee. They were amazed, because they thought everyone has asparagus pee. But, none of them ever noticed a smell after eating artichokes. Then, one of my friends announced that, sometimes, her poop smells like blueberries "but not in a good way." The conversation kind of ended at that point.

It's so good to have you back!

Gene Weingarten: You got me with that last line. Thank you.

Hey, somewhere out there is the woman who was going to do a special Chatological Humor experiment for us, to confirm my contention that everyone has asparagus pee, but that only some people have the smell receptors to smell it. She contends she has no asparagus pee, but her boyfriend says he does. So she was going to pee with her boyfriend in the room, to see whether he detected hers.

Has this experiment been done, lady? If not, can you do it this week and report back next Tuesday? Thanks.

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Umlauts: Yes, but Gotterdammerung is a compound (Goetter + Daemerung) word. They are exempt from the rule. If they were not, Germans would not be able to form compound words and they would lose their minds.

Gene Weingarten: I thought every word in German was a compound word.

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San Mateo, Calif.: Dear Gene:

You might like to know that your "Pearls Before Breakfast" story is having an impact all the way across the country. I often commute into San Francisco on BART, our version of the Metro. My stop, Montgomery St. (financial district), sometimes has buskers, but they generally don't get much attention (and truthfully, most of them aren't very good, like the elderly jazz clarinetist who sometimes forgets the tune).

This morning, however, a string quartet of fresh-faced college students was playing Pachelbel's Canon. I counted at least seven people besides myself standing and listening.

And the musicians' case was OVERFLOWING with dollar bills (quite a change).

When they finished, I thanked them and said, "By the way, there was a story in the Washington Post..." "Yes, we've all read it," said the sweet young viola player. So, it turned out, had my colleagues (though the flaky one thought she'd seen it in the New York Times Magazine).

Who knows, maybe you'll end up triggering a major change in American society! Keep up the good work...

Gene Weingarten: Oooh, I like that. Thanks.

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Re - The Cycle: God Bless the internet. No Babe, not even as an outfielder, and I'm too lazy to check those whose positions I don't remember or know.

Players Who Have Hit for the Cycle

Gene Weingarten: Cool. Can some dweeb check and see if there are any pitchers in there?

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Arlington, Va.: I find it ironic that your chat is online at the same time as one with someone who actually knows something about guns in this country.

Gene Weingarten: Uh, okay.

You what I find funny? No second amendment supporter seems to notice that the amendment predicates itself entirely on the need for a "well-armed (citizens) militia." Might this amendment be just a leeeeeetle out of date?

_______________________

I chose Death for Cho: Being mentally ill isn't enough to be acquitted (not "innocent," but "not guilty"), you have to live up to the insanity standard, which is most states is inability to tell between right and wrong or the inability to control your actions. Therefore, I don't know that I think he should be acquitted, I lean more on the side that an act that deliberate, with that much time between the first and second round of killings was done by someone aware of what he was doing. Although I am against the death penalty generally (for practical and not moral reasons), since I'm not in a court of law and don't have to be perfect, I think the death penatly is appropriate the same way it is for the Sniper and for Tim McVeigh. To be perfectly principled, my answer actually have to be life in prison without parole. But in extreme cases, and in an online poll, and not a court of law, I will enjoy the luxury of choosing death for him.

PS I'm glad you're back. And I'm with the commando girl...

Gene Weingarten: Well, here is the thing: He was delusional. A classic paranoid schizophrenic. This is not a sane state of mind.

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re-Flash and the Cycle: If Superheroes were eligible to play in the majors, who would sign Aquaman? The O's or the Nats?

Gene Weingarten: The Mariners.

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The Empress of The Style Invitational: In this week's Style Invitational photo contest, I was thinking of fairly small items, gadgets. Corkscrews, not refrigerators. But if you have a wildly clever and hilarious idea featuring a blender, that'll do. "Wildly clever and hilarious" goes a long way toward overcoming the rules in Invite Land.

Gene Weingarten: Now we know.

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A DD for you (no, not THAT kind of DD): Higgledy piggledy

Chatmeister Weingarten

Told us to wait while he

Took a long nap.

Egomaniacal,

He's swanning back now like

Some big fat diva -- so

Who gives a crap?

Gene Weingarten: Not bad. Needs to be "Egomaniacally," to scan.

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Hong Kong: Can I have the first aptonym of this new era of your chat?

From the last graf a story in the New York Times last week:

At Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Boris Worm, author of a seminal paper predicting that there will be little wild fish left to eat by midcentury, is keeping a close eye on the rapid spread of marine-protected areas in the Pacific.

Glad you're back, Gene.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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You say umlaut, I say diaeresis....: The previous poster is right -- the Germans would overload and implode if they couldn't make compound words. What is one to make of people who have to spit out "Hoechstgeschwindigkeitsbegrenzung" when all they mean is "speed limit"?

Gene Weingarten: Is that real? I'm praying that's real. Can you translate the components?

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St Andrews, Scotland: Which is the more ill-advised career path, academia or journalism?

Gene Weingarten: Academia is probably safer, but offers less opportunity to make it big. Journalism is riskier, but a few people become very successful and well known. How self-confident are you?

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Re: Asparagus Pee: If you can't trust the Discovery Channel, who can you trust?

Gene Weingarten: I knew this was right!

I put it in my book, so, um, heh, I'm glad there seems to be a study behind it.

_______________________

Raising Cain: I have a son who has no friends, wants no friends, feels alienated, etc. and so on. He has never hurt anyone else, though he has talked about it, sometimes in breathtakingly graphic detail. (I don't think he really would, but still, I do have to wonder...)

Yes, he has been under psychiatric care, and will be again shortly. I feel for Cho's parents, too, not just Cho's victims. At least mine is still a minor and I can forcibly drag him off to a psychiatrist. Once he reaches 18, however, I have no legal right do to so, and if he doesn't let me and doesn't go on his own...

No question here. No answer, either, alas. And I am totally in line with your comments about guns; thanks for that.

Gene Weingarten: I think there are many more people than we know who are like your son. I wish you luck; we all do.

_______________________

Breakfast Pearls: Can you set me up with Joshua Bell?

Gene Weingarten: He's a hottie, isn't he?

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Woodbridge, Va.: Gene, welcome back.

I, too, got my taxes in on time; but I did them myself. Well, TurboTax did, I just agreed with everything and electronically signed. Although I'm probably normally as personally disorganized as you describe yourself, somehow keeping my bills and taxes in order has been a priority. That's not what caught my eye in your column, though; I was more intrigued by the contrast between you and your father. Although I pursued the same profession as my father (engineer), I didn't really ever practice engineering, and my organizational skills are probably as far from my father's as your accounting skills are from yours. My wife often wonders aloud as to why my life (meaning my collection of stuff) can't be as ordered as my father's. For instance, my father, in his eighties, can produce on a moments notice a three-eighths-inch stainless steel sheet metal screw from a very organized rack built to hold baby food jars filled with such treasures (the last baby in the house being my 47-year-old sister), and can also tell you the original purpose of the screw (to hold together the Lustron kit house we lived in in the 1950s). My oldest brother had the same ability to totally organize everything, as does my wife and our oldest son.

So what's the deal? I'm drawn from the same gene pool, live in the same environment as my brother (the organized one), and yet my idea of organized would be that yes, I had a screw like that once, and it's in one of the buckets of stuff in the basement. And no amount of reminders from my spouse, or derision from my son, would ever make me much better. I lean toward attributing this to the take-charge nature of first or only children, as I'm the middle child of a rather large family. You can ruin this theory if you say you are a first or only.

Gene Weingarten: I am the second of two, but my brother is worse than I am; so, I got no answers for you.

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New York, N.Y.: Does anyone else feel sorry for the tragic character who is Rich Little? What was this guy doing when he was called with this gig? Probably sitting in a cabin somewhere listening to old Lake Woebegone broadcasts. Then his agent, whom he hadn't heard from since Carson retired, calls him up with this gig of a lifetime - that no one else wanted. What's he going to say? "Sorry, I've got an obligation opening for Eddie Rabbit at the Lion's Inn in Coos Bay, Ore"? It would be a lie. So he accepts the gig. He does his bit. What else should he do? Why else would they hire him? He does what he was hired to do and ends up getting pummeled like he was on a date with Kobe Bryant.

Now he'll probably slide back into oblivion never to be heard from again until his another obit. Sigh.

Gene Weingarten: You know, he was once good. I remember laughing with Rich, not at him.

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Washington, D.C.:"Can some dweeb check and see if there are any pitchers in there?"

Sure Gene. I'll look up all of those players and see their position to find a pitcher. Let me just go to my boss and quit my job first.

Gene Weingarten: Believe me, some people would just Know. Like my friend David Simon. David could scan that list in four minutes, and know.

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Washington, D.C.: Your comment on the Flash hitting for the cycle highlights what a weird accomplishment it is. The player who hits two doubles and two homers has had a better game -- and I'm sure it's happened in baseball history -- and no one cares because there's no name for the feat.

There's also no name for blowing a 3-0 lead to your archrival with a lead and Mo Rivera on the mound.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, there's a name for that. I coined it while watching.

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From a bunker somewhere in Berlin: Hey, Umlaut: don't give us that lame "gotterdammerung is a compound word" crap. The statement was that German words have only one umlaut. Compound words are, by definition, single words (even in German!).

Gene Weingarten: Agreed.

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Providence, R.I.:"Hoechstgeschwindigkeitsbegrenzung": it's real.

Hoechst = highest

Geschwindigkeit = speed

Begrenzung = limitation

Gene Weingarten: I bet geschwindigkeit breaks down into more words!

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Oak Harbor, The Other Washington: Welcome back! You've been missed.

I'll try to kick off one of the important, er, non-threads of this chat by offering an observation from work. I work in a place that has a mix of military and civilian personnel. (I'm one of the latter.) It's an aviation community, so many of the officers wear flight overalls. And some of them are female. It is a fact that some of them manage a VPL despite those ill-fitting bags. So my question is: is this a wonderful world, or what?

Gene Weingarten: This is good news!

I have also seen VPL on hospital scrubs.

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, time to go. You know what's cool? In this first chat back, we've broken the record for most submitted posts to a regularly scheduled chat.

Thank you all.

I'll be updating through the week, and see you here next Tuesday.

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UPDATED 4.25.07

Gene Weingarten: Okay, we begin with two other celeb-busking videos, this one from Glasgow, with Neil Young in the '70s, sent to us by Jeff Sewick. It's hard to believe more people didn't recognize him (though plenty did) because Neil Young's singing and harmonica are incredibly distinctive:

This second one is kind of fabulous, though it is not incognito. This is a short film made on the same theme, using opera singer Measha Brueggergosman performing at the train station in Toronto. This was submitted by the wonderfully named Jennifer Beer:

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Gene Weingarten: Next, I must issue a clarification. "Issuing clarifications" is a complex newspaper term for "correcting stupid errors."

It turns out that our entire discussion of the use of an umlaut in the name Zoe was not, in fact, about umlauts. Though it looks the same as an umlaut, the two dots atop the o in Zoe is in fact a diacritical mark known as a diaeresis. It sounds like something having to do with water retention, doesn't it? An umlaut adds a Germanic ooze to a word, taking, say, Fuhrer and turning it from FYOO-rer to something softer and gelatinous, like Fyeuuhhrr-er. A diaeresis does the opposite, separating adjacent vowels into two distinct sounds. So cooperation, which should have a diaeresis over the second o, is pronounced co-op and not coop. And Zoe, in the case at hand, should be pronounced Zo-ee and not Zo.

Zo, now zis is clear, yezs?

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Gene Weingarten: Meanwhile, as you can imagine, I heard from more than a dozen basball dweebs on the subject of pitchers hitting for the cyle. David Koll discovered that, in 1894, Tom Parrott hit for the cycle for the Cincinnati Reds. While he is listed for his career as an OF, from 1893-1895 Parrott was a starting pitcher and in 1894 pitched 308.2 innings in 41 starts. So that counts.

No one has done in the modern era. However, Ross W. writes that three modern-era pitchers came close:

2005-08-10 Livan Hernandez hit a single, double and homer, but missed the triple.

1987-05-05 Danny Darwin hit a single, double and triple, but missed the homer.

1964-07-23 Lew Burdette hit a single, triple and homer, but missed the double.

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Gene Weingarten: And Roger Moyer writes in to report the existence of this German word:

Das Rindfleischetikettierungsuberwachungsaufgabenubertragungsgesetz.

(Note: Both occurrences of "uber" should have umlauts. -- Liz)

It means "beef labeling regulation & delegation of supervision law"

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Re Richard Jeni: My favorite Jeni quip --That Chicago was settled by people from New York City who looked around one day and said, "Y'know, I really like the dirt and crime and poverty, but it's just not COLD enough!"

Or something like that.

RIP.

Gene Weingarten: I like that.

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Girls n' Boys: Back when I was an expectant father, almost 12 years ago, I thought hard about whether I actually would prefer a daughter or a son. I concluded that I wanted a daughter just a bit more and came up with the following broad (and certainly debatable) generalization to help me understand (rationalize?) my choice:

When raising a girl, we spend a great deal of time and effort encouraging their best instincts;

When raising a boy, we spend a great deal of time and effort discouraging their worst.

These days, I receive immeasurable pleasure and pride from my daughter's best instincts.

But I've often wondered where this philosophy might fit within the Weingarten belief system vis Men vs Women. Gene? And what do you think Gina would say?

Gene Weingarten: I think this is very much on point. Though, if you do it right, the end results are the same.

We spent a lot of time making sure Molly understood that being a girl was no disadvantage to anything. We were so serious about this that we found a female pediatrician, so she understood very young that women could be doctors.

With Dan, yes, education largely involved instructing him that certain behaviors, while fun and clever, tend to make people mad at you, and that this works against you in the long run.

I practiced the hoping-for-gender game twice, and lost both times. The first time I wanted a boy; I just liked the idea. Got the girl. By the second pregnancy, I was so loopy in love with my daughter that I wanted another one.

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McLean, Va.: Gene, I am way in the minority here, but I thought NBC was right to air the video, but not for quite the reason you present in the poll. To me, Cho looked so ludicrous and pathetic that I actually almost felt embarrassed for him. I find it hard to imagine that any marginal personality could view that video and not think, "Wow, I better get help before I end up as big a freak as that guy."

Gene Weingarten: Your problem is that you are thinking like a normal person.

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Kensington, Md.: Your quiz reminded me of a IM conversation I had with a young friend last week. She is studying in Japan this semester. Her host mother said over dinner that the VT tragedy reminded her a difference between the two countries: in Japan, bullied boys kill themselves, in the U.S. bullied boys kill others.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting.

I also thought it fascinating, and heartbreaking, and sweet, that the Korean community felt it necessary to apologize for this maniac.

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Dulles, Va.: Here's a philosophical question for you, Gene. In Blacksburg, there are 33 Hokie Stones in memorium on the drill field. One for each victim and one for Cho. Last night the one for Cho was stolen.

Should it have been there in the first place?

Gene Weingarten: No.

That would be like including the hijackers in a 9/11 memorial.

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New Comix: When the comics editor did a chat about the Post's new comics picks, I commented that I've never found Brewster Rockit funny. She told me to give it another chance. I've been reading it in the Post now for several weeks... still not seeing it. So, Gene, as the arbiter of the funny, I must go with your word. Funny or not?

Gene Weingarten: I'm not impressed, so far. The graphics are interesting. The jokes are lame.

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UPDATED 4.26.07

Gene Weingarten: On the important ongoing controversy of the use of diaereses, Pat the Perfect informs me that I am an a** when I contend that the word "cooperate" technically needs one on the second o. She points out, archly, that the only publication still doing this is the New Yorker, and I think we all know what she means by this observation. I was not convinced until she then suggested that if "cooperation" needs a diaeresis on the o, so does "poetry," on the e. Which is true. But putting an umlaut-looking thing on poetry would be unconscionable. I concede error.

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Can this make it through today?: Welcome back and all that jazz, life was meaningless without you, blah blah blah. I know you don't want it, and I hope today's chat picks up semi-close to where we left off.

Anyway, I'm writing because I think you once or twice have addressed the topic of terminating a pregnancy given a bad chromosonal diagnosis. But searches have turned up nothing. Can Liz help out, or is this something you can talk about? I was recently faced with this choice, and am still reeling from the repercussions. Down Syndrome.

We terminated. I know it was the right thing for our family. But yet, still seeking some level of understanding. We made a choice many people would find terrible. Your thoughts?

Gene Weingarten: Oh, boy.

Do you recall that about a year ago I said there was one issue about which I could never speak freely? Well, this is it.

If it was right for your family, I think you should simply not look back. Get on with your life. Personally, I would have made the same decision you did. So let's leave it at that.

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Just a Guy: Gene,

College one-night stand -- young lady seemed interested but didn't want to take off her pants -- finally admitted [with TEARS IN HER EYES] that she was wearing ugly underwear. I told her I would turn around and she could take them off without me seeing them -- AND IT WORKED!!!!

An hour later she thanked me for being so understanding.

Sigh.

Gene Weingarten: You are a very, very noble young man.

Gene Weingarten: And yes, aren't women GREAT?

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Washington, D.C.: Not sure I get this one -- not all of these guys were president, right?

Gene Weingarten: They are all on bills. Currency. Moolah runs elections.

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Washington, D.C.: Should NBC never even told the public that they received a package from Cho? Or just not shown the materials within?

I suppose the network could get away with not showing the videos if no one knew that they even existed. But once they notified the public of their existence, I wonder if not showing them would have spurred another large scale outcry alleging "censorship."

Gene Weingarten: Nah, its not censorship, it's editing.

NBC should have described the tape, then turned it over to the cops. It was simply too viscerally powerful to air the way they did.

This is a highly unusual position for me to take.

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Washington, D.C.: "There probably IS another woman. IMHO."

Or, maybe there is another man.

Gene Weingarten: Several people suggested this. Could be. There is something awry when a man leaves a wife and young children without explanation, and declines counseling. He is hiding something.

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UPDATED 4.27.06

Gene Weingarten: This just in from the great Mark Fiore.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Gene!

Welcome back -- I've missed you. I saw you and your wife at Signature Theater a few months ago. I knew it was you because you look exactly like your picture. I hope you enjoyed the play ("Crave") more than I did!

Gene Weingarten: I didn't like "Crave" at all. I thought it was more of an acting exercise than a play designed to please audiences.

I went because I knew one of the actresses -- Kathleeen Coons takes her dog (Riley) to the same cemetery I take Murph.

All four actors were terrific. Could not have been acted much better, I thought. The problem is that the play was an overwritten, overwrought, incoherent, pretentious bit of nothing. It was essentially a suicide note by a distraught young woman. She killed herself not long after writing it.

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Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Gene Weingarten: I think it is that he thinks he is Alfredo, not Alberto. But, you know, Fredo fits.

Fredo does fit. What's really scary is that Bush thought it was a good idea to make the dumb brother the Attorney General of the United States.

Gene Weingarten: It's not that Fredo was dumb. Fredo wasn't exactly dumb. Fredo was spineless.

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Falls Church, Va.: I have to push you a bit on answer no. 3. The insanity defense isn't "I was really angry at the world" but rather "I couldn't tell that my actions were wrong." I think that's a very hard question to answer based simply on what we've seen.

Gene Weingarten: The classic description of criminal insanity is not knowing that what you are doing is wrong. Cho said that he was forced to do this; that it was not his fault; that he was driven to kill by the actions of others. He had a make believe girlfriend with whom he made out. She could travel through time. He was delusional and paranoid.

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Re: Guns: Cho knew what he was doing, and he knew it was wrong. He did it because it made him feel good to have this power. He was also mentally ill. He was not innocent.

If Cho is innocent by reason of insanity, so are child molesters.

Gene Weingarten: Child molesters MAY be innocent by reason of insanity. They are driven by overpowering forces.

I don't think child molesters would like this diagnosis. Because they NEVER get cured. It's hard wired. They'd be in the loony bin for life.

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"Wimpy" college students: Gene,

I'm merely writing this so I can have confirmation from you, because I am that shallow. But far worse than the gun whackjobs insisting that more armed students would have prevented the Va Tech massacre are those who say that our culture has weakened the resolve of people of my generation (18-25 year olds).

Apparently, we've been wimpified and sissified to the extent that "no one" stood up to the killer. Isn't this the most disgusting analysis out there of the incident? How can anyone say "they should have fought back?" Why is this even considered to be reasoned discourse from right-wing pundits like John Derbyshire and others? Absolutely revolting.

Gene Weingarten: I can't believe people are saying this. What a sick stupid charge to make.

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Washington, D.C.: Because I believe you know all things comedy and comedy-related: there is a spat between Carlos Mencia and Joe Rogan (Rogen? the guy who did the show where people eat disgusting things) involving Mencia supposedly repeatedly stealing other comics' jokes. I only read one article on it, so I'm sure I don't know the whole story, but the article indicated that this was widely known about Mencia. Wouldn't there be some kind of penalty if this were true (like Comedy Central canceling his show, etc)? How common is it for comedians to outright steal others' jokes?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, Rogan has made it a crusade -- something of an obsessive crusade -- to publicly accuse Mencia of theft. He's confronted Mencia with cameras rolling. He (Rogan) looks like a real jerk about it, except for the fact that his case looks very strong.

You can youtube it. It's interesting.

washingtonpost.com: Rogan vs. Mencia (not safe for work)

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Gene Weingarten:

And finally, this just arrived from Jack Bellows --

I suppose it is inevitable in life to eventually become disillusioned with those we hold in high esteem. For me, this happened specifically three times. The first was when I was 15 and my father sprained his ankle playing basketball with myself and friends in our driveway. He was 45 and had always been active in sports. As a younger child, I remember being in awe of how high he could throw a baseball when we'd have a catch in the backyard, or how he could lift one end of the couch seemingly without effort. At 15 I must have thought, at some level, that he was indestructible still, and it really shook me up to see him go down in pain. He never fully recovered from this, and thereafter only watched us from the sidelines.

The second great disillusionment occurred when Michael Jordan retired to try his hand at baseball. He had been THE sports icon for me, and to watch this man be unheroically average in the White Sox farm system, it was too much for me to handle. Even when he returned to play basketball for the Bulls, and they won three more championships, it was never the same for me. He left at the top of his game, during what could have been an EIGHT year run, and regardless of whether it justified or not, I felt it personally.

This brings me to the third, and most recent, fall from grace; the purpose that I am writing this to you. A logical deduction would be that it might involve your recent hiatus from the weekly chat. This would be inaccurate. This latest disillusionment happened as I was listening to National Public Radio last weekend, and I heard something so disruptive, so incongruous, so unpleasant that I had to pull over and check my ears for signs of auditory trauma. This is how I experienced the sound of your voice. I had maintained a sonic picture of your voice in my head, procured from reading your columns and following the Tuesday chat. This was a voice of confidence, a voice with some power, some reverberance. Upon hearing you interviewed on the radio for NPR, I was witness to a paltry voice, shaky and inconsequential, but grating, oh so grating on the ears. This was sort of a reverse Darth Vader experience, whereas we heard the deep, booming voice of James Earl Jones throughout, only to discover, when the helmet was removed, that we are presented with a disfigured, pasty shell of a man. Your voice is this pasty shell. Gene, your words should be seen and, for all that is holy, not heard.

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Gene Weingarten: Jack wrote back with this --

NPR airs the show, "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me," where the call-in winners get Carl Kasell to leave the outgoing message on their phone. Maybe you could do the recording for the losers.

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Submit retorts and queries to next week's chat.

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