washingtonpost.com
Chatological Humor (Updated 11.16.07)
aka Tuesdays With Moron

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 13, 2007 12:00 PM

DAILY UPDATES: 11.14.07 | 11.15.07 | 11.16.07

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 1 -- MEN| Door 2 -- WOMEN

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.

P.S. If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them out. -- Liz

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

Many of you gleefully directed me to this brief item in Saturday's "Free For All" letters page in The Post:

NOT LAUGHING -- Your paper's editors must be able to find somebody who really is funny, as opposed to Gene Weingarten, who only thinks he's funny. Spare us his idiotic harassment of company reps and salesmen.

Where is Joel Achenbach? Now there's a man who is funny when he wants to be and a fine, serious writer, too.

Milton Jenne

Fort Washington

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Dear Mr. Jenne:

I can see how, growing up with a moniker like "Milton," you might have developed a distaste for adolescent, unfair, hostile humor such as mine. Please accept my apologies for having dredged up all those no-doubt painful memories -- the pantsings, the wedgies, the bathroom swirlies, the wet Willies, the incessant Indian rope burns and scalp noogies administered in janitors' closets while you were being flatulated upon by larger boys with manlier, sturdier names like "Steve" and "Roger."

As to where my good friend Joel Achenbach is, I'm not sure where he is now, but he and I will be dining together on Thanksgiving, as we do every year. I will propose a toast to you, Milton, and I promise to try not to laugh - though that is something you are better at than I am.

(The Washington Post attorneys have asked me to add that all representations above as to the purported childhood humiliations suffered by Mr. Jenne are of my invention entirely, and meant in jest and without malice, inasmuch as I know nothing about Mr. Jenne or his background or his character, all of which I presume to be excellent and fine and thus such. The above representations, in other words, have been made in a jocular and affectionate fashion, jocularly and affectionately responding to his criticism of me, which he had every right to make.)

----

I want to thank the poster from Washington who directed me to this exchange in Tom Sietsema's chat last week, excerpted here:

"Washington, D.C. -- I'd love your take on an experience I had at Filomena's this past Saturday. A couple of hours after eating (while we were still enjoying drinks at a nearby lounge)I developed a stomachache. I suspected that it was my entree because no one else in our party had any problems and I was the only one who had ordered the "walu," a grilled white fish. The menu should have also said that eating it can have seriously undesirable side effects. A quick Internet search led me to a Wikipedia article which states that consumption of walu ( a.k.a. escolar, Hawaiian butterfish, oilfish, and super white tuna) causes "numerous gastrointestinal symptoms." I won't describe them in detail for fear of grossing everyone out. Suffice it to say that it isn't pretty and at least one of these symptoms is pretty unusual; I suffered from a couple of these symptoms the following day. It also seems several countries, including Japan, ban consumption of walu and that the FDA recommended against importing this fish back in the 1990s but later changed its position, probably in response to the powerful walu lobby. So my question is this -- given the known side effects of eating this stuff, why would a restaurant even have it on the menu? And if they have it, shouldn't they advise unsuspecting customers about the possible effects? Am I wrong to feel this way?"

Tom answered this question with his usual graciousness and good taste. It thus falls to this chat to describe the symptoms that were so genteelly sidestepped by both poster and host. From Wikipedia:

"Like its relative the oilfish (Ruvettus pretiosus), walu cannot metabolize the wax esters (Gempylotoxin) naturally found in their diet, which accumulates to give an oil content in the muscle meat of 18-21%. These wax esters may rapidly cause gastrointestinal symptoms following consumption; however, these effects are usually short lived.

"The gastrointestinal symptoms, called "keriorrhoea", caused by these wax esters, may include oily orange diarrhea, discharge, or leakage from the rectum that may smell of mineral oil. The discharge can stain clothing and occur without warning 30 minutes to 36 hours after consuming the fish. The oil may pool in the rectum and cause frequent urges for bowel movements due to its lubricant qualities and may be accidentally discharged by the passing of gas. Symptoms may occur over a period of one or more days. Other symptoms may include stomach cramps, loose bowel movements, diarrhea, headaches, nausea, and vomiting."

Sure makes you want to go out and order up some of that delicious walu, no?

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I thank my friend Kate Rears (who, for reasons she has yet to adequately explain to me, has appended her new husband's name to her own, now becoming "Kate Rears Burgman" and desecrating what was an excellent end) for being the first to point out that, contrary to my assertion last week, "desert island" is a perfectly fine designation for an uninhabited island. A definition of the adjective "desert" is "desolate and sparsely occupied or unoccupied." A desert island, ergo, need not be filled with sand. It just has to be unfilled with people.

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And this in from Stephen Waddingham of Brisbane, Australia, apropros of a recent subject in this chat:

"Some years ago, in the New Zealand town of Otorohanga (pop. Approx. 2000 ), there lived a humble shop owner whose surname was Harrod. Not unreasonably, he called his business Harrod's. The notoriously litigious Mohammed Al Fayed (father of Dodi, partner unto death of Princess Di), the owner of the giant Harrod's department store in London, sent the man a string of threatening letters, then set the legal heavies on him, demanding he stop using the name. Bear in mind that this was a flyspeck town in the middle of nowhere in a country at the end of the earth.

"The Otorohanga council held a meeting and officially changed the town's name to Harrodsville. Every local business changed their name to Harrod's and effectively said "go ahead and sue us all". The British tabs picked up the story and lampooned Al Fayed mercilessly until he dropped the action. The bullies don't always win.

"It's a case which is sometimes quoted in copyright and trademark circles along with the (I believe Canadian) man named Mike Rowe who named his domain MikeRoweSoft.com."

You don't actually have to bother to take today's poll ( Door 1 -- MEN| Door 2 -- WOMEN), if you don't want to. The poll is generating all sorts of whining and mewling. People claim it is not sufficiently nuanced; people complain there is no choice that divorce is NEVER unethical or immoral; people claim that neither adjective really captures the ESSENCE of what is wrong with divorcing, if anything, a distinction requiring a much more complex set of criteria and conditions and qualifications to adequately embody the complicated vortices therein, and so forth.

So maybe there is a flaw or two in the execution, okay? I'll cop to that if you will admit being whining little babies who just don't want to talk about divorce. Okay?

----

The Comic Pick of the Week is Thursday's Speed Bump. First runner up is Sunday's Lio.

Many worthy honorables: Sunday's Zits, Sunday's Doonesbury, Saturday's Speed Bump, Thursday's Sherman's Lagoon. From a meta-comics standpoint, Saturday's Sally Forth is very clever. Monday's Rhymes With Orange is nicely odd. And we must all momentarily dislike Jef Mallett for today's Frazz, which uses a really stale old observation.

Okay, let's go.

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Gene Weingarten: Oh, and I have to report the receipt of more than 30 emails from around the country informing me, with various degrees of sanctimony, that in my column on Sunday I misspelled "definitely" not once but seven times.

Honestly, I'm just not sure how to respond to this.

washingtonpost.com: Learning the Nopes, ( Post Magazine, Nov. 11)

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Philadelphia: My husband and I ate walu last week and both experienced, um, the symptoms you mentioned. He on our white couch (the stain came out with a couple of bleachings). What perfect timing! Now I don't have to throw out that roast chicken we figured might be the culprit!

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

This is somewhat embarrassing, no? I once had a similar experience when I binged on peanut butter.

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Duke Street, Alexandria, Va.: I just came here at 15 off noon to look at the poll, and found that you have already started. What time does this chat really start, anyway?

Gene Weingarten: Liz makes me post the intro as early as I get it to her. The chat begins at noon, tho.

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Bethesda, Md.: I'm having a four-hour layover at the Miami airport. Any suggestions for grabbing a quick bite to eat, or should I just stick it out at the airport?

Gene Weingarten: If you are rich, cab it in to Miami Beach and go to Joe's Stone crab. $60 a person, but you'll never get that meal anywhere else.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene -

I am divorced from a man who was diagnosed with a non-life threatening but debilitating neurological disease. I went to counselling - he did not. I researched medical treatments - he sat in front of the TV. He demanded my help without giving an inch back. This illness became his life over the years I stayed in the marriage. Early on I couldn't imagine the guilt of leaving him but as I grew more beaten down by his attitude and my hopes grew more desperate for a release from my hell -- I left. We had no children - I asked for nothing from the divorce settlement - he had family, financial means and medical care to manage better on his own than I did. There was no other way to survive for me.

Poll takers seem to have reacted most negatively to people who would leave a marriage because of the illness of a spouse. I must simply say -- you absolutely do not know what you're talking about.

Why this poll, Gene? Why are you asking us for such judgments?

Gene Weingarten: Uh, because I ask all sorts of rude questions. You don't have to answer.

But thank you for sharing this. I understand your point.

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Saturday's Speed Bump: I was hoping you'd select Saturday's Speed Bump as a comic of note. After my initial laughter, I realized that the comic has major fallacy. In sexual reproduction, genitalia must complement, not emulate, each other. Extending that metaphor to hardware, the female standard head screw could not have mated with a phillips head screw. She would have had to mate with a nut of complementary pitch. I realize that being true to analogy destroys the humor in the cartoon. I simply wanted to call your attention to the fact the humor is based on a fallacious analogy.

And that's what she gets for doing it without a washer.

Gene Weingarten: You are so ignorant about hardware sex. Screws have penises and vaginas that extrude from the metal when they are hot.

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Definately? Definitely.: Gene, the "definately" series of google nopes and yup was the highlight of the column. Who pays enough attention to send you an email but doesn't pay enough attention to get the joke?! Clearly, people who probably don't laugh at Monty Python either.

Gene Weingarten: As I said, I just didn't know how to answer these people.

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Floriduh: How great is this? Even Hiassen nods his head with approval...

Fleeing Robbery Suspect Eaten By Alligator

MIAMI -- A Florida man police said was breaking into cars at Miccosukee Resort and Gaming was attacked and killed by a 9-foot alligator while trying to run from police.

Investigators said officers responded to reports of car break-ins at a Miccosukee Indian Reservation parking lot located at 500 S.W. 177th Ave. in Miami.

One of the men was quickly captured by officers during the incident last week but the other robbery suspect tried to elude officer by jumping into a large pond behind the facility, according to a WJXT-TV report.

During the swim, police said, an alligator attacked and killed the man. He was apparently bitten on the head several times.

The victim's body was recovered at the bottom of the pond about a day after the reported break-ins.

The men were not identified in the report.

Meanwhile, an alligator believed responsible for attacking and then killing the man was captured and transported to All American Gator in Pembroke Park.

"Some alligators just have a nasty disposition and he was just a nasty gator," owner of All American Gator Brian Woods said. "He seemed to have no fear of people."

The alligator is being kept in storage until the medical examiner's office can inspect the reptile, a trapper said.

Miccosukee employees said the alligator was well-known on the reservation and was given the nickname "Poncho."

"Anytime an alligator digests or even kills a person, it is a state law through the Florida Fish and Game that the gator be destroyed," Woods said.

Gene Weingarten: Wow, that last line is bizarre. "Digests or even kills"?

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Washington, D.C.: On last week's episode of House, a male doctor made the following comment to a female doctor, who had been trying to be pleasant to him : "Shiksas are for practice."

(For what it's worth, she's not actually nice -- her nickname is Cutthroat B1tch.)

At the time, it was simply a bit of a zinger in a setting where the characters are constantly zinging each other. On reflection, it appears that that male doctor was espousing the opinion that non-Jewish women are all basically whores, and that he was trying to be just as hurtful as possible.

What say you?

Gene Weingarten: That's not exactly what the expression means, though it is only slightly less offensive.

It relates indirectly to last week's discussion about whether Jews marry non-Jews in significant numbers. (They do, now.) "Shiksas are for practice" is (or, increasingly, used to be) a joke among Jewish men who always knew they would wind up marrying a Jewish woman: It's okay to sleep with shiksas, but only as practice until you get serious about settling down with the woman who is going to be the ma of your children.

It didn't imply, exactly, that shiksas were looser than Jewish women, although I suppose you could extrapolate to that. But that wasn't the point. The point was that a Jewish man does not marry a shiksa.

Clearly this has changed. More than half of Jews in America marry outside the religion.

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New York, N.Y.: I was the first male to answer the poll this week, even before Gene. What a loser!

My mom left us when I was five and it definitely has had a huge effect on me. I would be a much different person if I had grown up with a mom, I'm confident of that, but I'm not sure if I would be a better or worse person. I'm quirky and intelligent and funny and these are all traits that I cultivated as an introvert. I was an introverted kid (I'm much more social now but I REALLY value my alone time which makes relationships difficult) in part due to a diminished self-confidence that came from matriarchal rejection. I had a difficult childhood but I love the adult that it produced.

I cried buckets when I was kid about my mom not being there, and I would never wish divorce on ANY child, but I wonder how bad it really is. Is it always a disaster for the kids? Is it always worth staying in a terrible relationship for the sake of the kids? I'd say probably not.

Gene Weingarten: I was surprised how (relatively) few of you did not list having young children as a significant factor in choosing against divorce. To me, that would be the biggest factor against divorce.

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Miami Beach: I hear that Joe's Stone Crab has a special on walu today.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed.

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Useless Crack Addi, CT: So what's your take on The Post suspending Tim Page (the Post's classical music critic) for sending an annoyed e-mail to Marion Barry's PR folks (in which he referred to Hizonner as a useless crack addict) asking to be removed from their press release e-mail list?

On the one hand, it seems reasonable that a person should be able to complain about getting irrelevant press release e-mails; on the other hand, it seems reasonable that an employee of a newspaper (presumably e-mailing from a work account, since that's where he would have receive the press release) not express an active bias against a politician; on the other other hand (my family is Hindu, so I invoke the extra-arms-on-Vishnu excuse), there's no way that he would have ever covered Barry, so Page's expression of a bias against Barry shouldn't be inappropriate; and on the other other other hand, Page was about to go on sabbatical and The Post has been cutting back on its classical music coverage so he wouldn't have had much more printed before he left anyways, so I'm left wondering if The Post may have just put him on "leave-with-pay" until his sabbatical started so that they could get Barry off their back without actually harming Page in any significant way.

washingtonpost.com: WaPo Critic on Leave for Insulting Marion Barry, ( DCist.com)

washingtonpost.com: Post Critic Page Apologizes for E-Mail Remarks to Barry Aide, ( Post, Nov. 13)

Gene Weingarten: Ooooh, this is entertaining!

Let me begin with a disclosure: Tim Page is my friend.

Second disclosure: In two weeks, in my column, I do EXACTLY THIS SORT OF THING, in an email to a PR person, for exactly the same reason. In an effort to get off a PR list, both Tim and I went wildly over the top.

Tim's principal error here was that his tone was slightly off; that last line was arguably less funny than it was mean. But, really, so what? Marion Barry spent his whole life making himself a preposterous public caricature. He is not undeserving of ridicule.

I think there was no slam-dunk obvious way to handle this. I don't think I would have reprimanded Tim, but I can't really fault The Post for having done so. The controlling fact, for me, would have been this: The only reason this became public is that Marion Barry chose to make it public. And he chose to make it public in a quite hilarious way: Marion Barry, suspected and convicted scuzzball, tax evader, former crack user, erstwhile obtainer of oral sex in a crowded prison reception room, calls the elegant, sophisticated Tim Page, and I quote, a "lowlife."

Working against Tim here is that since this was a PR contact made in his capacity as writer for the Washington Post, he technically answered as a representative of the Washington Post. Working for Tim here is that he has nothing to do with politics, will never have anything to do with politics, and his opinions of the Ward 8 councilmember (whether real or a joke) have nothing to do with anything he will ever write for the paper.

So. I think Tim was slightly over-punished, and I think he slightly over-apologized.

What Tim wrote was NOTHING compared to what I wrote. But I was not writing about a powerful politician who is willing to feign outrage and shamelessly deal out the race card, as Barry did here. Read Kurtz's story.

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Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Please please please tell me that at least one of the mails informing you that you spelled "definitely" wrong was of the self righteous "you are so stupid don't you people have editors I am shocked and canceling my subscription now. (Unless you replace Gene with that nice boy Joel Achenbach.)"

Would just be wonderful.

Gene Weingarten: Several of them were exactly like that.

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I Confess: These chats are the most entertaining thing anywhere and I wouldn't miss them. And your longer pieces like the Great Zucchini profile and Joshua Bell experiment are brilliant. But your weekly column leaves me cold. I feel guilty not reading it but I rarely find it funny. Am I still welcome here every Tuesday?

Gene Weingarten: Yes.

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Omaha, Neb.: Would love you to have a poll about cheating -- what each gender considers cheating and the kinds of cheating chatters have engaged in. How much fantasizing about another person is allowed before it's cheating. How much non-physical interaction can you have with a crush before it's cheating. Or maybe this question is too passe and obvious? If you've already done this kind of poll, would you or Chatwoman be so kind as to link to that transcript, I'd like to read that chat.

Gene Weingarten: I think we've done this poll. Haven't we? I feel as though we have. I think some people said holding hands was cheating, and I laughed and made fun of them. I don't think a single passionate kiss is cheating.

We've discussed this, right? I have a lousy medium-term memory.

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Still, IN: I've been married for over 16 years, and have a 15-year-old daughter. My husband is an alcoholic (currently in recovery) who for most of our marriage lied to me, hid bottles, was mean and irritable, etc. That said, he's inherently a decent guy. He's a loving Dad and my daughter is close with him. Since most of his drinking has been on the sly, she doesn't really experience him as being alcoholic, although due to a huge blowup eighteen months ago---the worst fight in our marriage, when I caught him with a bottle in his car and basically went berserk---she understands it's been a problem and knows that he now goes to meetings.

Since this crisis, I have struggled to forgive him and achieve normalcy. But I can't. In my heart, I feel like he has ruined my life and I have missed out on having a true partner in life who I could love and be loved by.

Here's the kicker: I strongly feel that divorce is wrong when there is a child involved. I think most people who divorce are whiny and immature people who are putting their own selfish interests ("I need to find myself!") ahead of their children's. Although my disaffection runs deep, our arguments are minor. We eat dinner as a family and watch TV together---a normalcy my daughter cherishes. I try to find ways to think of him as a friend, although I stopped sleeping with him long ago.

I can't claim this situation is intolerable, yet I am in despair much of the time. I have told him I can't promise to stay once my daughter goes off to college. But even then, I can't stand the thought of her seeing her home break up behind her; essentially having no home to go back to once she's moved away. I often feel that, while we can recover from most mistakes we make in our lives, this marriage is one mistake that I will spend the rest of my life paying for.

Gene Weingarten: I understand your feelings, and can offer only minor consolation. But if this helps:

You have done well by your daughter, as I think you know. She has grown up largely unaware of the hidden stresses, and secure in the love of both parents. Life is hard, no choices are easy, and I believe that your choice to tough this out for the sake of your child was heroic and correct.

I also understand how there can come a point where, despite a spouse's repentance and recovery, there is no way of forgiving and starting over.

I wish you the best of luck. Thank you for writing.

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Washington, D.C.: If you could make (and subsequently eat) any kind of sandwich - ALL meats, cheeses and condiments are available - what kind of sandwich do you make?

washingtonpost.com: Vegan BLT.

Gene Weingarten: Fried oyster po boy with russian dressing and shredded lettuce.

OR, if this qualifies as a samwich, caviar on toast, with hard boiled egg and a whisper of onion.

Or, if this qualifies as a samwich, plain bagel (one side) cream cheese, capers, and oily nova salmon.

Gene Weingarten: But not oily enough for the walu phenomenon.

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Kate Rears!: I love this!!! I think any woman who's lucky enough to have a present-tense verb for a last name should absolutely tack her husband's last name on when she gets married, just for giggles. My friend did just that. Her married name is Becky Butters Philips.

Hahahahahaha. Multiple Philips.

Gene Weingarten: But Rears is such a fabulous name on its own.

Kate tells me she was never teased about it, but her sister, Christy, grew up being called "Crusty Rear."

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Washington, DC: If Liz gets a divorce can I be a rebound relationship?

washingtonpost.com: No. Obviously, I'd be busy chasing that funny Joel Achenbach.

Gene Weingarten: Joel has great hair. I don't know how any woman resists that.

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Sunday's Colu, MN: Everytime I read one of your googlenope/yup/whatever columns I miss Dave Barry just a little bit more.

If you don't want to write a column one week, couldn't you just go back to the archive for a "Best of" or perhaps "Least worst of" rerun?

Gene Weingarten: I am too stupid to think of that.

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Miami Layover Again: I've been trying to get to Joe's Stone Crab for years, but as I've been told that they don't take reservations and the wait can take hours, I doubt we could get there, in, out, and back to the airport in 4 hours. Do you disagree?

P.S. Dave Barry's line in "Big Trouble" is great: "...you're eating a steak at a place called 'Joe's Stone Crab.'"

Gene Weingarten: The trick is to get there about ten minutes before they opened. Gina and I got a seat with no wait.

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Re: divorce: I actually thought the poll was interesting. I think that, except in the intolerable situations, divorce is almost always at least a little unethical or immoral. When you get married, you are either taking a vow or promising to bind your life to that person for the rest of your life. How is it not at least somewhat unethical or immoral to go back on that? At the same time, though, I answered that I might get a divorce in all of the various scenarios. I think this is because I'd be willing to do something that was to a certain extent immoral or unethical in order to not be miserable.

Gene Weingarten: Personally, I only quail when there are young kids or a seriously sick spouse, I think. Marriage sometimes don't work out.

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Takoma, Washington, D.C.: I hate my pinky toenails!

Gene Weingarten: Yep. EVERYONE does. Is there anyone out there who is quite proud of his or her pinky toenails?

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Toled'OH: In Sunday's Below the Beltway column, you wrote that 'We dined on lobster and Pez' was a Googleyup -- but we couldn't get any hits for it when we Googled it later in the day. How could we be getting different results?

My girlfriend also says "fish-flavored Pez" is a Googlenope, and that your column is Google's top listing for "chocolate-covered lettuce."

Gene Weingarten: There are some Googling oddities. "We dined on lobster and Pez" was definitely a googleyup three weeks ago, when the column was written. I found it, and two sets of editors found it. Today, it is only a googleyup because of my column.

Can anyone out there more e-literate than I am explain this? There are two other examples of the same phenomenon in this column.

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What?: Capers? How on earth do you like capers? They destroy the taste of the salmon as they completely take over.

And you don't even like ketchup on hot dogs.

Gene Weingarten: They do not! Cooked green pepper destroys the taste of everything around it, not capers. Capers are a delicate taste.

Cooked green pepper is only good when it is the only thing around. Like, you are eating cooked green pepper.

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Miami Airport: Definitely get one of the guava and cheese pastries from the Cuban place. La Carreta? I think it's at terminal E. Since you have the time you could get a whole meal at the sit down part of the restaurant and get the guava and cheese pastry for dessert. Great stuff!

Gene Weingarten: I was just there. That place is highly mediocre.

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Washington, D.C.: I work for a news organization, and am in a constant battle to have my e-mail address removed from the mailing list of various flacks. After the second or third e-mail to the flack, I often get an apologetic reply that says, "I'm so sorry, didn't mean to send you another one of these, will remove you from the list immediately," and then I get ANOTHER press release just a few days later. Just got one of those this morning. Not sure how to respond. I'm tempted to just start circulating the flack's email address in enough places to guarantee that he or she will start being inundated with the same kind of spam I'm trying to avoid.

Gene Weingarten: Wait ten days. I will show you how to respond.

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Sandwi, CH:: Gene,

Former Metairian here - no New Orleanian worth his/her Sazeracs would order an oyster po-boy with "Russian Dressing." Please. It's butter, or mayo, or for those with a death wish, butter AND mayo. If you ever go to New Orleans (and I hope you do), please spare yourself the ridicule when you order your po-boy.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.

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I love my pinky toenails: Actually, I love all my toenails. They're perfect. I don't know anyone with feet as cute as mine. I wear sandals in winter, they're so cute.

The rest of me is a different story...

Gene Weingarten: Thank you!

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Anonymous:"Gene Weingarten: Yes, it is "spit and image," and no one gets that right. It means, I believe, that it not only has the looks but the essence of the thing it is being compared to."

It's a corruption of "spirit and image." Read that way, your definition makes all the more sense.

Gene Weingarten: I researched this. "Spirit and image" is one of those things that seems OBVIOUS on its face, but just ... isn't. There is no proof that "spit and image" came from that.

Another example is that a common vulgarity came from the acronym for "Fornication and Unlawful Carnal Knowledge." Seems OBVIOUS, but it is wrong.

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Not Unethic, AL: Couldn't you have made the poll's questions a little more confusing?

First, the first set of questions has something like a partial double negative: "Divorce is at least somewhat unethical or immoral if..."

I am guessing that this funky wording is responsible for some of the anomalous results (as of this writing), e.g., about 80 percent of people say that divorce is OK (i.e., not at least somewhat unethical or immoral) if your spouse has a serious illness, but only 4 percent of people say that they would do this.

Second, the setup to the second set of questions does not make it clear that You, the responder, has some reason (not abuse, etc.) for wanting a divorce. That is the only explanation for this odd result:

Ninety-four percent of people say that there is nothing wrong with divorcing a spouse who doesn't want to divorce, but only 14 percent of people say that they would do this. This completely at odds with life experience:

"I've been struggling with this for months, dear, and difficult as it is to say this, I really want a divorce."

- "I don't."

"Oh, okay, never mind."

I'm no survey expert, but I think you should throw this one out and start over.

Gene Weingarten: There may be some confusions to this poll, but not the ones you see.

Those percentages are misleading. The percentages given are percentages of the total number of votes, not of the total number of responders. Most people are giving more than one answer to each question.

The only way this poll can be interpreted accurately is by comparing the frequency of various answers to each other.

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Rockville, Md.: Have we lost the value of gamine beauty? Women are either supposed to be rail thin and tall, or overboard voluptuous grab bags. Whatever happened to the mischievous pixies like Audrey Hepburn?

washingtonpost.com: I'm sorry, but wasn't Hepburn "rail tin and tall?"

Gene Weingarten:"Overboard voluptuous grab bags?"

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Petworth, Washington, D.C.: In more Barry's press people news, have you seen what happens when a well known local blogger contacts Mr Barry's press people to ask a questions?

Truly unbelievable.

Gene Weingarten: Wow! This is his communications director!

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"Anytime an alligator digests or even kills a person, it is a state law through the Florida Fish and Game that the gator be destroyed," Woods said. : Beyond not making sense, how unfair is this fact? The guy jumped into the pond -- alligator territory -- and the animal is killed for doing what it's programmed by nature to do? What crap.

Gene Weingarten: Agreed. Unless there is some evidence that an alligator who has eaten human develops a greater taste for humans.

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Shar, TS: re: "...and may be accidentally discharged by the passing of gas."

The dreaded sharts.

washingtonpost.com: What's going on out there?

Gene Weingarten:"Sharts" made me laugh.

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What now?: Reverse cowgirl is "somewhat adventurous"? Didn't you grow up in the sixties?

Gene Weingarten: C'mon, I said "somewhat"!

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Off with 'em: I removed my pinky toenails just a week or so ago. I was furious with them. I'm a runner, and they'd been rendered vile and crusty and scaled-over past the point of return, so while clipping the other ones I hacked them off completely. I actually didn't feel anything. And I DON'T MISS THEM.

Gene Weingarten: We are sorry for your loss.

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Washington, D.C.: GENE: "I don't think a single passionate kiss is cheating." YIPPEE!! I'm not a cheater even though I've passionately kissed four men while married. Bless your soul!

Gene Weingarten: I usually get some blowback when I make this assertion, but I stand behind it.

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pinky toenails: I love my pinky toenails! They are absurdly tiny, hard to put polish on, and thorougly ridiculous. And what I love is that they are the only body part that can be thorougly ridiculous without me feeling any pressure to improve or hide it!

Gene Weingarten: Okay!

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Arlington, Va.: I was a young teen when my folks divorced, and I'm grateful to this day that it happened. My father was a bully, an alcoholic, and clearly had no regard or respect for my mother. their split-up gave me the first time I ever felt "normal" in my entire life. So if you ask me, a marriage that stays together for the kids, with no loving and caring relationship attached, is more harmful than a divorce is. Divorce away, people!

Gene Weingarten: Also noted. Thank you.

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Milton:"As to where my good friend Joel Achenbach is, I'm not sure where he is now, but he and I will be dining together on Thanksgiving, as we do every year"

Could you ask him to teach you how to be funny? I know it is a lost cause, but it is worth a try. Almost any change would be an improvement.

Gene Weingarten: I'll ask him. Thanks, Milton.

This isn't really Milton, is it?

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Overboard voluptuous grab bags: Another fleeting Googlenope.... <sigh>...sort of like a transuranium element....

Gene Weingarten: I have no idea what it is even supposed to mean.

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Washington, D.C.:"-- the pantsings, the wedgies, the bathroom swirlies"

So is pantsings an east coast thing? I first heard that on "Family Guy" when Randy Fulcher kept pantsing Peter and I was like what... he's putting the pants back on Peter.

Growing up (I'm 27) in Ohio, it was referred to as de-pantsing. Makes much more sense to me.

Gene Weingarten: I had never heard of a swirlie, which seems to be a midwest thing, until I saw it in a "Cathy" strip about 15 yeas ago. It sounded like a BJ to me.

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Arlington, Va.: A former co-worker cancelled the wedding ceremony two weeks before it was scheduled because her intended crashed his motorcycle and became a quadraplegic. Her reason was" "I am not a nurse." The guy eventually did marry a nurse.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, man.

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Bethesda, Md.: Is it too early to put up the Christmas tree? We just bought one and I don't relish the thought of jamming it in the attic only to have to pull it down in two weeks. I don't want to knock November and Thanksgiving, but hasn't it become just pre-December? Thanksgiving is Christmas without the gifts and long vacation. I'd give thanks to not have to pretend like I care.

Gene Weingarten: I believe anyone who puts up a tree before Thanksgiving is going to die before Christmas. I believe that is the rule.

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Fo, MA: If Liz ever got divorced AND that very funny Joel guy got horribly disfigured in a flyaway hair accident, would she go out with me for some vegan walu? No strings attached.

washingtonpost.com: No, apparently I'll be all booked up passionately kissing the still married Gene Weingarten.

Gene Weingarten: But WE WOULD NOT BE CHEATING.

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Gene Confession:"I Confess" -- I feel the EXACT same way about Gene and the chats/articles/columns. I the weekly columns are just not very funny to me (with rare exceptions), but I am a HUGE fan of this chat and am here every week or reading the transcript if I miss it. I think we need a poll on this!

Gene Weingarten: IT would not be a fair poll. This is a self-selected chat audience!

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North Mclean, Va.: Transuranium elements are artificially manufactured elements whose atomic weight exceeds uranium. They typically decompose in a a few microseconds.

Gene Weingarten: We all knew that, smartie.

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Old dog bo, OK: Gene, you may have addressed this before, but when is the Old Dogs book scheduled to be published? We had to euthanize our 17-year-old terrier mix last week, and I know the book would be a big pick-me-up for my wife.

Gene Weingarten: It was going to be May 2008, but just got postponed to fall 2008 for complex but good reasons. It has a big buyer who requested the postponement.

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Flightless Rrh, EA: You have no idea how relieved I am to hear that someone else has been leaking oil. It happened to me a few months ago after eating some duck (and mere moments before a four-hour car trip), and I've been worried almost every time since then that I was about to have a repeat performance. Are there other foods that do this aside from walu, and, apparently, duck?

Gene Weingarten: Peanut butter! Trust me!

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Answer this Liz!: I've been asking for weeks... where are the pics of your new tattoo???

washingtonpost.com: After Thanksgiving.

Gene Weingarten: We are going to hold you to this.

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Wedgies: In the Midwest (or at least suburban Chicagoland), we grew up referring to wedgies as "snuggies."

Gene Weingarten: That actually makes more sense.

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Port Outward, Starboard Home: These folk etymologies that claim a particular word is derived from an acronym of a phrase are almost universally wrong. Very few words in English originated as acronyms -- laser, scuba, snafu being about the only ones -- and all of those date from the 20th century. The word you referred to dates from before the year 1500, according to the Random House Dictionary, and likely derives from the Middle Dutch word fokken, to thrust, copulate with.

Gene Weingarten: I thought it was ficken, from old German.

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Ivyland, Pa.: My favorite eggcorn, from when I was teaching freshman comp, came from a young lady's essay on women and alcohol: "Many bored housewives use alcohol as an escape goat to get away from their problems."

Gene Weingarten: That's appalling on several levels. If you substitute scapegoat for escape goat, it still doesn't make any sense.

FYI: Scapegoat is a term from the Bible, when Aaron selected a goat, symbolically invested him with all the sins of the people, and banished him into the wilderness.

Uh, hm. One being suffering for the sins of all. This sounds like an Old Testament version of what would come some 2000 years later, no?

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How does the Rib feel...: About this passionate kissing thing?

Gene Weingarten: Fine.

Note: I am not going around like Packwood, you know?

Packwood. What a great aptonym. Do we all remember Packwood?

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Re: What: I've said it before and I'll say it again...

No one over the age of twelve should be putting ketchup or catsup on a hot dog.

Gene Weingarten: Of course. I would say 8, not 12.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene, I'm writing because I just looked at your poll. I know that you think that people with children should not divorce. I don't think you can make that kind of a categorical rule. I think growing up in a family where the parents have reached the point of wanting divorce has to be a lot more disruptive to a child than an amicable divorce (and I know a lot of divorces are not amicable). An unhappy home is not a place for a kid to grow up.

I'd also like to note that a lot of times people will stay together for the kids, only to divorce once the kids go to college. Many of my friends saw their parents get divorced in college, and got incredibly messed up because of it. (College is already a time where kids are going through a lot of changes, and having your "home" basically disappear when you're away is really, really hard for college kids to deal with). On the other hand, my parents divorced when I was young enough that I don't really remember it, and had a very friendly divorce. I would say that my parents' divorce affected me a great deal less than it did my friends whose parents "stayed together for the kids."

Gene Weingarten: Interesting point.

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Weingarten's Funniest Column Ever: This week's column on Googlenopes was excellent, Gene, one of the best ever. Not sure if it was Weingarten's Funniest Column Ever, but Weingarten's Funniest Column Ever is a Googlenope, for what it's worth.

Gene Weingarten: Well, thank you. I have heard from others who disagree. Nearly half of this column was contributed by my friend Rachel Manteuffel, who is a Googlenope-yup genius.

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Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: Page's response should have been "B--ch set me up!"

Gene Weingarten: I thought his apology was unnecessarily over the top. I am sure others agree.

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Hysterics: Gene Weingarten: I believe anyone who puts up a tree before Thanksgiving is going to die before Christmas.

I needed that, Gene. Just trust me.

Gene Weingarten: I will.

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Pinky Toenail: As I have gotten older, my left pinky toenail has declared independece from my pinky toe, my other toes, and my body in general. It has decided to grow perpendicular to my toe and developes a natural sharp edge and corner that could probably cut diamonds.

Speaking of which, toes and toenails are subjects my wife of 22 years refuses to discuss with me. When she goes to the podiatrist she refuses to disclose the reasons or procedures and cannot even stand to be anywhere near me when I cut my toenails. I actually know more about the feet and toes of co-workers than I do my own wife.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. That's odd, okay? I don't think this is one of those things that turn out to be a ubiquitous truth, like that all wives turn around when they are putting on their bras. I think this is just you, dude.

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American Standard: Gene,

I can testify that the practice of "Giving a swirlie," is not restricted to the Midwest. The practice was first described to me, but thankfully not practiced on me, by an undergraduate classmate who came from New Jersey. To me, the swirlie has an undeniable New Jersey ambiance about it.

Is "New Jersey ambiance" an oxymoron?

Gene Weingarten: It may even be a googlenope.

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Washington, D.C.: Gene, about the kissing. I'm telling you for the last time - even if your wife wouldn't mind, mine would.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, many would. Gina and used to do a quiz about this. All the hands that went down by the time we got to passionate kissing (hand up if you consider it cheating) were men.

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Re: Still In: I'm in a similar situation to Still In's sly drinking marriage, but we've reached the stage where the problems and hostility are out in the open. We have, I fear, ruined our sons. Divorce is probably the best option but tearing off the bandage is simply too hard. I don't advocate for "staying married for the kids" but either you have a strong marriage or there'll always be some part of your children that's missing. I wish I could fill that part of my boys but we took it away long ago.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, boy.

You know, stasis is not always preferable to disruption.

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Turn the Page: Tim Page's best course of action after his unfortunate e-mail would have been to keep his mouth shut. I'm thinking the PTB at WaPo said "apologize or else."

Too bad. Marion Barry doesn't deserve any apology whatsoever. Page's only error was in sending the e-mail from a WaPo address, creating the impression that he is speaking for the Post. For that he should apologize to Len Downie, maybe, but as for Barry, deffinately not!

Gene Weingarten: You put an extra "f" in "definately."

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Olney, Md.: I have a very satisfactory way of dealing with PR flacks and other spammers. I'm going to have to get my geek on for a bit, but I hope you'll bear with me, as the payoff is quite satisfying.

I own -mylastname].com, so I manage any and all possible e-mail addresses @[mylastname].com. So I will sign up with DCCityCouncil[mylastname].com, MoCoPRlist[mylastname].com, etc., and they all automatically come to my one inbox. When one of them starts to get annoying, I give them ONE CHANCE to unsubscribe me, and then I forward that address to THEIR PR or tech support address. I figure they'll figure it out soon enough, and if not, they'll keep sending themselves e-mails asking me to stop forwarding them back their own e-mails.

Every once or twice a year I'll go turn off the forwarding for addresses that have been forwarded for a good long while, and I have never had one get spammed a second time.

washingtonpost.com: That's a lot of work, nerdo.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, geekboy. Nerdlinger. Fuzzgobbler.

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Chantilly, Va.: Rolling Stone recently published an "almost impossible" rock & roll quiz, with 58 multiple choice questions. You game?

(My wife and I, doing it together, got 27.)

washingtonpost.com: I got 33. That is some good quiz.

Gene Weingarten: I got 32, but I guessed at waaay more than half of them. It's impossible.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm curious how you would have responded to this: I just returned from a trip to Egypt. I was walking along the Nile one evening in Cairo when, as often happens, a man approached with the usual questions: Where are you from, is this your first trip to Egypt, are you enjoying Egypt. He (Achmed, he told me, pronounced as though you had bronchitis) explained that governments can be good or bad but that people are the same, that the holy Koran requires respect for all people and religions (I'm nodding my head through this) ... except Israel, which is a disease that needs to be cut out.

I'm Jewish, but a nonpracticing atheist with my own disagreements with Israel specifically and Zionism generally, so I just politely smiled and continued nodding. Then we shook hands and continued on our ways. I know this isn't a pervert with a camera in a Metro station, but what would you have done?

Gene Weingarten: Exactly as you did.

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Kensington, Md: What can we do about "Ordinary Basil"? How can we convince Wiley that if he wants to write a children's graphic novel, than just do it and spare us? My husband, who owns a Wiley t-shirt, complains that the plot is plodding and predictable,the characters uninteresting, and the artwork is the only thing that makes is ever so slightly interesting. He says he would rather look at cast off sketches of Rolf, the grinning toothy dog, that even try to read "Basil". He skips it completely, but reads "Non Sequitur" every other day of the week, even with the boring Brenda story line. How can we get this across to the cartoonist?

Gene Weingarten: It is a Terrible Mistake. I have said that before. I cannot believe anyone reads it, except Wiley.

I don't know what to do about it. We could all go on a hunger strike, perhaps.

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Marion Barry: When I moved to D.C., I was watching a local news station interview people on the street about re-electing Marion Barry....the reporter, apparently, got some tourists from the Midwest, who answered, "Why would anyone elect a crack head?" The reporter was stunned, and put in, "ALLEGED crackhead" and the lady said, "You believe what you want to believe."

I've often thought of that when I realize I've become too inside the Beltway for my own good and common sense.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

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Googleyup to Nope: Gene,

If a Googleyup disappears, it's most likely because the content owner removed the page. When Google re-indexed the site, it would be removed from the Google index. Thus, making it a Googlenope.

I'm a web developer. You can trust me.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, thank you.

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Mewl and whi, NE: I believe that the various anecdotes about divorce -- the woman with the sick husband, the child with the unloving father -- all tend to bear out the criticisms of the mewlers and whiners. Would you agree, Liz? Gene?

Gene Weingarten: More or less, yes.

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Divorce is probably the best option but tearing off the bandage is simply too hard: Get marriage counseling. NOW. For your sons' sake. Go alone if your spouse will not go with you. IT'S IMPORTANT. I can't believe how many people do not do this when it's so obviously what they need to do.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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This would drive you crazy: There is a lady in a red BMW on the Greenway/Toll Road who drives in the far right lane, driving precisely 35 MPH when she isn't driving precisely 45. This is no matter the weather, time of day, temperature, number of cars on the road, you name it. She always has quite the parade behind her.

What would appropriate punishment be? I've been held hostage to traffic jams that turned out to be NOTHING more than lil ol' her in the right lane, doing her precisely 35 or 45.

I've also seen her when she enters the road - utterly no regard for the fact that she is merging with other cars. She just goes for it, at her 35 MPH, and the other cars move.

I hate her more than I hate GW.

Gene Weingarten: You mean, literally, the same woman causes the same jam every day?

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Toena, IL: Since you're an effort on bizairre medical conditions and this is both a toenail and a divorce chat, maybe you can help me.

Nearly a year ago, I broke one of my toenails while cutting the nail, with a little splinter coming off all the way down to the cuticle. Slightly painful at the time, but not a big deal; I've done this several times with other finger and toenails.

However, every time this nail grows back, it grows back with that sliver still separated. If I cut it again, even back down to the cuticle, it just grows back separated again. It must have done this half a dozen times by now. Is there some way to reunite the estranged sliver with the rest of the nail?

Gene Weingarten: I don't know because I have the same problem.

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Re: Staying together for the kids: My parents divorced after I was 18, and it did kind of mess with me and my two sibs. My father announced that he hadn't been in love with my mother for years, but wanted to wait until we were all adults before leaving. This came as a huge shock to all involved, including my mom (my dad, although he was always a little distant in some ways, never seemed unhappy). What through me for a loop was that my "model" for a happy relationship turned out to be a lie. I'm now 29, and and have serious trust issues. Even when things are going well, I can't help but think that my boyfriend must be hiding his problems/unhappiness from me. Of course, my constant nagging for the boyfriend to tell me what's wrong doesn't help things. Anyway, both my brother and my sister have similar issues. I can't help but think it would have been better for my father to deal with his wanting to leave much earlier.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting.

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RE: Peanut Butter: I can eat that stuff by the jar full (and have before) and have never ever experienced any leakage. Also, my PB of choice used to be Peter Pan (until that whole salmonella outbreak) but now my PB of choice is skippy. And all PB has to be smooth. Chunky PB is just wrong.

Gene Weingarten: Of course chunky is wrong. I'm not sure why they make it, since no actual person would ever prefer it.

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Arlington, Va.: As a matter of common civility, if I say to someone, "I hope you drop dead of an overdose," don't you think I owe that person an apology?

Gene Weingarten: That's not exactly what he said. But even if he had, if said as part of a completely over the top tirade meant to be funny... no, I don't think it requires an apology, necessarily.

However, as I said, I thought Tim's tone was off here, a bit. It was fine to apologize. I don't think he needed to bow and curtsy.

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washingtonpost.com: Well, I love chunky peanut butter. Whole Foods brand.

Gene Weingarten: Well, you also eat hot dogs plain.

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My husband and I ate walu last week and both experienced, um, the symptoms you mentioned.: Until the wahu effect becomes common knowledge, isn't the chef obligated to warn the diner?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, obviously.

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Arlington, Va.: Re the estranged sliver of toenail -- the nail will eventually reunite. It takes about 20 years or so. I speak from experience.

Gene Weingarten: Twenty YEARS?

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Freerice, Washington, D.C.: I couldn't help but notice, while frittering away my time on freerice.com, that it had a record-breaking number of donations on Nov. 6, the day someone mentioned it in your chat.

I propose you pick a day for all your chatters to play obsessively and see if we can hit a certain number.

Does this sound thrilling to anybody except me?

P.S. Does anybody else just select the animal/plant/medieval breastplate option whenever they see an unfamiliar word?

Gene Weingarten: Okay, let's do some serious charity work here. The day is today.

After the chat today, everyone access the free rice site and go for your highest possible score. Anyone who hits 50 (It is very hard -- Pat the Perfect did, but I know of no one else among my friends) from your own e-mail account, at weingarten(at)washpost.com. I will publish the names of all 50s hitters in tomorrow's update. It's on the honor system. I will believe you because you would not lie to me and the others. Liz, the link?

washingtonpost.com: Okay, but no cheating. Don't start until the chat ends: www.freerice.com

Gene Weingarten: Okay. This will be fun. Let's buy that rice, people. Wait five minutes and ... go.

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McLean, Va.: I am not alone. I thought I was the only person in the world with two nails on each pinky toe. It will almost start growing back, then I snag it on something, and it splits again.

Thank you, Gene. I feel so much less alone now.

Gene Weingarten: Perhaps we need to passionately kiss, in a non marriage-threatening way.

Okay, that's it for today. See you all in the updates. Thanks for an interesting chat.

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UPDATED 11.14.07

Gene Weingarten: Here are the names of the people who had hit level 50 at Freerice. I stopped taking names at 8:45 last night.

I am proud of us. I am guessing we have moved many pounds of rice. We'll be watching the day scores.

To the many people who lamented that they never got past level 50: Relax. You did good. There is no level past 50. You just stay there, and keep amassing more rice. Pat the Perfect remained there for 12 consecutive words, which is, so far as I know, the record. Though some of these people may have equalled or bested it:

Eric Stehmer, Patrick Whittle, Matthew Feinstein, Mark Butler, Bonnie Wallace, Lara Bovilsi, Willie Gandebol, Susan Donner, Julie Reynolds, Shani Gentry, Betsy Davis, Ian Gould, Sarah Angerer, Liz Channon, John Lease, Roger Moyer, Adam Bailey, Jennifer Lane, Katherine Dixon-Peugh, Laura Bennett, Mark Borchardt, Joshua Mackay-Smith, Karen Bertocci, Danielle Kiser, Sheila Swift, Jess Clawson, Jessica Sweeney-Platt, Sam Jones, Sarah Christianson, Matthew Christianson (husband and wife who worked independently), Suzanne Stradling, Susan Hoffman, Steve Stackwick, Tim Mesarch, Anne Aaron, Corinne Carter, Robin Dewar, Nancy Johnson, Eugenia Potter, Clay Hambrick and Carl Miller.

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Chun, KY: Chunky PB is what they scrape off the top of the creamying machine at the end of the day. They have to do SOMETHING with it so they sell it to weirdos.

Gene Weingarten: This is so obviously correct. It is the equivalent of the "meat byproducts" that wind up going into dog food.

washingtonpost.com: "Creamying" machine? Puhleeze.

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Carto, ON: There was a Cathy strip about a swirlie? That strikes me as unlikely, given that a comic about a swirlie would have a greater than average chance of being funny.

Gene Weingarten: There is actually a good story about this. I was an editor in Style at the time, and saw the word swirlie used in "Cathy" in what I took to be a highly suggestive context. I was thunderstruck, thinking it a euphemism for a BJ. So I assigned Mr. Paul Farhi to write a story about it; it involved his phoning Guisewite for an explanation.

We ran the story even if it basically pivoted on my dirty mind! Paul probably has never forgiven me.

Lizziepie, can you find this? Search both swirlie and swirly.

washingtonpost.com: Giving a Swirley, Right There in the Comics (Post, Feb. 27, 1993)

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I don't care if you think I'm crazy: Chunky peanut butter on toast with applesauce on top rules.

Gene Weingarten: Also sour cream and ketchup with black olives and those little mini corn on the cobs.

washingtonpost.com: I can now contribute my fresh barf on a Ritz cracker.

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But but but!: Gene, you never told us why the chat was cancelled a couple weeks ago. Can you share with the class? We're nosy! Fill us in!

Gene Weingarten: I didn't mention why only because it is a boring explanation. I was out of town at a wedding, and Liz and I couldn't connect on how do do a certain poll, and Tom the Butcher didn't like my column and wanted a rewrite, so Liz and I both just said, Never Mind.

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Herndon, Va.: My seven-and-a-half-year-old daughter has a bit of an obsession with breast milk. Recently, she asked me what it tasted like. I reminded her that she'd consumed it during her first six months or so. But of course, she doesn't remember what it tastes like. After a bit more badgering from her, I told her it tasted a lot like cow's milk, but it was sweeter. (Yes, of course I tasted it.) She wanted to know if there was more milk in my breasts. We explained that no, there wasn't any.

She knows a fair bit about biology, so she then asked if I'd have more if I had another baby. We said, yes, but we weren't planning on having another.

She then suggested that I get pregnant and that "you don't need to keep the baby after it's born, you can give it away."

What does this say about my child?

Gene Weingarten: It says your child is a child. They say what they think, and that's that. Be delighted she didn't advise you to have the baby and then kill it.

It does remind me of the so-called psycopath's test we discussed here some many months ago.

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UPDATED 11.15.07

Crunchy RULES!: OK Weingarten - this time you've gone too far. I have put up with your wrongheaded pronouncements on the faults of dark chocolate, Hendrix, Russian dressing etc., for some years now - but preferring smooth to crunchy peanut butter - ARE YOU NUTS? Smooth is like eating salty spackle, it cements your mouth closed.

Please 'splain your reasoning.

Gene Weingarten: Putting nuts in peanut butter is like putting barley in single-malt scotch.

You're welcome.

(I'd also very much like to point out that although we have thousands of voluble chatters, only three wrote in to defend chunky peanut butter.)

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College Park, Md.: So I just moved here and have just one question for you: What is up with people's obsessions around here for IKEA? I have a number of gorgeous antiques and collectible furniture from around the globe and as family heirlooms and when I describe them to people, their eyes glaze over. But when I say, 'hey I got this cheap plastic lamp at IKEA' people are ready to wet themselves. What gives?

Gene Weingarten: I have noticed this too and share your amazement. Frankly, I have never understood why anyone would ever buy a new piece of furniture. (Except perhaps where improved technology compels it, such as a bed.)

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Wedgies: I'd love to know what part of suburban Chicago the person who calls them "snuggies" grew up. I grew up in the Northwest suburbs, and they were "undie grundies" out there.

If you slipped some rocks into the back of the victim's briefs first, it was an "Arkansas". I never heard of an "Arkansas" actually happening, but there were rumors that it had happened at least once in Joliet sometime in the early '70s.

Gene Weingarten: They call it a New Jersey when it's done with live sand crabs.

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Jealous: I know Kate [Rears Burgman], too! I used to play in a string quartet with her. And now i'm unaccountably jealous that she knows you and I don't!

Gene Weingarten: You'd be more jealous if you knew the precise circumstances under which Kate and I became friends. But that will remain a secret between the two of us.

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Fixed from Broken, Va.: Hey, Gene:

I don't see any way that I can convey this without coming across as a preachy jerk, but I can't help but notice that, among your readers who dealt with their parents' divorce as a child, there seems to be a theme of "trust issues" and "introverted/shy personalities."

My father left my mother when I was two, and took me with him. She wasn't abusive, or drinking all the time, but she was young, liked to have fun, and wasn't ready to be a mother or a wife. Outside of a couple of visits in the first six months (when he would drive the four hours to take me to her), I haven't seen her since. No calls, no cards, no nothing.

I was a HUGE extrovert as a kid, with a lot of friends, and a knack for getting in trouble for disrupting class. I'm sure people will chalk that up to "desperately seeking the attention my mother never gave me," but that's crap. I'm just funny. My dad received pink homemade cards on Mother's Day (which I'm sure he loved), and it never seemed weird that I had one parent, though I was always the only kid in class raised by dad, not mom.

I used to think that I had trust issues because of "matriarchal abandonment," until my last girlfriend. She was a cheating hussy.

And for everyone who wonders how it could have been different... one night in college, I got a call out of the blue from a young lady introducing herself as my half-sister. Here's what I learned from her about my estranged "mom": she lived unmarried with three daughters from three men, and the middle daughter (the one who called me) was on track to be the first person in the household to finish high school. You'll note I said "person," not "daughter." Conversely, I have a wonderful family (complete with a mom, brought into the mix at the end of junior high), a good job, and a great (trustworthy) girlfriend.

I try not to think about what life would be like if my home hadn't been "broken" as a child. It's pointless, and it's not fair to me, my dad, or my current, real mother. I really hope everyone just approaches situations like this with a broader mindset than I think they often do; you can imagine how I feel when I hear someone jump to the conclusion that the father is the "weekend parent" in a divorced family. "Stay together for the kids" is an incredibly dangerous (and ignorant) phrase, in my opinion.

Thanks, Gene! Oh, and sorry you don't like green peppers tainting your meal; I'm assuming you've tried cooking them seperately and draining before adding to a dish? You can't beat sausage, peppers and onions on a pizza, man!

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

Sorry, but sausage, green pepper and onions don't adequately destroy any vestige of the taste of the actual pizze. You need to add anchovies, lemon wedges and gorgonzola cheese.

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Definite Response: You could start by admitting that your misspelling completely undermines the whole point of that section of your column. Rather, it simply points out that supporters of the presidential candidates listed are more prone to spelling errors than are those who support the President (for the record, there are seven Google hits of the phrase, with the correct spelling, applied to Bush).

You'd think it would be really, really hard to make yourself look dumber than GW these days. However, in this isolated instance at least, you've managed to pull it off. Congrats, Gene!

Gene Weingarten: Lemme just say this: You STILL don't get the joke. It has been EXPLAINED to you, and you STILL don't get it.

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Red BMW: YES YES YES!!! I have seen her no less than 10 times. She putts along expressionless, completely unaware that she in endangering everyone around her. Not to mention how insanely inconsiderate she's being. How is it that she doesn't get pulled over?

Gene Weingarten: We now have four sightings of the same red BMW woman. Is there anyone within the reach of this phosphorus who actually knows this woman and can speak to her about the grief and danger she is causing?

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Word of the year: Are you a "locavore"?

Dumbest one for my money: "previvor."

Gene Weingarten: I'd be a locavore but I love pacific yellowtail sushi too much.

Yes, previvor is the dumbest of these words.

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UPDATED 11.16.07

Brooklyn, N.Y.: Too funny to keep to myself:

My friend is a third grade teacher in the South Bronx. His class consists of mostly 8-year-old Hispanic and African American children. Last week, they took a field trip into Manhattan to go to a museum. On the subway ride over, one of his students pointed at a Hasidic Jew sitting nearby and exclaimed, "Weird! I've been seeing that guy EVERYWHERE!"

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

When I grew up, I kept seeing the same nun everywhere. These days, I keep noticing that the same guys are refereeing every televised football game.

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Smoke crack, get your job back, D.C.: OK, so in his reprimand of Page, Downie is quoted as saying:

Page "has nothing to do with our local political coverage, as a music critic. On the other hand, it was sent on Washington Post e-mail, and he represents The Washington Post in everything he does."

Now, clearly Page should have sent his email back to Team Barry on his own personal email account and not from the Post's servers. But really, is he obligated to "represent the Post in everything he does"? Everything he does? Can he lose his job if he's caught buying a Playboy at Borders, or if his dog gets into the neighbor's flowers? Everything he does?

The implication seems to be theat the Post would have busted Page even if he sent the email from his home account. True? And if true, isn't that waaay over the line?

Gene Weingarten: Well, no. It is not actually over the line. I came to understand this several years ago, when the Chicago Tribune fired columnist Bob Greene for having had sex with a 17-year-old girl he had previously written about.

This act was unrelated to his job. But the Tribune didn't want to have this guy, with this ethical stain, representing them. I understand. In that sense, everything I do DOES reflect on my employer. If they can reasonably find it unacceptable, they have a right to kick my arse out the door.

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Falls Church, Va.: Are you saying that it's OK (or at least not reprimandable) for a reporter to send intemperate criticism to a political figure, but not OK for the politician to publicize it? Since when does a journalist embarce secrecy? Did Page request that the e-mail be off the record?

What if the e-mail had come from a Metro reporter? Or if a national political reporter fired off something like that to one of the presidential candidates?

Surely the controlling factor is that Page was writing outsside his beat, and not that Barry chose to publicize the communication.

Gene Weingarten: They're both controlling factors. The point is, Page was not trying to publicly embarrass Barry. He never intended those comments to be published. It was Barry who decided they should be published.

(Actually, I should amend that: The story was leaked to the media; my presumption is that Barry leaked it, cause I'm pretty danged sure The Post didn't.)

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Carlisle, Pa.: This is another possible outcome if you put your decorations up before Thanksgiving.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.

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Well, you also eat hot dogs plain: Liz eats hot dogs?

Gene Weingarten: She eats tofu hot dogs, dry, on a white-bread bun with no condiments. I have seen her eat two or three of these at one sitting. She also drinks Pabst Lite from styrofoam cups.

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Poo Farts: An ex-boyfriend used to describe the Shart or Poo Fart thusly. He'd get this look on his face, tear off to the bathroom, and come back stating "I gambled and lost."

Always cracked me up.

Gene Weingarten: Haha.

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Packwo, OD: Almost three years ago to the day, I was waiting outside the Chinese consulate to catch a cab back to work. After trying for about 10 minutes, an older man walked up beside me (nicely dress with a large briefcase) and said that he also needed a cab. Since the cabs were rare in that area, we agreed to share one. When a cab finally pulls up, he gets in and puts his briefcase on the far side of the back seat and sits in the middle! I am not kidding. I was running really late for work, so I got in beside him. It was so awkward. Every time the cab turned, he would lean in to me instead of grabbing something to stabilize himself.

He then says he has to pick up someone else up on the way to his meeting. We go out of our way to get this other guy, who sits in the front seat. He turns around and makes some snide remark about his friend picking up hot girls before lunch (I was young and hot and totally mortified). Cab finally gets to my office, the guy says he'll pay for my ride and gives me his card. Yep, it was Packwood. I didn't know who he was at the time, but my parents thought it was hilarious when I told them the story. There is no such thing as a free ride.

Gene Weingarten: Years ago, The Rib had a sleazy old guy in the back seat of a car cheerfully explain to her the term "benefit curves." It's what happens when the car turns and centripetal force pressed him against her.

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"A ubiquitous truth, like that all wives turn around when they are putting on their bras": What? Have I been doing this wrong? I never turn away from my husband to put on my bra. He loves watching, I love that he loves watching... did I miss a Wife Memo on this?

Gene Weingarten: You did. Eighty-seven percent of all wives turn away to put on a bra, apparently because the action involved is undignified.

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washingtonpost.com: Psychopath's Test or Next Week's Chat?

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