Chatological Humor: Marry Me. (UPDATED 5.23.08)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 20, 2008; 12:00 PM

Daily Updates: WED | THURS | FRI

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.

Not chat day? Visit the Gene Pool.

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


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

You may have read that more than a hundred long-time Post employees took the buyout offer last week. I am not one of them. I've decided to stay for a lot of complicated reasons, some financial, some emotional, some practical, such as the fact that there remain only a handful of other great newspapers in the world (and I'm including Le Monde, Die Welt, and The Hindustan Times) and I don't think any of them would permit me to keep making jokes about poop.

You may know that among the buyout takers are David Broder (whose column will continue on contract for an indeterminate period), Tony Kornheiser, and Deborah Heard, the talented and beloved Assistant Managing Editor in charge of the Style Section.

You may not know that one other buyout-taker is my close friend Pat Myers, aka Pat the Perfect, the world's funniest copy editor. Pat's leaving on December 1. It is strongly likely that when Pat goes so will her close friend and associate, The Empress of The Style Invitational. Whether The Post will continue the Invitational is at this point unknown. I don't think they have decided. If you have strong opinions one way or the other, it would not hurt if they heard from you.


We bring you sad news of the death of Will Elder, who was the man who first got me interested in both the cartoon arts and in sedition as humor. Elder was the most creative brain behind the original Mad magazine, in the late 1950s. Elder's genius was not just in his art but in his subversion: He turned slaphappy family-friendly icons like the Archie Comics and the Howdy Doody show into brilliantly dark, hilarious parodies that got parents deeply upset but created a generation of joyfully sarcastic kids.

Here is a link to some of the great Will Elder's best work work.


In Chatological Humor's continuing efforts to help Tom the Butcher cope with his double-letter disability, Justin Perras offers: "Re desert vs. dessert -- You always want to go back to get seconds of dessert. The really dry place is the other one."

And on a related matter pertaining to our recent discussion of spell check, today's CLOD, or Clip of the Day is this, courtesy of Dan Ramish. I find it amazing that the guy was able to memorize this.

WAIT. This just in, from my friend Jeff Arch! This is great! You don't even need a translation!


Let's all be nice to Liz Kelly today. She's kind of upset and distracted because her favorite cousin, R., is going on trial on charges of filming sex with an underage girl.


Please take today's poll. I promise it's the last long poll for a while. Next week's poll will feature questions like:

Indian curry:

A. Good

B. Bad.


The Comic Pick of the Week is Monday's Candorville. First Runner-Up is Sunday's Zits. Honorables: Sunday's Candorville, Sunday's Lio.

Okay, let's go.


Anti-crosswords: Dear Gene-

Word Finds rock my socks off, so don't hate. And I solved all five Post Hunt puzzles so I claim at least a modicum of creative intelligence.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, we need to discuss this.

You are a smart person, obviously. There are truly interesting puzzles out there made for smart people like you: Crosswords, acrostics, cryptograms, diagramless crosswords, sudoku, cryptic crosswords. These require qualities like logic, word facility, esoteric factual knowledge,general intelligence, and so forth.

"Word find" puzzles are barely more challenging than "connect the dots." A six year old who can read is equally qualified to do them as a 50 year old. Call me elitist, but whenever I see someone doing a Word Find puzzle on the Metro, there is something about that person -- a textbook in remedial math, a misspelled tattoo, etc. -- that tells me this is not a mental giant. They are entertainment for simpletons.

Defend yourself.


Kasparov: It's good to see security guards willing to take a penis for their boss.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.


Strong Opinion here: Style and Grace have left The Post.

Gene Weingarten: Everyone is nervous.

We just don't know how this will play out. I can tell you that the loss of Pat alone is enormous. You need to be an insider, pretty much, to know what it means to lose a great copy editor.


McLean, Va.: Some time ago, in this discussion, the Empress agreed that at some indeterminate future time, the Second Place Loser award would be the skull shifter head from a certain Mazda 323. I understand that this skull shifter head was removed from said Mazda 323 when its eyes failed to light. What I want to know is this: Was the skull shifter head retained as an SI prize? Will the Empress award the skull shifter head as a Second Place Loser prize before the Style Invitational ends its run?

Gene Weingarten: Oooh. I had forgotten this, or never knew it. I must find it. It is Available.


Arlington: G-Dub. How in THE hell can anyone claim that the "Comics" clue was hard? The comedians made it obvious what the topic was, Liz and Ginger walking around with the comics pages made it obvious where to look (not to mention that everyone was reading the Comics section) and the numbers weren't terribly hard to find. What was hard about it?

(Every other clue was @#$! impossible, btw.) And yet there were people who -- when offered a Comics section -- declined, saying "I have one at home."

Gene Weingarten: Heh heh.

As Tom said yesterday, the monitors at the fortune cookie site watched several times as small children were tugging at parents' clothing saying, "It tastes like coconut!" and the parents said, "Ssh. We're trying to solve the puzzle."


Washington, D.C.: Gene, I've read and mostly agreed with your views on extravagant weddings. What are your thoughts on proposals and how they should be conducted?

Gene Weingarten: Well, to me, proposals are funny. Because they carry a special word. Like, it's such a big deal. You know I don't think marriage is such a big deal, so making a big production out of a proposal is even sillier.

I was married twice, and I can't recall either "proposal." The second one was probably more like: "I think we should have a baby." Followed by "Oh, crap, I guess we have to get married, then."

Back to your question: Since I think getting all worked up over a proposal is silly, the kind of proposal I recommend is a funny one: A parody of a proposal, for humor sake. So, yes, a grand, sweeping heroic scale, as a way of laughing at the conceit. BUT NOT IN PUBLIC.

I want to repeat that: NOT IN PUBLIC. I believe no woman wants to be put on the spot with people watching. I think the guys who do it on a Jumbotron, with the camera focused, are astounding asshats.


Arlington, VA: Can you explain the reasoning behind private (and public) Universities having multi-BILLION (yes, with a "B") dollar endowments? I understand having investments and having some money stored away for an emergency, but how does it make any sense for them to have that much and still charge $40,000 a year in tuition? I was told that the larger the endowment the more likely they are to get money donated by rich people. How does THAT make ANY sense?

Gene Weingarten: I've never understood this, either! Can a higher educator assist us?


Manassas, Va.: The inadvertant timing of Sunday's WAPO Mag offering a Kennedy joke got me thinking... what was the worst all-time bad timing of a published news or column item that could not be stopped?

Gene Weingarten: I can answer that! In 1984 (?) the Philadelphia Inquirer magazine did a cover story on what a great guy, and straight shooter Gary Hart was. Between the time it was printed and the time it was published, the Donna Rice affair broke.


Loo, NY: When I worked in a U.S. Senate office, we'd get calls like these all the time, too. Letters, too. One man began every call by stating that he was "County-Federal" and that the government had blinded him with nerve gas. Another sent us detailed sketches of the flying saucers that were beaming rays into his head. My favorite was the person who wrote long, paranoid letters about how discriminatory it was that the government was taking away her pilot's license.

Because we had a policy that every constituent deserves a response, these people invariably got the form letter that stated "I have looked into this matter on your behalf, and it does not appear there is anything I can do to assist you." Naturally, this response confirmed that we were part of the conspiracy. Below the Beltway: Teddy Stole My Panties, ( Post Magazine, May 18)

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I felt kinda bad about writing this column, but when I discussed it with my ethics guru, he said, "Hey, if it's impossible to laugh at the foil hatters, what has the world come to?"


Washington, D.C.: Word finds - sometimes you just need to do something completely brainless to rest a bit. I bet you feel the same way about solitaire.

Gene Weingarten: Solitaire is an interesting comparison: But solitaire involves a little strategy. And memory. It's NOT brainless. Word Find puzzles are childplay.


Word Fi, ND: I agree. I hate word finds. Always have. I, too, think they are for simpletons.

That said, there were about 5,000 simpletons doing a glorified word find in the crossword solution during the end-game to the Hunt on Sunday afternoon.

Gene Weingarten: True nuff.


Katy, Tex.: I was checking out the video in the first poll question. After it finished the next video automatically began, of a mother in China weeping for her missing daughter after the earthquake. It's kind of hard to care about the Post Hunt now.

Gene Weingarten: I know. Very bad juxto.


Moping, D.C.: Gene, I got dumped this weekend. So, I did what any Weingarten-reading female with eroded self-esteem would do -- I put on my knee-high boots and a skirt for my morning Metro ride. There was no ogling to be had, not even a furtive glance. As a flinger of virtual panties for three years, may I ask you to return the favor just this once? Could you toss me a virtual leer as I walk up the escalator?

Gene Weingarten: I've been watching you for days. Your ex is an idiot.


McLean, Va.: I can understand why many people are taking the buyout, particularly those who are age 50 and older. With the financial future of large newspapers looking poor, the risk of staying and getting laid off without a golden handshake becomes larger and larger. For those who don't have large, recurring financial obligations (e.g. paying college tuition for children), it makes sense to leave voluntarily and start another career phase rather than to stay and risk being suddenly without a job.

Buyouts are happening in other industries as well. One of my good friends, in his later 30s, had to decide whether to take a buyout from Sprint recently. Not an easy decision to make, particularly with a short time frame for decision and long time frame for finding a new job.

Gene Weingarten: I think you've explained this well.


Light Bulb Riddle: Another week, let's see if you're still too gutless to post this.

Your light bulb riddle solution doesn't work if the light has a CF bulb. Like horse-drawn carriages and newspapers, your riddle will be obsolete in a few years.

Please Gene, just address this issue so that it can be proven that you will submit comments that might prove you wrong.

--Your friends in the light bulb industry

Gene Weingarten: Correct, I did not post this, even though you have been an annoying dillweed, but not because I am a coward. I did not post it for the simple reason that it is wrong. CF lightbulbs claim a 75 percent reduction in heat, not a complete reduction.

But knowing that would not been enough for an insistent dillweed such as yourself, I conducted the experiment in my own home, just now. I am seated in my dining room. All the lights in my basement are compact fluorescents. They are controllable from a switch on the wall near me. First I went downstairs and partially unscrewed one of them. Then I came back upstairs and turned on all the lights downstairs. Then I waited exactly the five minutes specified in the riddle. Then I turned off the lights from upstairs, and descended the stairs.

The unscrewed bulb was substantially cooler than the others. The others were not "hot," the way an incandescent bulb would be, but were definitely warm to the touch. You lose.


Badly-timed story: This year's Parade magazine profile of Benazir Bhutto and her plans for the future that came out a week or so after her death.

Gene Weingarten: Correct. In a way, not as bad, though.


Let me add: To the pile of dozens (hundreds?) of comments saying what a relief it is you aren't taking the buyout. Not because we'd miss you -- you would still, I am sure, continue these chats as freelance, but because it means someone still thinks that newspapers are worth hanging around for.

Gene Weingarten: I do think that. I think in this case, change might be beneficial. An old paradigm is being aggressively re-thought.


Not in, D.C.: So I go to the Post Web site Sunday to see its spectacular coverage of the incredible Post Hunt and find ... nothing on the home page ... nothing on the Style page ... oh, there it is, hiding on the Local page, a link to ... all of three user-submitted photos.

I suppose I could dig back through chats and whatever to see if you mentioned some other page for this, but, hey, if your own Web folks don't think it's worth my attention, why should I? Listen Buster, the Post Hunt was flogged within an inch of its life last week on the site, in the prime art position at various times over the weekend and featured -- along with six videos turned around over night -- on the homepage today in a prominent position until midday.

Gene Weingarten: Chatwoman mad.


Johanssonville: What do you think of this?

I'll tell you what I think. I think the production is awful, you can hardly hear her voice on most tracks. Perhaps the producers did that on purpose.

Gene Weingarten: It's definitely on purpose. Her voice is terrible; they are fuzzing her out and drowning her out.

This is a work of runaway vanity.


Washington, D.C.: Was it your intention that only teams with a cell phone could win a prize in the Post Hunt?

Gene Weingarten: Well, yes, but we TOLD people to bring cell phones. If you didn't have it, it was your own fault. We could not have said it any more clearly. We said it twice.


Friendship Heights: Just saying that Sunday's Candorville made me laugh so hard I nearly peed myself. This past holiday season, my family and I had a heated discussion over how some of us couldn't remember all of our cursive letters, and a duel ensued to see who could write them the fastest, with my dad insisting he would win, since he went to Catholic school, and the nuns make you learn good penmanship.

We (my parents, myself, my older brother and my sister-in-law) all furiously scribbled letters down in attempt to win, with my brother wailing that he couldn't remember "Q" (he's 35). My father, a man usually possessed with a stellar memory, was finished first. Or so we thought. When he revealed his paper, he had neatly PRINTED all of the letters. Of course, hilarity ensued, and my brother demanded to know if dad needed remedial help. Seriously. Dad thought we couldn't remember our normal letters for some reason, like we were back in kindergarten.

For months, that piece of paper with the printed alphabet was on the fridge.

Oh, and who won the cursive contest? My sister-in-law, who quietly completed the alphabet while we were mocking my dad. Might I add, she's Japanese, and English isn't even her first language?

Thanks for reminding me of a great laugh. I sent the link to my mom.

Gene Weingarten: You know, NO ONE ever figured out a capital Q. It always looked stupid, like a flowery 2. I write it like a block letter. I made that change when I was about 15.


Consiracy Theories: It's bad enough that clueless Post readers may be misled by the clues planted in the magazine and comics, but what about the rest of the country? Is there an army of folks coming up with diabolical explanations for the numbers appearing in the three comics? Or do they get an explanation somewhere somehow (without stumbling on the Post)?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I owe a great thank you to Stephan Pastis, Jef Mallett, and Berkeley Breathed. They were great sports about it. I'm sure they're getting dozens of letters from elsewhere in the country asking, yknow, what that "nine" was about.


The Desert: Makes sure you point out to Tom that the phrase "just deserts" has the word with only one 's', but is pronounced like the one with two. (It's a different word from either the dry sandy place or the after-dinner sweet.)

Gene Weingarten: This is WAY beyond Tom.


Man2, FL: Gene, it was nice meeting you-all, especially Liz. But, I was scouring the crowd for Rachel (and Caitlin) only to learn now that you hid them in a costume.

Are you truly insane?

Gene Weingarten: They were visible for most of the Hunt. They were at the Presidents' site. Plus, when they were in costume, they wore only the deer HEAD.


Another weird Post link: In the story about obese kids in the 'burbs:

Caitlin's fitness class at Fair Oaks is the one McDonnell's pediatrician suggested for Devlin. F.U.N. (Fitness, Understanding and Nutrition) is a class for children 7 to 11 that covers healthy eating, exercises such as obstacle courses and tae kwon do.

The link? The "U.N." in the middle of the word "F.U.N."

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.


Hunt: Would it have killed you to have a live webcam feed from the stage, though?

Gene Weingarten: Maybe next year. Meanwhile, Liz will link below to a clip just sent me by Dave George, the emcee comic at the Comics Site. On a dare, he did one of his gigs very badly, imitating a Bad Comic. If you never saw Dave, or weren't at the Hunt, rest assured the guy who bombs here is a terrific, world class standup comic.

_______________________ Video: Dave George


Capital Q: Could chatwoman please link to a capital Q? Thank ye. You can see one here

Gene Weingarten: It's ridiculous, isn't it?


Juneau, Alaska: I've been waiting a week to point out that the guy who was forced to sit on a Jet Blue toilet for a whole flight was named Gokhan.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Re: public proposals: I actually know a woman who wanted a public proposal, so she choreagraphed the entire thing. She had her then-boyfriend (now husband) call all of her friends to be in this restaurant with her, picked the date and restaurant, and had her hubby tell everyone it was a surprise. I suspected it wasn't and so made an excuse not to be there. She later told me (and only me) that she had staged the whole thing... but NOT to be ironic, just because she wanted all the attention on her. She wanted to create a perfect moment.

She's fake in other ways too, so it didn't surprise me.

Gene Weingarten: This is diseased person. Really crappy.


Centreville, Va.: I'm curious as to why puzzles are being judged as "unfair" in the poll. It seems to me the only way that they would be unfair would be in the event that some people were given critical information not available to everyone.

Maybe it's just a reaction to not being able to solve them. Our team buzzed through four out of five but then spent an incredible amount of time gnashing our teeth and wondering why weren't getting the fortune cookie puzzle. It turned out that the wee one on our team, who apparently doesn't know from coconut, scarfed the cookie before any of us got close to it. When we found out the cookie flavor was an integral part of the puzzle, my first reaction was "oh, man, that's not fair!" But then a second later, I had to acknowledge that it was just our own spaz.

So, Gene, could you send me one of the 10,000 leftovers, so I can complete the Hunt? Thanks. Can't wait for next year.

Gene Weingarten: Yep! Send me your address to weingarten(at)


Portland, Ore.: Tom the Butcher pronounces it "ruse-a-velt"? Other than Archie Bunker, I've never heard anyone say ruse-a-velt.

Gene Weingarten: I have made fun of Tom's pronunciation for years. He also takes his dog to the vetinarian. He looks at his reflection in a meer. When his teeth hurt, he goes to the dennis.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, and concerts are given in an ampitheater.


Comics: Are the online versions different? I wanted to see what all this talk of numbers in the comics was, and I looked up Sunday's Pearls Before Swines, and I see no nine. What am I missing?

Gene Weingarten: It's too hard to see online, I think. One of the beer cans, instead of saying BEER, says SIX.


In that same article:"Pop-tart" is highlighted on page 3. When you click on it, one of the first things listed is "Stripper poles to go", and article from Fox News.

Gene Weingarten: Wow.


NotSoF, AT: Gene:

Sorry I missed the Hunt last weekend, sounds like everyone had a blast. But I have a question for you:

I'm a large guy -- could stand to lose about 60 pounds or so. If, in the spirit of the Hunt, I had come up to you wearing a t-shirt with a marijuana leaf on it, handed you a black tea kettle, and then presented my hand to you, palm up, what would you have done?

Gene Weingarten: I'm thinking.


Gamesmagazi, NE: re: the Post Hunt. I seem to recall a Games Magazine hunt from back in the 70's or 80's involving "searching for my lost shaker of salt". Does that even ring a bell or was I as wasted as Buffett?

Gene Weingarten: In 1985, I wrote a story for GAMES magazine about the first Tropic Hunt. You may be remembering that, though to the best of my recollection, the first Hunt didn't have a lost shaker of salt.


Bob Barr follow-up: I was surprised at your answer last week about renaming airports. Remember, when National was renamed, it was still a character short of "Baltimore/Washington International Airport". Then, (and wasn't it Bob Barr who decided this, also?) to allow BWI to crush Montoro Airport for longest airport name, BWI was renamed "Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport" a full nine characters longer than Montoro and nineteen longer than National.

BTW, I'm not sure if I remember this correctly, but didn't it cost $2 million to change the signs for this; and didn't the Post write several editorials condemning this frivolous renaming?

Gene Weingarten: You're right! It's the official name. Boy is that a stupid name!


3G26: Oh, maven of aptonyms:

I came across the following at, regarding the city of Meggido in Israel:

"Here is a priceless detail: The key excavator of Meggido in the first half of the 20th century was an Englishman named I am not making this up - P.L.O. Guy."

Wow. Poop.

But this aptonym is practically a prediction. A prophecy, if you will.

I humbly await your judgment on what to call this kind of aptonym.

Gene Weingarten: It is the highest form of aptonym, actually, because it transcends time. I think it is the strongest proof to date of the existence of a deity.


Arlington, Va.: I see that Scarlett Johansson has released a music CD. I wonder if you could direct me to a recent photo of her?

Thanks! Sigh.

Gene Weingarten: Thanks, honey.


Maryland: Geeeeeeeeene! I just got a positive pregnancy test! (Actually more than one.) I hate my job though, and it appears to not have any sort of maternity leave or short term disability. The company is also too small to qualify for FMLA. Therefore, I'm switching my job search into panic mode.

When I go in for interviews (if I EVER manage to land an interview), should I tell them I'm pregnant? I'm fairly sure I'm not legally required to tell them, but ethically speaking I'm not sure. It would suck to hire a new employee only to learn two weeks in that she's going on maternity leave in five months. Also, if I didn't tell them in the interview and winded up getting the job, would I be at risk of being terminated before the end of my probationary period? I'm fairly sure they wouldn't have to give a reason to fire me, at least during my probationary period.


Gene Weingarten: You need to talk to an expert in workplace law, but if you want a practical answer, here's mine:

I think you need to tell a prospective employer that you are pregnant, even at the risk of losing the job. And I know this discriminates against women, since no man will ever be in that position. Here's why I say it:

I have been in hiring positions in my life. If I hired a female reporter who accepted the job and then told me she was pregnant, I would feel (justifiably, given the way you asked the question) misled. I would never quite trust this person again. And the hell of it is, had she told me in advance, it would not have dissuaded me from hiring her. I would have bluntly asked how long maternity leave she planned on taking, and as long as it was not an unreasonable time, it would not have affected my hiring decision.

It might even have made me slightly MORE inclined to hire her, because we both would know it took some character to make that disclosure.

Look at the question you've asked, and how you've asked it. You are really asking whether I think it is okay to be deceitful. I don't. But it may be legal.


Reston, Va.: This one's for Liz...

Did the powers that be implement a font size and type change on the site this morning at approx. 11:15 or is it just me? The front page is the same, but all of the other pages are appearing in tiny font. I'm using a Mac and running Firefox if it matters.

I know I can increase the font size manually, I'm just curious. Thanks! Hmmm, I'm also on a Mac and running Firefox and all looks well to me. Try going to your "View" menu and scrolling to Text Size> Normal.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, what she said.


"Not fair": There is only one puzzle to which "not fair" applies.

I hate Second Chance with the white-hot intensity of a thousand burning suns.

Who's with me?

Gene Weingarten: Several people have asked what "Not Fair" means in this context. It doesn't mean it's too hard, it means it's illogical: That other answers might seem just as right.

I do think this was the toughest of all of them.


T the B: Does he also visit the "liberry" on occasion?

Gene Weingarten: No.


Opus Hunt: Gene,

A friend was telling me about Hunt (she went, I couldn't) and when I looked at the Opus strip, the first thing I thought of when she pointed it out was Al Hirschfeld. Did Breathed do that on purpose? And were the other numbers in the strip used as decoys?

Gene Weingarten: Yep, it was an homage to Hirschfeld, I believe. "Nine" was done exactly the way Hirschfeld did "Nina."

The other numbers were coincidence! He wasn't trying to be deceptive.


You've changed the world (or at least mine): Not only do I no longer wear white bras under white shirts and I now know where to buy "good" tampons, but your recent column on the evils of spell check have made me change my ways.

I still use spell check, but now, when I mispell a word (like I just did), I do not allow the spell checker to automatically correct it. I find the correct spelling, and then I retype the word. I don't know if this will help, but it is making me much more aware of just what my mistakes are, instead of thinking, oops, I misspelled misspell again.

And I now know how to spell embarrass.

Gene Weingarten: Wow. Changing the world, one misspeller at a time.


College Park, Md.: Gene, I must say that I don't know how I feel about your arch answer. Definitely the hardest of the puzzles. We thought the arch looked like the symbol for pi, but 3.14 and 314 weren't clues. But there was a pie drawn on the map, so we went to the church where the pie was located. Nothing. Hahaha.

Then, we went back to it and realized that we needed to look back on our chart to find the arch shape. "Angry men." It was the only answer that I contributed to my team, so that was good. (Between the six of us, we solved all five!) But I have no idea where I pulled "12 Angry Men" from... I've never seen the play or movie, but that's what came to mind.

Have you ever mentioned "12 Angry Men" in this chat?

Gene Weingarten: Not before this moment.


Washington, D.C.: Gene, there's been a debate about your weight recently and whether you're fat. When, in your opinion, does someone going from being overweight to full-blown fat? You've stated that you're about 5'9" and 185 pounds, which puts your BMI at 27.3. Above the healthy number, but below the obese category (30 and above). So when does one go from a bit pudgy to a fatty?

Gene Weingarten: Okay, let's do this one more time, and then drop it!

I am five ten (maybe a few millimeters short of that, by now) and 175 pounds. I do not have an athlete's build. I have the muscle tone of a fish, and not one of those sleek fish, like trout. I'm like a flounder or a crappie.

My height and weight translates into a BMI of 25.1, technically at the very lower edge of "overweight," or at the high edge of "normal." I disagree with this. I consider myself pretty overweight. I think I should lose 12 pounds. I would not call myself "fat," though.

I'm not sure where this discussion began, but it reached a crescendo last week, when I promised people that if they came up to me at The Hunt, concluded I was fat, and were willing to say it to my face, I'd give 'em five bucks. In fact, I carried with me a pocket full of fives, but no one called me on it.

To answer your first question, I hereby declare someone fat if 50 percent of the general population would look at someone and say, "He is fat." Or she.

By the way, it's not all about numbers. Tiki Barber, during his football days, was my height and outweighed me by 40 pounds. Tiki was not fat or even overweight, obviously. It's a lot about muscle and tone.


Roundabo, UT: "Gene Weingarten: Right. Actually, the team that arrived third was a fraud. They were apparently just following a running person. They put name and cell phone on their slip of paper, but not the additional thing needed: MCI. Which means they had not heard phone call, which means they didn't know why they were there, which means all they won was this here BOO."

Gene -

I was a member of that team, and I can assure you that we did not follow anyone. What happened was we didn't have all of the puzzles solved correctly, we messed up the Carnegie Library one. We had an answer of 105, after many iterations of putting V's, 5's, and U's together on maps and notebooks. Once we got the end game clue, we went to the crossword puzzle, and totally did things wrong, trying to solve things. We saw the word EDSAL, and dropped the EDS, and were left with AL, which sounded like L. We then went to the point on the map that had the old school typewriter L key on it. That point just so happened to be the endpoint. That's why we didn't have MCI written on the paper. Your wife really did give us a funny look, too. So, in closing, please don't boo us. We didn't cheat.

Gene Weingarten: This is phenomenal. You bumbled your way to the right place, through no fault of your own! This is why we include passwords that only an actual right-way winner could supply.

Thank you for the clarification and I'm sorry I yelled at you.

Hey, you did win something, though! You are one of very, very, very few participants in Chatological Humor who has met The Rib.


The One who Beat the winners there???.....: Hey Gene:

I missed the hunt discussion on Monday but I had to chime in. I'm pretty sure that I actually beat all of the hunt winners to the L street spot and stupidly stood there to watch people come running up and win the game while I had no idea why I was there.

Recap -- Got the clues for Caps, former, home, name and thought it was MCI. But I had the fifth clue wrong but it included "Eds" oddly enough. My last clue was something like "Ignore of all this, move right along. -EDS".

In the bottom right of the puzzle there was a word "EDSEL"... Moving right along EDS you get "EL"--- or "L" finding the spot on the map I went there. Saw the girl with the video camera hiding it behind the Metro Express stand and the blond female and the Red Sox hat guy and found myself instead staring at the Indian outside the cigar store wondering what the heck I was supposed to be looking at... a few minutes later, I noticed teams sprinting up to the guy in the hat. I took a shot at verbally answering saying random things like Philadelphia and seven (I forget why now) but saw the chance of winning slipping before my eyes. How about a T-shirt for the "first person to make it to the end site but have no clue why she is there award"???!!!

Did your intel tell you about me, the dumb one?

I even saw the guy who followed them there writing something random on his paper. What a weird surreal spot to be in!

Thanks for great experience!

Gene Weingarten: I cannot believe that there were two of you! Tom and I are laughing our butts off right now. This is the rule of unintended consequences.

That was no "blonde female," that was my wife.


Teamwork USA: What I really liked about the Hunt was that it rewarded teamwork. My wife and I (next year we're adding more to the team) got 4 of the 5 clues pretty quickly. 2 I figured out quickly and the other 2 she figured out quickly. Neither of us would have been able to figure out the other two because our brains work differently.

The fifth? I swear to god, those fortune cookies tasted like almonds (which i have a vague recollection of some fortune cookies naturally tasting like), and she hates them so didnt eat it.

But cheers! We had a great time!

Gene Weingarten: It's essential to have two or more people. I don't think even Will Shortz would do as well alone as he would with a partner.


Roosevelt: Umm, how does everyone else say it?

Gene Weingarten: ROSE-e-velt, not RUSE-e-velt.


What do you make of...:... this? It's a story about a family being horrified that the cross marking where their family member died in a crash was stolen.

It's been there since 2001.

It isn't a cemetery, it's AN INTERSECTION!

Thank you, I feel better now.

Gene Weingarten: True, but, man. Who would steal such a thing?


re: pregnancy: Nope! You are under no obligation to tell them that you are pregnant, and they cannot, as a matter of law, ask you whether you are or whether you plan to get pregnant, etc. And, if they failed to hire you because you are pregnant, they would be violating the law.

Don't tell them you are pregnant. Realistically, you won't know whether (and it would be almost impossible to prove) their failure to hire you was because you are pregnant. And, really, a lot of companies would prefer not to know, if only because it limits their liability if they chose not to hire you for other reasons.

Gene Weingarten: Sigh. Okay.

I don't like it.


We get it, the Hunt was fun: Enough already... how many articles, polls, and chats are going to be devoted to this thing?

Gene Weingarten: You're just adding to it now, aren't you?


Kensington, Md: Hey, Gene. Just read the Post Hunt chat transcript. Couldn't participate in the Hunt (we have several Tropic Hunts under our belts) because my stupid daughter graduated from stupid GW Sunday and the day had to be alllll about her. Greedy brat. (She's sitting here with me laughing.)

I read the post from the team that arrived third, but didn't have MCI written down. When they were informed that they in fact had not placed 3rd, was there a scene of any kind? Was pepper spray or straight jackets involved? Did The Rib have take anyone out with her famous "Fist of Justice"?

Gene Weingarten: Do you think we're nuts? They were not informed they didn't win at the scene. They found out they didn't win.

Also, we've heard from them: They're nice people, not cheaters at all. They got there through some odd misdirection, so didn't deserve to win, but they played by the rules. And are not bitter.


RE: Not in, D.C.: That's a brutal post, given that the web staff spent six hours at the Hunt, followed by 10+ hours back at the office to turn around the after-Hunt package of multiple videos and other fun stuff.

Gene Weingarten: Very true. The dotcom people worked through the night to get you that package. The package was extraordinary. The poster just, like, was a moron.


Notsofat...: I'm a large guy -- could stand to lose about 60 pounds or so. If, in the spirit of the Hunt, I had come up to you wearing a t-shirt with a marijuana leaf on it, handed you a black tea kettle, and then presented my hand to you, palm up, what would you have done?

I'll wager it has something to do with the pot calling the kettle black.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I got that far. But what am I sposta put in his hand?


Washington, D.C.:"I believe no woman wants to be put on the spot with people watching. I think the guys who do it on a Jumbotron, with the camera focused, are astounding asshats."

With all due respect, please allow me to tell you how wrong you are. I would do ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING (including EVERYTHING) to get my BF of five years to propose to me. And if it was on a Jumbotron, so much the better. He couldn't back out of it that way. Not with 30,000+ witnesses.

Gene Weingarten: Okay. If I were you, and he did that to me, I'd punch him in the face. On national TV.

Wait a minute: Why don't you propose to him?


Oh come on already: The pot calling the kettle black. You would give the guys 5 bucks.

Gene Weingarten: Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.

Thank you.

See, I TOLD you I couldn't win my own Hunt.


Arlington, Va.: Is Gene "fat" or not? My determinant -- can he fit in a size 12 dress?

Re: the St Paul scavenger hunt and how it turns out -- I can tell you now--the medallion gets found.... I would pay real American dollars to see Gene in a dress.

Gene Weingarten: How MANY real American dollars, Lizziepie?


Unfun, NY: The Tennessee GOP is swift boating Michelle Obama; McCain is calling Barack "reckless." Still want to opine on how this will be an election the nation can be proud of?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I agree with you. I think that this will be a foul election. I sort of address this issue in my column this Sunday. An election will be as dirty as necessary, within the context of the time and the frame of the circumstances.

This will involve race, "patriotism," and age. It's gonna get vile. It will be about lapel pins, the pastor disaster, Michelle Obama, DNA degradation, etc. You will probably see the "hundred years in Iraq" quote tromped out, even though McCain never said it.


Panties?: Do you feel bad for making fun of Ted Kennedy when he is sick? Or does that add to the humor? (I'm assuming the column was written before the seizure.) Below the Beltway: Teddy Stole My Panties, ( Post Magazine, May 18)

Gene Weingarten: Yep, this was a potential inadvertent disaster. This was one of the two things Tom and I woke up to on Sunday. The other were predictions of inclement weather including thunderstorms, lightning, and "hail."


Pundustry: Did you see Howard Kurtz's front-page article in yesterday's Post? Bill O'Reilly seems to have blown a gasket, even by his standards, in his feud with Keith Olbermann and various suits from various parent companies. It's the Blowhard Olympics! Feud Fuels Bill O'Reilly's Blasts at GE, ( Post, May 19)

Gene Weingarten: He is one mean guy. I am glad I got him peeved a few weeks ago. People should do things subversively, just to watch him blow.


Miami, Florida: Whose idea was it to have the volunteers give out a hint to help solve the Chinatown arch puzzle? Because that really prevented the Hunt from being a huge disaster, if you ask me. You should thank that person, whoever it was.

Gene Weingarten: It was Dave. But I am guessing this is also Dave, posting. Hi, Dave.


Comics Stage: Gene, what gives with not having any female comedians on the stage? Are you saying women can't do stand-up? I will give you credit for having an African-American, a bald guy and a gay guy. But why no female?

Gene Weingarten: If we'd had four, there would have been a female. The fifth would have been an American Samoan.

For the record, I have no idea, and don't care, if there was a gay guy.


HAHAHA - the intersection cross story: Gene, I absolutely do not want to make fun of the tragic loss suffered by the family but read the article. It explains the man's death thusly: a vehicle made an illegal U-turn and "T-boned him on his motorcycle".

Gene Weingarten: WOW!


Perhaps you need a new boyfriend: The phrase "He couldn't back out of it that way" doesn't send romantic ripples up my spine.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I was gonna say...


Chinatown, Va.: During the Hunt, I stopped in a restaurant in Chinatown to get some egg rolls to go. While I waited at the counter for my order, I laid my magazine and Chinese character sheet on the counter. The cashier picked up the sheet and started asking me, in strictly merely understandable English, whether I were learning Chinese. I began to (try to) explain what I was doing with the paper. Then she put her hand over her mouth, as if to stifle a kind of naughty laugh, and pointed at one of the characters and said it was what I was.

This did not help with the Chinese arch clue.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.


Just one more: For the Post Hunt the Magazine contained real articles and just a few clues/misdirections. Is it the same for the Herald Hunt or is the entire magazine part of the game?

Gene Weingarten: Sometimes there are hidden clues, sometimes not. There's no consistent template, for obvious reasons.


Raleigh, N.C.: Hi, I'm the gal who's having the outdoor wedding and pig pickin' instead of something foofy and traditional. You've already blessed this choice. I have to disagree on the kibosh on public proposals. I think any marriage proposal that is heartfelt, and appropriate to the couple is fine. When my guy proposed, we were in the patio area of Flaming Amy's Burrito Barn (extra meat is a "doublewide" and discounts for flashing your tattoos on Tuesdays), in Wilmington, N.C.. I was in the process of dripping sour cream and guacamole onto my white shirt, creating a mess that had no equal, splashed right there across my "shoes" and he said "I can't imagine my life without you. Marry me." No planning or pretense. He just felt right about it at the time. And it was perfect, despite the fact that it was public. And I can rest confident that he'll still love me whenever I'm covered in dirt and sweat and cow manure from my job. Because if he can love me and want to marry me with guac-y boobs, he can love me when I'm other kinds of a mess.

Gene Weingarten: That's not what I meant by public. By public I meant done deliberately so others can watch. Jumbotron and such.


Wait a minute: Why don't you propose to him?: Uhh, Gene, what makes you think that she hasn't proposed?

Gene Weingarten: Doesn't a relationship generally sorta end if there is a proposal and a rejection?


PG Job Searcher: The problem is, she might tell someone who's exactly the opposite of you. It's like coming out as gay -- you can't untell after getting a bad reaction.

Of course, no-one would want to work for the opposite of you so that's a sorta red herring.

I hired a woman who later told me she was pg. I didn't make a big deal out of it. She did her work and came back after the baby was born.

Gene Weingarten: I will concede I may be wrong about my answer. But I can only say, I'd feel misled. And it would not have been necessary to mislead me.

Women: Do y'all feel I'm wrong here?


Girl at the endspot part two...: Sorry, your wife. Didn't mean to offend. Tell her and the gentleman in the Redsox hat thanks for telling me not to feel so stupid by saying at least I "made it this far." Didn't really help, but nevertheless it was a nice gesture.

At least I wasn't on camera!

Gene Weingarten: Not that you KNOW of.


Ballston, Va.: I was actually annoyed they were giving out hints at the Arch -- for my wife made the necessary mental leap without hearing the hint, and that meant the staff was helping people who were not us!

Gene Weingarten: I don't think the hint was necessary. Dave does. He and I will be debating this until one of us is dead.


Large university endowments: It's so that here at Harvard, we can make t-shirts that say "Well Endowed."

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Baby bump, D.C.: I am on the fence re: your assessment of the pregnancy disclosure situation. I hired a young woman last summer and she informed me about four weeks after she started (as she began to show) that she was expecting in February. I was disappointed that she had not told me during the interview process, and I would like to think that I would have hired her regardless. Her two month absence this spring was not that big of a deal, we covered for her as well as another employee out on medical leave. On the one hand, I did have a few days of feeling misled and annoyed with her. On the other hand, as a woman, I can't say that I wouldn't do the same thing if the timing was coincidental - especially if the hiring manager is male. Honestly, I suspect if there had been another equally qualified candidate and she had disclosed, I might not have hired her. It pains me to admit it.

By the way, it is perfectly legal for the pregnant applicant to "conceal" their situation during interviews and in fact it seems fairly commonplace for women to do so. Several years ago I had a supervisor who specifically went out shopping for a job with better benefits and got pregnant (on purpose) about a month after she started there. Part of me was disgusted, part of me was impressed. As a non-breeder, who am I to judge her priorities?

Gene Weingarten: Well, yeah, that is the specific situation with the poster: She wants a job with better benefits BECAUSE of her pregnancy.

It bothers me.


Large university endowments: (whoops, hit submit too soon)

Also so we can say things like "If you don't believe in God, believe in Harvard"

(Harvard is the 2nd richest institution in the world, behind only the Catholic Church)

Gene Weingarten: More than the House of Saud?


Silver Spring, Md.: I'm a woman and yes, I feel you're wrong about the pregnancy thing.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.


Pregnant at wo, RK: If you were interviewing yet had an unnoticeable disease, would you tell your interviewer that you might have to be out of work for treatment?

Gene Weingarten: Yeah. I think so.


FebRUary: Does he say Feb-U-ary or Feb-RU-ary?

I remember being ridiculed in High School for pronouncing the R. I still rememeber the name of the person who did, she thought very highly of herself.

Gene Weingarten: I think he says FebRUary, because I cannot recall making fun of him for this particular error. And I am on his case ALL the time.


Washington, D.C. proposal again:"Doesn't a relationship generally sorta end if there is a proposal and a rejection?"

It's not an outright rejection. It keeps being more along the lines of "one day."

Gene Weingarten: Right, understood.


Pregnancy confessional: Don't tell. Not to be grim, but it's still early and you don't know if you'll still be pregnant four months from now.

Once you're out of the first tri, do as Gene says, but up until then it's too touch-and-go.

This message brought to you by someone who just lost her second pregnancy in a row on Friday. Sigh.

Gene Weingarten: Aw. I'm sorry. And thank you.


crazy propos, AL: I disagree. There are some women who LOVE that the world is watching her get proposed to. My friend was proposed to on a booze cruise while a plane flew overhead with a "Will you Marry Me?" banner behind it. I received several picture slide shows of the event (a friend was brought along on the cruise so he could document every min.) and that is not even counting the 30 or so times I heard the whole story retold.

I think it's a perfect way to tell if a couple belongs together. If the man knows the woman wants this crap and then plans and executes it, then he deserves her.

Gene Weingarten: Sorry, but I am reading that last line as a cynical double entendre. I know you didn't mean it.


Proposing in Public: I know someone who proposed to his now-wife at the Tropic Hunt!

Gene Weingarten: Yaaaaaaay.


The Arch...: We didn't need the clue. We didn't solve it immediately but that was because we just didn't see the arch in the puzzle but when we came back later we got it quickly. It was the first one we went to so I thought it was just us warming up to the game. I notice Dave was at that spot right away, he really did worry about it.

Gene Weingarten: He was PANICKED.

The night before, at Tom's house, he was completely bereft! The whole Hunt would die at that puzzle!


Oklahoma City, Okla.: I wish I could offer a source, but I read (heard? was taught?) that the Theodore Roosevelt branch of the family pronounced the name "ruse-a-velt" while the FDR branch pronounced it "rose-a-velt". But while we are on the subject, "nuptials" is pronounced "nup-shels" (dammit, where's the schwa when you need it?) not "nup-chu-als", and there is no "n" in "Restaurateur". Thanks.

Gene Weingarten: Someone else said this, too, about Roosevelt. I really don't want it to be true, for obvious reasons, but will check.


Washington, D.C.: Did you notice that both Breathed and Mallet hid other numerals in their strips? The s in the title "OPUS" was a 5. In Frazz, the word "school" had both a 5 instead of an s, and an 8 instead of the two o's. The second occurrence of that word didn't have the 5, but it did have the 8. So we weren't sure which hidden numbers to use, until we finally noticed the "nine" on the doctor's coat, and decided to use the spelled-out numbers "six," "eight," and "nine," and ignore the hidden numerals 5, 8, 8 and 5.

Gene Weingarten: I disagree about the S being a 5.

But we noticed the "oo" looking like an eight. We noticed this at the very last minute. It turns out that is simply how Patty Mallett (who inks Jef's art) makes a double o! If the hidden number had been anything but eight, we'd a been scrood!


Ny, NY: I am a 27 year old woman and I think you are completely correct about the pregnancy thing. Deceitful is deceitful, even if it's "legal."

Gene Weingarten: I think we're in the minority! I don't get it, but I think we happen to be in the minority.


RE: Work Pregnancy: Perhaps the equitable answer would be that the interviewee should drop a Post Hunt-style hint about the pregnancy, and if the interviewer does not get it, too bad. Something like, "My split ends make for dead hare" or something like that.

Gene Weingarten: Good idea!

Okay, we're done. Thank you all, excellent chat. Nothing Hunt related next week, and I'll be updating as usual through the week.


UPDATED 5.21.08

Gene Weingarten: There's been a great deal of followup mail about the case of the pregnant woman who wants to know if she needs to tell a prospective employer about her condition. Today, I will print some of the posts, and then reveal my New, Improved Position on the matter, which because of my Doctor of Thinkology Degree, has the force of law and may not be challenged.

By the way, workplace authorities confirmed what I suspected: The woman has no LEGAL obligation to disclose her pregnancy; this is entirely a matter of personal ethics. Important caveat: In any case, the woman does not qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act, which permits extended maternity leave, because that only applies after you have been working at a place for a full year.

Pregnancy, in general, is a highly inconvenient matter, certainly for the ma, but also for the employer. Case in point, submitted by a woman named Debra:

After getting married and moving to another state I applied for a job to cover a one year maternity leave. When I interviewed for the job, I wasn't pregnant. When they offered me the job, I wasn't pregnant. My first day on the job I was expecting to get my period ¿ but I didn't. I was so regular that as I went through my first day orientation I began to realize I could be pregnant. I was. I began to show so soon and I knew I needed to muster up the courage to tell my boss that I too was pregnant. He was stunned then laughed. They had to hire someone to cover a maternity to cover the other maternity leave. I worked eight months of the twelve.


San Diego, Calif.: Why is it deceitful to conceal a pregnancy, even to your potential boss? It's none of his/her business.

Gene Weingarten: Sorry, but I don't think it's this cut and dried. You're not gonna be a very reliable employee that first year -- you'll be gone for, say, half the year. You see ABSOLUTEY NO ethical issue here?

I think if the reason you were going to be gone half the year were anything other than the obviously personal issue of childbirth or something else health related, you wouldn't be asking the question. If you knew you had to spend six months in Australia preparing for the Olympics, would you feel an obligation to, like, mention this to a prospective employer?


Telling: Isn't the only reason that you would tell a prospective employer about a pregnancy or illness is because it would make a difference in hiring? If it shouldn't make a difference, they don't need to tell.

My sister felt as you do, has told at every interview (well, now it's obvious.) Things would go great until the point of disclosure, then no job.

Gene Weingarten: This is why it's complicated.

I am surprised to read this post, and didn't really understand why until after the chat, when I was discussing it with a friend. My hiring experiences are all in newsrooms, where no decision is casual. The criterion is creative talent, and differences in creative talent between two candidates are usually pretty clear. No two potential hirees are fungible. So you eventually know EXACTLY which person you want. And if that person tells you "I'm pregnant," it doesn't matter at all. THIS IS THE PERSON YOU WANT and doing without her for a few months is a small price to pay.

I can see that in other industries, at other levels of hiring, two people might be more fungible. If Ms. A is gonna be gone for a while, no problema, just grab Ms. B from that stack of resumes over there.


Washington, D.C.: Gene

I'm sorry, I love you and agree with you on most everything, but you're wrong on this pregnancy thing. Pregnancy is a legally protected disability and they cannot refuse to her hire her on those grounds, but she sounded like she was applying for a gov't job and having been involved in that process on both sides, people want someone now to fill a spot that's been long vacant. So they would come up with anohter reason not to hire her. And she is perfectly within her right (1) to be pregnant (2) to be looking for a job and (3) to keep that personal medical information to herself. Should I tell every guy I meet in a bar that my mom and grandmother have both had really invasive breast cancer and there are very high chances that I will have to deal with that by the time I'm 60? No, because it's not information someone needs to know AT THAT POINT. I appreciate that you're enlightened, I appreciate that you're sensitive to feeling misled, but she needs a job and she is perfectly within her rights here.

On a side note, my law school told women to take off engagement rings before interviews with law firms because the male partners would think they were just going to drop everything and make tons of babies. And I was told never to wear a pantsuit to an interview because men in hiring positions "like their women in skirts." so... while you are enlightened, not everyone is. That's why there's those laws prohibiting people from asking about pregnancy, etc.

Gene Weingarten: Understood.

Actually, the "dropping a ton of babies" notion raises another ethical question.

Woman A gets an important job and, in the next 15 years, proceeds to have 12 children. She is not at work longer than she is at work. We know it is her right, we celebrate the freedoms that make it her right, we are darn-tootin' THRILLED for her and everything, but can anyone understand how this might make her employer walk around punching little holes in the wall with his fist?


Arlington, Va.: Re the pregnancy question -- I think you're right -- when I was pregnant with my now 16-year-old son, I was looking for another job (not with the idea to get better benefits, just a better job) -- and I was very upfront with them -- I told them I was seven weeks pregnant, I told them that I wanted to be upfront and that by being upfront with them it would indicate the type of person/employee I was and could be. I was hired. And I think if I weren't hired, I would know that I wouldn't want to work for them. Just my 2 cents . . .

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, but I am seeing the other side, too, now.

My final edict on the matter appears below.


Gene Weingarten: I think, ethically, a woman should disclose her pregnancy immediately after she has been offered a job, but before she accepts it. She is maneuvering the situation to her favor, since it is going to be difficult if not legally impossible for the employer to withdraw the offer, but it also opens a moment of dialogue. It establishes her character, implying that she might not accept if they can persuade her this is a terrible hardship for them. In fact, he might well say something at that moment that persuades her she doesn't want to work there. It gives an opportunity to discuss, in advance, the amount of leave you are allowed by company policy, and how much leave you intend to take.

All in all, it creates dialogue, which is good.

As an employer, I would not feel I had been deceived by this approach. As a job seeker, I would not feel I had done anything sneaky.

So, that's it.


UPDATED 5.22.08

Gene Weingarten: Urgent breaking wind news!


Srs Advice: I am 19. I used to do the whole serial monogamy thing until realizing that due to past trauma, I cannot have sex. It's like there is an invisible wall between me and the intercourse, and I will not budge. I have started turning guys down for dates, because I figure the natural progression of a romantic relationship is to eventually have sex.

Yesterday a friend I really like asked me out. I said no. I think I am doing the right thing, but am not positive. Do you think I'm doing the right thing?

Gene Weingarten: You are not doing the right thing.

The right thing is to seek counseling. Can anyone with more knowledge than I suggest what sort of counseling this young woman needs?

Sex is an important part of the enjoyment of life. Intimacy is essential for happiness. You must not give up on the possibility of this; there are professionals who can bring you through it.


Videoga, ME: My nominees for Inventors of the Year.

Gene Weingarten: I am in love with both Belgian women at the end of this video.


Washington, D.C.: Gene

I am not outraged at your answer in your updates re: drunk driving being a victimless crime, but think your answer belies some fundamental misunderstandings of the rule of law and the role of the criminal justice system. Yes, drunk driving is, until you hit someone, a victimless crime. So, in theory, is firing your gun into a crowd. No victims unless you hit someone. but, in both instances, the potential for injury is so great, and the injury that could occur is the most severe injury of all (death), that the criminal justice system and the law have a responsibility to deter such behavior, even when it is victimless. Laws exist, in their truest form, to protect us from ourselves and others. So, while person A in your example does not take risks, person B, under the guise of knowing his limits, takes enormous risks with his and others' lives every time he drives everyone home even when he's had a lot to drink. All it takes is one miscalculation, one drink too many, one person who stumbles into the street ahead of him or changes lanes unexpectadly, and then its a completely unjustifiable risk with a huge repurcussion. So, that's where teh deterrent function of our laws, and the rightful stigmatization of drunk driving comes in. This is not judging people who do/have drunk driven, just explaining the function of laws in that. (Because, with the frequency it occurs, the retributive or punitive repurcussions of drunk driving are very light, so the prime function of routine drunk driving stops is deterrence).

OK, there's my thoughts. I'm sure you'll get angry, I thought I'd try reason and coming from a point that doesn't totally disagree with you, but thinks people who drive after drinking are terribly selfish.

Gene Weingarten: Here's the difference between drunk driving and firing a gun into a crowd:

"Drunk driving" is a misnomer. It's actually "driving with a percentage of alcohol in your body that the government has decided indicates sufficient incapacitation in the average person to impair one's judgment and reflexes."

People have different tolerances for alcohol. Some people might be legally impaired but not actually impaired.

I agree it is better to err on the side of caution; I am not opposed to DUI laws. I am just reiterating that I consider driving with booze in you to be esentially a victimless crime, unless it isn't.


Oversensitive People: I've never seen Hax take on this subject, and I believe I would prefer your thoughts on it anyway. How do you deal with over-sensitive people? This is a friend who tends to take things very personally -- it's hard to joke around with her, and I feel like I have to walk on eggshells. I know it's not that I am an insensitive jerk. She's a gorgeous woman and can't get a man to ask her out more than a few times. She recently got in trouble with her boss because she became prickly over a perceived (meaning it never happened) slight. I have gotten to the point where I avoid hanging out with her because I can't be myself out of fear of her overreacting about something. I am not ready to dump her as a friend - she has other qualities that redeem her a bit. My normal way of dealing with a difficult person is humor, but it doesn't work on her. It's a catch-22 - how do you tell someone they are oversenstive if they tend to react badly? How do you deal with this difficult type of personality?

Gene Weingarten: This is a superior conundrum: How do you tell an oversensitive person that she is oversensitive?

You know, this is a devastating character flaw, as evidenced by the fact that she can't sustain a relationship. But you can't tell her! It's impossible, like trying to taste your own tongue.


Aptonyms: I'm sure you saw this.

Also, in high school, I had a chemistry teacher named Mr. Formulak.

Gene Weingarten: Nice. An exercise expert named Alastair Thin.


Word Find: Then what is the difference between search for words and searching for differences in those photo puzzles? No brain power for either.

Gene Weingarten: Absolutely no difference, as I tell Tom the Butcher all the time.


Puzzleville: I want to chime in here. My six-year-old LOVES word find puzzles. She works them during church when there is a lot to distract her -- we keep standing up and siting down, and singing, etc. It is easy to pick that back up and get right back into it. She also likes to work the Sudoku with me -- when I get down to one number left in a row or square, she figures out which one it is. I don't ride the Metro, but I can see where you might want something totally mindless while riding to work.

Gene Weingarten: "My six year old LOVES word find puzzles."



UPDATED 5.23.08

Anywhere: It's hard to imagine why any journalist, unless he/she was reaching a "certain age," would take a buy-out and leave The Washington Post... working for a paper with such an amazing rep is the goal of every journalist, I would think. One could even win a Pulitzer!

Gene Weingarten: Well, all of the candidates for the buyout are at least 50, and some are in their 60s. The financial incentive is huge. I totally understand anyone making this decision, particularly if they can find other employment.

The deal I turned down would have given me $200,000 in cash and a lifetime yearly pension of $45,000.

Now do you understand?


Bad Timing: The January 1964 issue of Mad Magazine (which, I guess, went to press in early November of 1963 and likely hit the stands in mid-December) has a rendering of JFK dreaming of a Playboy Bunny. That was unfortunate timing.

Gene Weingarten: I don't remember this, but it is incredible if true. Can anyone confirm this?


Over the top weddings: My cousin has called everyone and made the following dress code demands for her wedding: men in tuxes and ladies in pastel or "light neutral" shades. No black, grey, or jewel tones. We're not in the wedding party (though eight women and eight men are). My question is, she didn't specify black tuxes. Can my husband, brother & brother-in-law rent blue tuxes? We're not terribly close, and though we all had big, gaudy weddings, we think she's a little presumptuous.

p.s. She also sent me a link to a $175 suit she thought I should buy for my son to wear to the wedding. He will be four months old at that time.

Gene Weingarten: I am revising my thinking about big, gaudy weddings. I now think they should actually be illegal.


Washington, D.C.: "You need to be an insider, pretty much, to know what it means to lose a great copy editor."

I'm not really an insider, but my father is a 20-year newspaper veteran (an editor), and his newspaper (medium-sized city, owned by large corporation) has basically turned copy editing into pagination and layout. He has nothing but trouble from his "copy editors".

So you have my sympathy.

(And if the Style Invitational dies, I will cry. Seriously. And I've never even submitted an entry.)

Gene Weingarten: Killing the Invitational would be a serious error. I believe the readership is huge and cultlike.


Washington, D.C.: Re: Pants Gymnastics

Terrific video. Definitely looks real to me.

You could say that the guys in the video do not "put their pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else." I bet I'm the 50th person who has made this joke.

Gene Weingarten: Nope. You were the first.


Washington D.C.: Hope you had fun at the Hunt. It's still in the future, so I also hope that you're still with us, and didn't suffer a horrible accident involving an overflowing porta-potty and an exposed electrical wire.

My question is very important, and so I'm going to keep submitting til you answer. Fair warning.

Is there a word for the construction "funny schmunny"? You know what I mean... altering the word with a nonsense sound to convey disagreement with the concept. "Handsome schmandsome... he's a troll." What is this called, and might it be a yiddish thing?

Gene Weingarten: It's called a Knocknissel. But you have to pronounce the first K. I just made this up, based on some faux Yiddish from my youth.


Electi, ON: This election could get even nastier if we start letting parrots weigh in.

Gene Weingarten: This is not even the BEST Barack Obama parrot. Try this one.


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