Chatological Humor: Driving on the Shoulder of the Internet

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 18, 2008; 12:00 PM

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, Weingarten 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: MEN | WOMEN

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. I haven't the time to edit them out. -- Liz

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

We shall have a short but important intro today. It is provoked by the following correspondence from a reader, just in:

"Is it 'snuck' or 'sneaked'? I've been curious ever since Jennifer Garner attempted to correct Conan O'Brien."

Okay, listen up. We have trod these grounds before. I have decided to re-tread them, but this time with a vengeance.

To the poster: It is sneaked, or it WAS sneaked throughout much of English and American history, until knuckleheads began to misuse the word roughly midway through the last century, with about as much class as Dizzy Dean exhibited when he reported that Phil Rizzuto had "slud" into third base.

The misuse continued unabated until snuck... stuck. (Note, it did not "sticked." There are knee-jerk reasons people thought it was "snuck," albeit bad ones.)

Anyway, you will now find "snuck" in dictionaries, for no reason other than the fact that it got uttered incorrectly so many times by the ignorati. (The Brits still regard "snuck" to be an illiteracy. )

We have deplored this sort of thing often in this chat, week after week, new entries in the dictionaries like "irregardless," new pronunciations like "Feb you erry," expanded definitions that accept "infer" and a synonym of "imply" and such. We have politely entertained the counter-argument that a language is fluid and alive, and that English is improved, rather than diminished, by the judicious application of public ignorance over time.

We accept this as true, and celebrate it with prim little pat-pat-pat high-society cocktail-party applause. But we don't have to like it. Or take it sitting down.

I propose today that we all come up with a new noun, one that will work its way into the dictionaries through repeated usage on the Web. The definition of this noun will be "A word that has worked its way into the dictionary through 1) common misuse, and 2) the hesitancy/cowardice/unwillingness of dictionary editors to challenge the utterings of the ignorant.

Here's my suggestion: A "stupidiom."

You will do better.

The Clip of the Day is this one from Onion TV. There is mild profanity.

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Stephanie Smilay points out this remarkable headline from The Washington Post. We will entertain no further comments about it.

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As to the madness that is VPL, look at these efforts to hide it. When will humanity learn some things are meant to be?

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And on a related topic, here is an actual official White House photo. One wonders how many of the assembled guests (surely many) are stifling knowing grins: (We are reliably informed they represented that they were making "W"'s with their fingers.

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Please take today's poll (MEN | WOMEN).

Pat the Perfect read the poll and noted that there seem to be two kinds of people in the wired world, those who type their casual communications using capital letters in appropriate places, and those who do not. Hence, today's ... Instapoll.

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There is no worthy CPOW. Notable of applause this week: Monday's Brewster Rockit, Sunday's Argyle Sweater, today's Frazz and today's Rhymes with Orange.

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Hotda, MN: Re: "Are you still working on that?"

My wife and I eat very slowly, frequently setting our cutlery down, sipping wine, chatting - - you know, civilized dining, not just stoking the boiler. So we get that alot. I've stolen a line from our local food critic and now respond "I am dining, not digging ditches."

Gene Weingarten: There is an analogy in journalism.

When I first got to The Washington Post, I discovered to my dismay that the verb colloquially used to describe what an editor does to a story was "move." As in, "I moved the story." As in, "I did what I had to do to it, and sent it to the copy desk for further processing."

It was an understandable shortening, but bothered me, and during one of the first meetings I had with other editors, I earnestly protested this terminology. I said it made editors sound like stevedores, schlepping words from one place to another.

I believe I was instantly labeled an asshat. This was 20 years ago. The word The Post currently uses to describe what editors do to stories is still "move."

Having said all that, I find excessively leisurely dining at a restaurant to be a bit annoying, and very annoying if there are people waiting. In fact, I find "dining" to be pretentious. Okay, I find you pretentious. Sorry. I do like your place name.

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MensWear Dept, Tysons Corner: Gene and Liz,

I'm SHOCKED, SHOCKED, I tell you, to see the President and his guests making those gestures!

Gene Weingarten: It is, indeed, shocking.

I wonder if there is an age of chatter either too old or too young to get the reference.

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Alexandria, Va.: A new word... like meh?

Gene Weingarten: I have no problem with meh. It is not a corruption of something correct into something incorrect.

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Washington, D.C.: It is interesting that "driving while talking on a cell phone" is rated the least annoying of all the listed bad-driver things to do. I find that cell phone talking causes all these other things.

Fair warning: if I see you talking on your phone and trying to cut into an exit lane or turning lane, I will do everything I can to keep you out. Next time, hang up the freakin' phone and pay attention to the road, jackass. (If you're a harried parent or obvious tourist, I'll be much more likely to let you in front of me. As long as you're not on the phone.)

Gene Weingarten: My answer would have been the people like you.

Unless we are talking about sneaking into a line, I think not letting people get into the right lane is lousy and petty and rotten. And dangerous: When people are trying to get into the right lane, they often really need to get there.

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LandofCleve, OH: As much as I find the "He went to Jared's" annoying (which was less cringe inducing than woman screeching,er, singing in the radio spots) I couldn't in good conscious vote for it since I work there. And why didn't you include Toyaota's "Saved by zero" ad campaign which was intentionally annoying by being aired as every other commercial?

Jewelry related aptonym - from an article "Sales of high-end jewelry lose their luster" the following (first name):

In Manhattan's famed Diamond District, Wall Street bankers have been known to splurge their bonus money on flashy jewels at Ultimate Jewelry Designs. But Gem Sezgin, one of the store's longtime employees, says big-ticket items have lost their allure among New York's high-rollers.

Gene Weingarten: Good aptonym.

"He went to Jared's" is the worst commercial currently on TV. I object to it on several levels:

1. I really dislike ads where people behave in a completely unbelievable way and say things no actual person would say. "He went to Jared's" is something no woman is ever going to say out of joy that her friend got a diamond.

2. Jared's is not Tiffany's. It's sort of a ridiculous sentiment on its face.

3. This is yet another in a series of diamond ads that subtly portrays women as buyable commodities. It's not as bad as 1-800-HER-LOVE, but the undertone here is disturbing; the man is a catch because he has purchased a diamond. Gosh, does he have a brother? Yeck.

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New York, N.Y.: You totally forgot the "Saved by Zero" commercial! That is the worst commercial, with the worst song.

There's even press on this commercial.

Gene Weingarten: Several people have mentioned despising this commercial, and I have no idea why, except for its ubiquity. It seems like a completely ordinary, hardly-worth-noticing, unobtrusive, lame-jingle ad. To me, the biggest puzzle is why the car company feels it is worth spending tens of millions of dollars spooning out this thin soup.

Can someone explain hatred for this ad?

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Leg Crossing: Hi Gene! A while back I remember you said that you had knee pain due to crossing your legs and you had to break yourself of the habit. I find myself in the same predicament, and I never realized what an addict I am. It's really a weird thing to do if you think about it, but so far I've been unable to make myself stop. Did anything work for you?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, a very effective cure happened when my left foot stopped working, almost entirely, because the nerve was compressed. Liz, can you find this column? Search for "jake walk."

Break yourself of the habit, now.

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Not so reliable: "We are reliably informed they represented that they were making "W"'s with their fingers" No no no. That is the Arizona State "pitch fork" which long predates the "other" gesture. That must be some ASU team.

Gene Weingarten: It is, sorry. Thank you. That's what I MEANT to say.

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Richmond: Moronicon

Gene Weingarten: Not bad. But it sounds more like a sympbol than a word.

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washingtonpost.com: Below the Beltway, (Feb. 3, 2008)

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Washington, D.C.: I don't understand the symbol in the picture. I am 42.

Gene Weingarten: It is a symbol popularized by Snoop Dogg, called "the shocker." It has very vulgar connotations.

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WDC: How about "ignologism"?

Gene Weingarten: Good. More.

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My. Favorite. Poll. Ever.: I am glad I am not the only one who is tired of Main Street vs Wall Street. I don't even know anyone who lives on Main Street. And in NYC, isn't Wall Street close to Main Street?

Gene Weingarten: You all did really well on this poll. The Main Street/Wall Street cliche was clearly the worst. As the campaign dragged on, it became unbearable. All four candidates kept going to it, as though it were in some sort of manual of what to say.

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Thank you...: for "Old Dogs." I especially loved Skippy and Paula both forgetting the "rules." In fact, I had to stop reading for a while after that.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. Skippy might have been my favorite story.

Skippy is 17. He is mostly blind, and mostly deaf, and is getting a little vague and eccentric. He lives in an extended family with Paula, a grandma with a touch of Alzheimer's. Paula keeps forgetting she's not supposed to feed Skippy at the table, and Skippy keeps forgetting he's not supposed to beg. It works out fine.

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Rockville: My mom was an English major, so I understand all the complaints today and can put up with them.

But maybe we could discuss things hurtful to math-minded people? Like the Post's high school quarterback rating system that said that "anything multiplied or divided by 0 is 0." NOOOOO! Anything divided by 0 is undefined!

And what about the advertisments with misplaced decimals: "On sale for 0.50 cents!" Can I really give them a penny and tell them to keep the change? I'd try it but I know the cashier wouldn't understand.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

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Stupidiom: Submitted for your disapproval:

"Drug" as a past-tense form of "drag."

Oy.

Gene Weingarten: It'll get in the dic. Just you wait.

Then, "piz-ghetti."

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Grammar question: This has bothered me for a long time and I would like to know if I'm completely wrong.

An aspect of my job is technical writing. There are many multi-word groupings for companies, techniques etc that are shortened with an acronym after the initial usage. So, Head Pontificator becomes HP.

When we have more than one HP, I write it like this: The HPs took a three hour lunch to ponder the importance of ball bearings in the universe.

Someone always corrects me by writing "HP's", putting the word into the possessive. When you spell out the words, you'd never throw an apostrophe in there - is it correct to do so when using an acronym?

This tugs my crazy chain, but I am willing to admit I'm wrong if you or Pat the Perfect says so.

Gene Weingarten: You are correct. If you write it correctly, it's the HP's problem, not yours.

See?

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No, no, he's, uh ... resting: Gene, this is the best thing I have read in a long time. I'm dying to know your take on it, and what you think it says about humor.

Gene Weingarten: What I think is that it pretty much explains everything that has gone on in Hagar The Horrible AND Beetle Bailey for the last 30 years.

Also, the joke about the ugly wife is "Take my wife. Please."

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Correcti, ON: The name of the store is Jared (the Galleria of Jewelry), and I believe they actually say "He went to Jared." No apostrophe-S.

Gene Weingarten: I think that's right. Thanks.

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Reason no. 298756 why I drive a manual shift car: "People who try to cut into a long line for an exit."

All you ladies can wait in the line like good little sheeple, good luck with that. Eat my dust as I downshift and ease my baby into the exit lane exactly where I want to and then zoom off to my destination.

P.S. I'm a woman.

Gene Weingarten: People hate you. People in this chat hate you. I don't. I am pretty agnostic on this subject, but I know from past discussions that you are loathed.

We have visited this area before and do not have to dwell in it again, but I have thought a lot about it since, and I do see a middle ground. I do not understand why the moment a few people decide collectively, in some silent conspiracy of the prim and meek, that it is time to queue up to leave the highway in an orderly fashion, in becomes incumbent upon everyone else to fall meekly into their exit strategy.

What if I personally favor the wait-a-little-longer-then-it's-every-driver-for-himself strategy, which tends to reward the more nimble? Why are YOU the boss of ME?

Look at this this way: The polite exit line that somehow spontaneously forms, as by tacit agreement, three-quarters of a mile from the exit, operates on a certain principle. The principle is that those people who wish to exit need to slow themselves down a LOT for a LONG time, while everyone else in the road gets a boon: THEY get to speed up since all those cars to the right are unnaturally cramming themselves into a traffic jam a half mile early

Who says that is the right way? Maybe the best way to do this (dynamically, for the optimum benefit of all traffic) is to have cars sort of compete for the exit a quarter mile before, using their various skills and whatnot to find the best route? Isn't it possible that system works more expeditiously for most people?

This debate is not one that can reasonably be had. Why? Because by forming their dainty little orderly line, the conspiracy of the prim has declared the rest of us criminals and will get all haughty about letting us in.

Having said all that, I see limits. There is an extreme to which I do not go, a point beyond which I won't ease into an extant exit line. I'm not going to travel its length a half mile then zip in at the last minute. That seems rude. It's something of an art, knowing how much you can push it, and when you must stop.

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Traffic S, IN: You omitted the worst: driving on the shoulder to pass stalled traffic. It's understandable to get to an off-ramp when the stalled cars on going further, but too often it's just some butt-chapeau who won't wait in line. Drives me absolutely, literally virtually crazy.

Gene Weingarten: Uh, okay. In the spirit of the last answer:

What is wrong with this? So long as you are endangering no one. Shouldn't EVERYONE do this to get traffic moving?

What is wrong with all you Rules Followers?

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Funny Commercial: Have you seen the one where the parents are trying to find hints for what to buy their son for Christmas and the mother is sitting in stunned disgust looking at dirty magazines (implied, because the images are blurred out) she found? I don't know if it's good we're getting more obviously sexual content in commercials these days, but the look on her face is hilarious.

Conversely, I hate all the male performance enhancing drug commercials for the simple fact that they always show this old-looking guy with a woman who looks my age. As if.

Gene Weingarten: I have noticed that! They guys are 50 and the women 35.

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Cent Signs: Hasn't the cent sign pretty much disappeared? I have a couple of keyboards in front of me at the moment, and there isn't a cent sign on any of them.

Gene Weingarten: Did they even ever make it past the manual typewriter? No one ever used the cent sign, even back then.

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Saved By Zero!: What the hell does that even MEAN? I want you to tell me what it means. Now.

Gene Weingarten: WEll, uh, I guess it means that people who need a new car but are afraid of overpaying are saved by Zero percent financing?

It's dumb, but why is it so annoying? This is nowhere near Jareds, which insults humanity.

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Reddrag, ON: Are you saying stupidioms have snuck into the dictionary?

I am also not sure why you object to editors "moving" a story. I would think that falls right into your philosophy that editors add no value. But I guess it hadn't been long enough since you were one....

Gene Weingarten: Editors add value. I am just hassling my boss when I write that they don't.

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Shift Key: I have never received an email from anyone at the Washington Post (except perhaps from you, but I don't remember) that has ever used any capitalization or proper punctuation. I've wondered if it's because emails are being sent via Blackberry or if journalists are just so tired of typing properly they don't do it when they don't have to.

Gene Weingarten: we seldom use the shift key, when speaking to each other. it's part of the culture.

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New word: Ignomineologism

Gene Weingarten: I think we have a winner.

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Driving in Germa, NY: Gene,

In Germany, the traffic rules require people NOT to merge until the last minute, then cars from the two lanes alternate entering the single, merged line.

Network experts say it is actually the most efficient way of dealing with merging. And it eliminates the feeling of cheating. (Likewise, "be kind, rewind" allows some people to cheat, but "rewind before you view" doesn't. Same thing with "clear the lint after vs. before you use the drier.")

Gene Weingarten: This. Is. Exactly. My. Point.

But here, were are under the tyranny of the line waiter. This would never be tolerated here. Ironically, it is ve who muszt vait in line.

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"What is wrong with this? So long as you are endangering no one. Shouldn't EVERYONE do this to get traffic moving?": Because it is impossible for EVERYONE to do it without ENDANGERING someone. This is why it pisses us off to no end. You, the SELFISH one, have decided that you get to do it knowing that if everyone did the same thing the highways would devolve into anarchy. I'm sensing a theme with all of your "against the tide" opinions. They revolve around you being selfish (i.e. "screw your bumper, EYE need to park).

Gene Weingarten: Why would it devolve into anarchy? If, essentially, in a situation of traffic jam, everyone declared that there would temporarily be an extra lane? This seems sane and reasonable to me.

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fun,NY: So how did it feel being told by an editor of the Onion that your sense of humor dates from the Harding Administration?

Gene Weingarten: I reckon it felt swell, by Jiminy!

This is a reference to

Tom the Butcher's column on Sunday

, where Onion editor Megan Ganz critiqued some made-up Onion headlines writ by Dave Barry, Rachel Manteuffel and me.

I'll happily accept the spanking. I do think Megan might have been a tad disingenuous in finding the notion of a White House pork-jowl chef over the line, vis a vis cultural insensitivity.

Exhibit A

.

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Great Time of Ye, AR: With all this election hullabaloo going on, we seem to have forgotten that we're in the midst of the WONDERFUL skirt with boots season.

Can we go back to basics here and get a "Noted" shout-out for skirts-with-boots?

Gene Weingarten: Around the same time that we first spoke here of the wonders of skirts and boots, I also decried the outrageous tendency of some women to don attractive skirts or tight pants and then -- without apology or explanation -- TIE A SWEATER OR SHIRT AROUND HER WAIST, COMPLETELY HIDING HER BEHIND FROM PUBLIC VIEW.

Today, while searching for an image online with which to answer your post, I encountered

this ridiculous mess

.

washingtonpost.com: Why, that's noted fashion icon Mary-Kate Olsen, who may have been the topic of yesterday's Celebritology post.

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Another Fine Mess: What about people who won't move to the left lane to allow people to merge onto the interstate? Folks on the on ramp don't have any choice but to form a line. If there is plenty of room to scoot over why not cut the mergers a break?

Gene Weingarten: Hey, this reminds me of something. I have always wondered why there aren't more accidents -- really horrendous accidents -- occurring because one person merged left from the right lane and one person merged right from the left lane, into each other? You don't hear of this happening much. It's almost happened to me a bunch, particularly if we have both passed a truck.

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"This seems sane and reasonable to me.": What happens when someone gets a flat tire? That "extra lane" is there for a very good reason. I'd rather not get mowed down while searching for my spare throughout all the junk in my trunk.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, but we're talking about a jam situation, when everyone is moving slowly, no?

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Minneapolis, MN: Hi Gene, If you had to either be yellow or have a wheel for a foot, which would you choose? By yellow I mean big bird yellow, not jaundiced, and by a wheel I mean a roller skate wheel.

Gene Weingarten: They're both pretty cool.

Gene Weingarten: Could I have BOTH?

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Washington, D.C.: The zipper merge is best. It will never work though.

See here.

Gene Weingarten: Gorney is a friend of mine, but I disagreed with that story of hers. The sidescooters, or whatever she called them, are being practical.

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Self-esteemsville, Va.: About the VPL site ... I was just thinking how nifty it was to see a woman shaped almost exactly like me modelling clothes I might consider buying. I don't care so much about the notion that skinny models will make me or my daughter anorexic -- I just think it's nice to know what the clothes will actually look like on me! And then I scroll down to the comments to see that a woman has written in to say how repulsive that woman looks. Well, that's a fine howdy-do. Gene, am I still hott?

Gene Weingarten: That woman looks just fine. Her panties belong on a clown, though.

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Over the line: It's hard to imagine that the Onion has a line over which any joke can cross.

Gene Weingarten: I know. I think they were funnin' me.

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Flu Vacci, NE?: Dear Gene,

I heart you.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on the flu vaccine? I had one last Thursday and got really sick for 24 hours on Sunday/Monday. I had a bad fever (100.0+) and a really achy body. But this morning, I am basically fine.

Did the flu shot protect me from something horrible that I had already acquired, shortening its duration and virulence?

Did the flu shot itself cause the illness? I know the shot is a dead virus, yadda yadda, but who knows, right?

Or were the two entirely unrelated?

Thanks, Dr. Weingarten.

Gene Weingarten: I bought a flu shot last week at a train station in Philadelphia.

That sounds like the start of a joke, doesn't it?

I got fevery for a day, too. It's part and parcel.

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Speaking of Butts: Have you read the article in today's Salon extolling the virtues of our next first lady's booty?

As a black woman with with "back" I felt kinda proud.

Gene Weingarten: I haven't yet seen this; I'm trusting Chatwoman.

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Wash, D.C.: I'm reminded by your White House picture of the famous propaganda photos of the crew of the Pueblo. Captured by the North Koreans, they were put on media display, but had a method to demonstrate that they were not speaking willing. They told the North Korean photographers that holding up the middle finger was an American symbol that everything was OK. The real message came through loud and clear.

Gene Weingarten: Is this true? I do not remember this. Sounds apocryphal.

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Line Cutter: So, if it's okay for you to zoom up to the front of the exit lane and shove into the line, do you do this in person? When you're in the bank and there's a long line of people, do you just walk to the front of the line, or wherever it is you think is appropriate? Or do you find the anonymity of being in your car gives you the courage to act like a complete and utter asshat?

Gene Weingarten: The situations are not comparable. In a bank, it is clear where the line begins. The line on a highway begins through some sort of alchemy. It doesn't have to begin wherever the first person decides to pull up and be dutiful.

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Alexandria, Va.: Gene - you actually omitted the worst driving sin of all, rubber-necking. All of you people (and I say you people because I honestly do not do this because I know how bad it is) who rubber-neck are causing problems. The hour you just waited (or longer) in traffic because of an accident is mostly caused by people like you. You do NOT need to slow to see the accident especially if it is on the OTHER SIDE of the road. This is a recipe for another accident as those of us who actually got in our cars to get somewhere have started moving. If you would like to pull over to the side of the road and get out binoculars, go right ahead, but don't impede the rest of us. Rubber-neckers are particularly heinous because most of the time they have just sat in traffic waiting to get by and, if they have a modicum of intelligence, they know that one of the reasons they sat so long is that people ahead of them gawked.

What it all comes down to, whether it is talking on a cell phone (thus weaving, driving way too slow, not going at a green light, not paying enough attention and having to cut people off to make an exit, etc.) or following too close to someone's bumper or stopping in the middle of the road blocking traffic while you run in to pick someone up or drop something off that will "only take you a minute" but takes you more than that when there are plenty of places for you to park and/or there is no way to get around you safely thus you are blocking the road (the latter happens a lot in DC), it is all about courtesy or a lack of it on the roads and this idea that the rules only apply to everyone else.

Gene Weingarten: You're right! Rubbernecking is the worst sin of driving, for all the reasons you state and because of the ghoulishness.

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yeah, but: Gene Weingarten: Yeah, but we're talking about a jam situation, when everyone is moving slowly, no?

That's the problem. People who decide to use that shoulder in a traffic jam tend to fly. Not safe at all. Especially for the guys who use it to pull over and pee on the shoulder. Now, that's funny.

Gene Weingarten: Liz reports that there has been an enormous flood of posts finding my stance on shoulder-driving reprehensible.

I'll back down.

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Flu Vaccine, Explained: The flu vaccine is made up of weakened flu virus in order to induce a mild, but sufficient to protect, immune response. It was probably the flu vaccine that made you sick. (I won't go into the difficulties of properly identifying which flu viruses we should be protected against.)

Gene Weingarten: Actually, I think most flu vaccines are dead viruses, not weakened. Theoretically, they're not supposed to give you a low grade fever, but it has happened to me most times.

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TP is not the only produ,CT: Do you, or have you ever, had a mounted paper towel holder in your kitchen? Which way do/did you hang the paper towels? Over or under? If your answer is over, how is this different from toilet paper?

Gene Weingarten: My paper towel holder is vertical. It sits on a counter.

This reminds me of two redundancy-illiteracies in my house. I say "paper toweling" and The Rib says "tape measurer." We cannot explain these things and make fun of each other for them.

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Washington, D.C.: I was reading the anthology of Marjorie Williams' writings this week and noticed that you were her editor. What did you think of her?

Gene Weingarten: She was among the best writers with whom I have ever worked.

She died at 47.

Read this:

The Halloween of My Dreams, (Post, Nov. 3, 2004)

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San Diego, Calif.: No, the Pueblo thing is true!

washingtonpost.com: The alleged photo.

Gene Weingarten: Okay!

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Joisey : Gene: "In a bank, it is clear where the line begins. The line on a highway begins through some sort of alchemy"

Exit lanes are clearly marked by their branching off from the right lane.

Granted, sometimes, as in rush hour, they fill up and extend back into the right lane.

But that does not give anyone the "right" to ignore their existance.

Gene Weingarten: Wait. I am not condoning breaking into an exit lane once it has branched off from the right lane. I am talking about lines that form in the highway.

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Redundancy: My dad used to eat "hamburger sandwiches" and "hotdog sandwiches."

Gene Weingarten: As a kid, I used to eat pizza pies.

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Paper toweling?: In what context do you say this? Please use in a sentence.

Gene Weingarten: "A roll of paper toweling."

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Washington, D.C.: Please pass along to Liz that even with that outfit, OMG, Mary-Kate is still the hawt!

washingtonpost.com: Noted.

Gene Weingarten: I see her as a little girl. Not Liz, M-K.

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G'burg, Md.: Local lobbyist repeatedly stabbed by wild buck.

The best thing is the guy submitted the picture of him lying in the hospital with a bloody crotch himself!

Gene Weingarten: This story reads like an Onion parody, particularly when he paper-clips his wound so he can go lobby someone important.

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Frederick, Md.: Two restaurant annoyances you missed: -The waitress lays down the check while I'm still in the middle of the meal (not uncommon when I'm away on business and eating alone). -The assumption that EVERYBODY IN THE WORLD wants a lemon slice hanging off the edge of their water glass.

Also, I hope this new survey software is temporary. I miss having my answers highlighted in the results. Sometimes I forget how I just voted. And I miss Liz's snarky comment at the bottom.

washingtonpost.com: You're right. This polling software is clearly inferior.

Gene Weingarten: We've been having trouble with our regular software.

I like the check delivered early. I'm not insecure enough to think they're trying to boot you out; I just appreciate the option of leaving when I want.

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USS Pueblo: The crew also released a statement: "We paean the North Korean state. We paean their great leader Kim Il Sung. . ."

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

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Redundanc, E: I'm confused. Why is a pizza pie redundant? Is cherry pie or mincemeat pie redundant?

I don't think so.

Gene Weingarten: It's redundant because it is unnecessary. We know what a pizza is. It's like saying tuna fish.

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Different Pueblo picture...: Here.

Gene Weingarten: Very nice.

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Flu shots a waste: Flu shots are mostly a waste. The flu shot is a random shot in the dark for health. They usually take the one to three most common viruses that have been found to date in a given season (early in the cold season) to weaken/kill and with which to innoculate patients. However, there are usually dozens or hundreds of varieties that circulate in a given season. The chance that you in Podunk encounter specifically the one that was researched in Atlanta and it helps is rather small. Chances are you'll encounter one of the other dozens of viruses and either your immune system will fight it off or it won't. There are about three or four other tertiary reasons that were sent to me by an immunologist. I suppose if you get it for free, it isn't a problem. Kind of like washing your hands once before each meal. But to actually pay money for a random sampling bit of heuristic medicine seems a waste to me.

Gene Weingarten: The only time I've gotten the flu in the last ten years was the year I didn't get the shot.

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More specific: The dutiful "how is everything" in less than a minute after receiving the plate.

Gene Weingarten: Very true. It usually comes in the middle of the first bite.

If I ran a restaurant, I would prohibit this question. It is always asked rhetorically. If you actually have a problem, they don't really want to hear it.

You know what I really like? I really like it when a waiter warns me away from a particular dish. Here's another good sign: When you ask a waiter what he or she recommends, and he or she does NOT recommend the most expensive dish on the menu.

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I can has funny?: There's an article in Salon discussing lolcats, with an interesting analysis of why, exactly, they're funny.

The idea that it allows us to discuss some tragic aspect of humanity, and that this tragedy can become funny through the unexpectedness of the platform, sounded like something you might say. How do you feel about lolcats?

Gene Weingarten: I finz them be grate beeg boring.

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Washington, D.C.: "It's like saying tuna fish."

YOU used "tuna fish" in last week's poll!!!

washingtonpost.com: HA! Eat it, sucker!

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I did. Here is why: When you say tuna fish, you are specifying that stuff in a can. Tuna can be fresh, in a restaurant. So I take it back: Tuna fish is not redundant, because it is denoting "canned tuna."

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Greensboro, N.C.: Several years back, when the print edition was distributed more than 100 miles from the Capitol, you wrote a piece about problems with neighbors. Towards the end you introduced a young man walking along the path behind your house and his situation quickly put everything into perspective. If this is enough to recall the column, would you please give me the title and publishing date so I may find it in the archives? Thank you

Gene Weingarten: Liz, can you link? It was about a backyard fence and had the word ping pong in it. Also avenger.

washingtonpost.com: Going the Extra Yard, (Post Magazine, May 13, 2007)

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Diamon, DS: Ron White of "Blue Collar Comedy Tour" fame has the best take on the diamond commercials: "Diamonds. That'll shut her up."

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

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Hate Zero Ad: I hate it because they took a not bad song from a memorable time in my life and turned it into something cloying. It's horrific! Annoying! I might never buy Toyotas again it's so bad.

Gene Weingarten: Well, a laxative company appropriated Arlo's "City of New Orleans," just the "Good morning, America," part. I hated the use to which it was put, but don't mind hearing the phrase.

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Wait, what?: I love you, but fresh tuna is not fish? Isn't canned tuna "canned tuna fish" and fresh tuna "fresh tuna fish"? I am so confused... are you tired today?

Gene Weingarten: Tuna: fresh tuna

Tuna fish: Canned tuna.

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Foggy Bottom: An interesting datum here.

Gene Weingarten: Ooh.

We'll end with this one.

Hey, I cannot update this week. Gonna be traveling on a story. We shall convene next week. Thanksgiving week.

Thanks, all.

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