John Kelly's Washington

Deborah Gist attempts to break the Guinness World Record for most consecutive kisses in a minute. Video by John Kelly/The Washington Post
John Kelly
Washington Post Metro Columnist
Friday, February 27, 2009; 12:00 PM

John Kelly writes about the Washington that doesn't make it onto the front pages. His five-day-a-week Metro column, John Kelly's Washington, is about the normal -- well, relatively normal -- people who call our region home. It's about the joys and annoyances of living in the most important city in the most important country in the world -- as experienced by those of us who, frankly, aren't that important. His blog, John Kelly's Commons, is a place for readers to carry on a digital conversation.

Today: What does it mean to be a Washingtonian? Discuss how the winners of our essay contest answered that question and take your own stab at it. Plus: Are apostrophes extinct? Are John's arms getting shorter?

A transcript follows.

Discussion Archives/Recent Columns


John Kelly: I think it must be easier to be a New Yorker. Or a Chicagoan. Or even a Muscovite. Apparently, there's nothing easy or obvious about being a Washingtonian.

I knew when we announced the "What Does It Mean to Be a Washingtonian?" contest we'd get into that old battle: If you're not born IN D.C. you're not a Washingtonian. If you've ever lived anywhere else you're not a Washingtonian.

Wrote one of the commenters on

one of the reader essays

: "If you haven't bled, whether physically, mentally, or emotionally, in at least one of the DC wars, then you don't deserve our Purple Heart medal. There are too many other Soldiers in line ahead of you who have."

Is that true? Or is that an odd sort of provincialism? I always want to know how people who consider it a sin to have lived someplace other than Washington really know anything about the rest of the world.

But that's just me. Hey, I don't know how exactly many generations my family goes back in D.C. Four or five at least. But I'd have been fine with Maryland taking it back. If "Washington" is a distinct entity, surely it would survive being absorbed by the Free State.

But that won't happen. And we can continue to argue over what makes a "real" Washingtonian. I think as our disparate essays made clear, there really is no consensus.


Freedomville USA: John John, Living in Washington, D.C. there are so many entertainment events from which to choose. I wonder what you and your fellow chatters would recomment I see at the movies this weekend. "He's Just Not That Into You Lately"? Any others?

John Kelly: My cinema-going has been spotty lately. I recommend "Slumdog Millionaire," of course. But also "Paul Blart, Mall Cop." I want to see "Defiance" but I wonder if I've missed it in the theaters. That "Gomorrah" movie sounds incredible, if I have the stomach for it. But I think I'll probably spend tonight with a Netflix DVD of "The Rocker."

What recommendations do others have?


Silver Spring, Md.: So John, could the men and women featured in that article about dating in down-times have been more shallow and despicable? (Well, maybe if they were also young conservatives whining about their sudden lack of insider-ness.)

John Kelly: Every time I entertain any fleeting dissatisfaction with being married--like when Scarlett Johansson kept trying to finagle a lunch invitation--I remember that the only thing worse than being married is not being married. Oh, the horror of dating. Yes, some of the people in that story did seem pretty icky, but I felt sorry for them. When your whole self-image is based on being able to buy girls drinks--or on being a girl who is bought drinks--then these must be confusing times. Of course, these people deserve each other.

And, yes,

Ian Shapira's story

about young Republicans on the outs was pretty amusing. I especially liked the guy who was only a little against gay marriage and who was proud of having ice-skated with homosexuals.


notoba, ma: Johnboy, if you were president, what would you be doing right now?

John Kelly: Putting new batteries in my calculator. Or getting a new calculator. I don't think the one I have goes to "trillion."


Apostrophes in dates: I loved the column on apostrophes. I am a typesetter/graphic designer and hate it when people put an apostrophe in dates as in 1930s, It is 1930s as it is not possessive only plural. One recent example is that I had to typeset a program a few weeks ago. The client has many places where she had the apostrophe in the date. I took them out when I typeset it. My boss proofed my work before giving it to the clients and told me to put them back in. I said that it was not correct but he made me put them back in. After I had said no several times, but hey, I need the job. I asked him if he could not just tell the client we took them out because they were not correct and he said no he would not do that. Hey, the client is not always right. One reason we keep seeing this over and over is because people see it printed and then repeat it thinking it is right. It's not. Let's Show the Apostrophe Some Love (Post, Feb. 23)

John Kelly: I guess you and your boss have different notions of what "the customer is always right" means.

I was flipping through a car magazine the other day and I saw an ad for an incredibly detailed replica model of a Ferrari. The copy read something like: "It's miniature steering wheel even turns the front wheels." Argh!

At least it didn't say: "It's miniature steering wheel even turn's the front wheel's." I wouldn't have been surprised....


Woodbridge, Va.: Did you read this week's Health section and about getting some kids' weight under control?

I couldn't believe the one who got lap band surgery. Apparently no one in his family was smart enough to know that a daily 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew didn't do him any good. Moreover, at his age, if you run around the block a few times, weight should just fall off.

Weight problems occur when you're 45, not 15.

John Kelly: I think weight problems can occur at any age, but surgery does seem like an extreme measure. Do the dangers of an operation outweigh (so to speak) the dangers from being fat? I guess if it was a health issue--if you needed the surgery to save your life--I could understand it. But, like you said, if you haven't exhausted every other option first, it sounds like a dangerous decision.


Washington, D.C.: This is more of comment than a question. I ride the Benning Rd. bus on most weekdays and have noticed two different passengers really putting ex-Mayor Barry down for his having a room at the hospital during his kidney transplant. I won't even go into the conversations with you. I am just wondering where that kind of hostility comes from in human beings. Any citizen of the District deserves good treatment in a hospital setting. People are becoming so cruel.

John Kelly: I wonder what effect these tough economic times will have on people. Will the downturn make us harder, meaner? Or will it make us more charitable toward others? Maybe you're seeing one possible answer on that bus.


Redskins Fever: Sorry John. Since there is no sports chat today I have to sent this to you.

Today's headline:

Redskins Plan Innovative Defense

The Washington Redskins announced today that they plan to play an innovative two-man defense. Salary cap pressures caused by the signing of Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall prevent them from signing other defensive players.

Redskins officials were confident that such a scheme will work. The defensive schemes will plan on Mr. Haynesworth sacking the quarterback on every play right after he receives the snap. If this does not occur, Mr. Hall will intercept any passes or tackle any running backs that emerge at the line of scrimmage.

John Kelly: I like it. Think how it would really speed the game up.


Silver Spring, Md.: Come back, John. Come back to the O's. You're still a Marylander, we know you are.

John Kelly: Are you suggesting a "What Does It Mean to Be a Marylander?" contest? Old Bay? Orioles? Johnny Unitas?


Montgomery Village, Md.: I was born at Georgetown University Hospital, D.C., and raised in Goshen, Md.

That makes me a native Washingtonian. I was asked where I was from when I worked as an NPS Park Ranger at Washington Monument. When I told the visitor where I was from, she said, "NO ... no one is from Washington, everyone is from somewhere else, it being a transient city".

Why do I think I should be put on display at the Ape House of the National Zoo? How many other native Washingtonians are out there.

When I asked to move to New Orleans by a girlfriend and start a new home, I said, "I am already home".

John Kelly: I wonder if one problem might be that Washington swamps the surrounding area, now allowing unique cultures to evolve. But then again, would Silver Spring be Silver Spring, or Alexandria Alexandria, if it wasn't for Washington?

What I wanted to stay away from when choosing the essays to publish was a dusty sort of nostalgia. Being a Washingtonian means going to the Glen Echo amusement park as a kid? Well, sure, my parents did it, but since it was segregated a whole lot of Washingtonians didn't. Being a Washingtonian means eating at Hot Shoppes? Yeah, I ate there, but no one's eaten at one for nearly 20 years. I don't want to see Washington, or "Washington," stuck in amber.


Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: John --

Did you notice in the Metropolist today there was no entry for The Psyche Delly -- it went straight from Princess Theater to Raleigh's. How can that be?

John Kelly: I thought the same thing, so I'm going to rectify that with my own MetroPolist. It will include all the shady places I used to frequent and are now gone.


22101: I grew up about 4 miles from D.C., in a house that was 0.5 miles away from my grandparents, who still live in the house where my dad up. My brother and I went to the same elementary, middle, and high school as my father and his siblings.

And yet, my friends who grew up just 4 miles away in the District do not think I can call myself a true Washingtonian. Every time I say, "Yeah, I grew up in DC," they correct me and say, "No you grew up in Virginia."

John Kelly: A stickler would point out you didn't grow up "in" D.C. It really comes down to language. I think you could say you were "from" Washington, but didn't grow up "in" D.C., "from" being a bit squishier than "in."

And of course the distance you get from Washington the laxer you can be. If someone in Annandale asks where you grew up, you'd probably say "Alexandria" (or wherever), but if you were in Prague and someone asked you'd probably say "Washington." And if you were in the Andromeda Galaxy you'd say "Earth."


Washingtonian loser: Thanks for the opportunity to be part of the contest (with An Intellectual Playground). As someone who spent the first half of his life in N.J., I understand the provincial attitude about home soil. The thing about D.C. is that it's becoming a world capital (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, but when I got here the subway closed at 6 p.m. on Sunday -- that's not a world capital) and the cultural diversity and opportunities reflect that now. America's got a lot of other great cities, but D.C.'s maturing into one that is starting to be about more than politics.

John Kelly: We'll see. The Obama buzz certainly helps. It'll be interesting to see what legacy he leaves as far as how Washington is perceived.


Richmond, Va.: I see this economy/political situation making people meaner. See how many folks say "why are we bailing out people who over spent when 'I' didn't" forget that if the economy fails we ALL lose, so any bailout is protecting ALL OUR JOBS. So people are so mad about other people getting money they won't get they forget not bailing will hurt them!

John Kelly: It's like one of those executive team-building exercises, where you're all tied together and have to climb over a wall or something.

When it's all over--when we're out of our recession or depression or downtown or whatever--how will we look back at it? And will we have changed the way we behave? My prediction is that we will. There'll be more government regulation of the financial sector. Fatcats won't be quite as fat; they'll be happy with smaller profit margins. This will go on for about 20 or 30 years then the greed will start up again and the cycle will repeat itself.


Washington, D.C.: This is the week when we ask the question that gets you fired. It won't be your answer. It'll be the fact that you permitted the question to post in the first place. Need to get you jazzed first. You know the drill, journalism 101.

John Kelly: Oh what a delightful thought. Fired, huh? Does that mean I don't get unemployment benefits? Oh well, I can finally open that bed & breakfast I've always dreamed of running. The one in the creepy old abandoned sawmill, far from the highway. And you can be my first guest.


What does it mean to be a Marylander?: Very bad driving -- passing on right, speeding, poorly maintained vehicles, eating/texting/reading!, etc. But some awesome crabcakes; they've got that goin' for them.

John Kelly: Are Marylanders worse than anyone else around here? The worst drivers I ever experienced were when I lived in Cambridge, Mass. Every car there and in Boston is dented, bruised and cut like a prizefighter.


NoLo, D.C.: I'm also a firm believer in the proper user of the apostrophe. Quotation marks in odd places also drive me a bit batty. Which came first, my predilection toward caring, or my English degree?

Anyway, I wonder if you could parse for me this quote from your story on the subject:

"if a word ends in an S, don't put an apostrophe after the S, just an apostrophe."

I have no idea what he's talking about here!

John Kelly: I think that may have been garbled somehow. What he doesn't like is when people think they don't need to put an S after the apostrophe of a word ending in S, such as "the glass's rim." A lot of people would write "the glass' rim."

So his quote should be "he doesn't like people who 'if a word ends in S, don't put an apostrophe S after the S, just an apostrophe.'"


John Kelly: "Slumdog" spoiler alert with next question!!!!


DC 29915: I realize I'm a minority of maybe 1, but I hated Slumdog Millionaire. I did not find it in the least uplifting or "feel good," but rather manipulative and exploitive all the way through. Do we really want to see the bad guys putting acid in a child's eyes so he can make more money as a beggar? Sure, it happens, but . . . . And it's not as if the overwhelming majority of these kids are still not living under tarps. The whole thing gave me the creeps. A couple of my friends reacted the same way. It's weird when you're on a different wavelength from nearly everyone and can't understand their point of view.

John Kelly: Spoiler alert! Yes, it was manipulative--which a lot of movies are (which a lot of life is)--but I didn't find it exploitative. I was able to enjoy it as a story--imaginatively filmed, well-acted--without having to think of it as a symbol or a metaphor. That doesn't seem to have been the case in a lot of India, where it was freighted with all kind of baggage that, say, "Benjamin Button" didn't have.


"I grew up about 4 miles from D.C.": It doesn't matter that you and your family lived in the same place in Virginia for a really, really long time. That doesn't make you from D.C. You can certainly continue saying "I grew up about 4 miles from D.C" if you want, but maybe you should just embrace the real place you're from and tell people what that is when asked where you're from.

I usually say Fairfax, Va. When people from out of the country say "huh?" I add "it's near D.C." The only time I claimed to be from D.C. was during the eight years I lived in the city.

John Kelly: That's reasonable. Perhaps people gravitate toward D.C.--in person or in conversation--is because there is no "real place" to embrace where they actually live.


Alexandria, Va.: Uh, yeah, John, Alexandria was a thriving city/port before Washington existed. In fact, Alexandria and its importance in commerce is one of the reasons the site of Washington was selected (only Georgetown existed at the time). The original footprint of Washington included Alexandria and Falls Church. See your colleague's book:

The Grand Idea: George Washington's Potomac and the Race to the West

John Kelly: Yeah, I know, and if the capital HADN'T come here, what would Alexandria be like today? The harbor silted up long ago. Slavery's been outlawed so presumably the slave auction house in Alexandria would be closed. Tobacco ain't quite as popular as it once was. I'm not saying that Alexandria is devoid of its own personality, just that Washington is a planet that exerts its own gravitational pull on all around it.


Silver Spring, Md.: It's hard for me to believe the Forest Glen starling (which I saw again today) wouldn't rather be out of that tunnel, notwithstanding the free food it is receiving. The way it flies back and forth between the light fixtures seems desperate, if not psychotic.

Starlings are very gregarious and flock-oriented, I just can't imagine it is happy down there. Unless it is some sort of outcast or exile subject to execution, I guess.

John Kelly: I saw him, too, and I can't make up my mind. He wasn't looking too good today, but earlier in the week he was looking pretty peppy. I really intend to go down there with a net or bedsheet or something and see if I can catch him. But just my like I'd stumble in front of an oncoming train and end up in the "News in Brief" section.


Stafford, Va.: What was the purpose of asking readers to vote for their favorite? The winner was not the one with the most votes.

John Kelly: We were just curious to see what would resonate with readers. It was very non-scientific, and we made it clear when the contest was announced that we would pick the winner.


Quotation mark abuse: The coffee shop we go to every a.m. has its daily soup posted on the door with a handwritten sign. Every day, it is in quotes. "Chicken Noodle Soup," "Tomato soup." I am too scared to ever try it for fear of discovering the ACTUAL ingredients.

John Kelly: That's nearly as bad, and ubiquitous, as apostrophe abuse. I think there are some people who don't really know how to use punctuation but think it must be good and therefore lay it on a bit thick. It explains "it's" when used as a possessive and it explains "Chicken Noodle Soup." Hey, I'm smart! I used punctuation!


Behaving Badly?: I would suggest that the bad behavior we see today, mostly from those very people arguing against helping others, is more a remnant of the past few years. The rush to get rich and the take no-prisoners attitude that it spawned made a lot of us wallow in self-indulgence and entitlement. Behavior is not easily modified and I don't think it's fair to say that what we are seeing will end up being the final result. If this downturn is for a while, I figure we may see people start to realize what's important. Of course, we will always have those who are jerks, but it is often in adversity that we come together. Or maybe I'm a naive optimist.

John Kelly: I want to believe you're right. And I think you may be, if Obama successfully sells the notion of sacrifice. I remember seeing a video made by after his election of a man--just a citizen who had gone down to Lafayette Park, I think--saying, "I'm ready. I'm ready for Obama to ask me to do something for my country." If Obama can convince enough people that that's the attitude to have, perhaps your prediction will come true. It doesn't help that Republican politicians seem to be clinging to this "tax cuts solve everything" line.


Montgomery Village, Md.: In terms of people disagreeing with you on where you were born, I went to Limestone College, Gaffney, S.C.

A friend of mine who I met there, to this day calls me "a damn Yankee."

I get mad and ask him to get out a map, show me where the Mason-Dixon Line is and then show me where Washington, D.C. is (where I was born and will die).

I ask him to notice that I was born BELOW the Mason-Dixon Line and that makes me a SOUTHERNER.

John Kelly: Yes, Washington does seem to have little in common with, say, Bangor, Maine.


Logan Circle, D.C.: What are those of us who can't afford a $500 Shakespeare Theatre subscription going to have to do to score tickets to see Helen Mirren on stage there?

Should I expect to camp out? Or will there not even be any tickets left for the general public?

John Kelly: Any first-born children you can offer? Here's what the Shakespeare Theatre's Web site says:

"Tickets for this extraordinary event are currently limited to renewing subscribers and eligible donors of the Shakespeare Theatre Company. Following the renewal period (now through April 16), new subscribers will have an opportunity to purchase tickets. Any remaining tickets will go on sale to the general public April 20, 2009."

Put April 20 on your calendar. And good luck.


Alexandria, Va.: I say, "I live in the D.C. Metro area". I may not live in D.C. proper but I put up with the D.C. Metro's brand of BS and while I don't consider myself a Washingtonian, I don't consider myself an outside either.

John Kelly: We need to come up with a name for the entire area. DC Metro Area is a bit dry. Washingtonland?


Arlington, Va.: I went to grad school in Chicago. Shortly after I moved there, one of the local TV news anchor guys said something about how you weren't really a Chicagoan unless you were born here. So this argument seems to thrive outside of D.C., too.

Me personally, I've lived in Philadelphia for 5 years, Chicago for 6 and the D.C. metro area for almost 12. But I'll always be a New Yorker, because that's where I was born and raised. Let's go Mets!

John Kelly: That's one vote for the Mets...


I'm from Boston...D.C. is still home, though: Coming from Boston, I can see why people may get upset when they claim citizenship while being in the suburbs. I've always been annoyed at those who, after saying they were from Boston, claim to be from Cambridge or Quincy (at best, I once had a guy from Rhode Island say he was from the city!). I think there is a certain amount of civic pride that goes into it: suburbanites don't have to put up with the bad neighborhoods and lousy inner-city schools. They get to go home, enjoying the nice parts about the city but leaving the rest when it suits them. For my own part, I have lived here for a few years and, due to career, probably will be here for a while. I like this city and hope to call it home..but I'll always root for the Red Sox.

John Kelly: ...and one vote for the Red Sox.

Where are the Nats' fans?


Calling in sick: More people are sick this year because more sick people are coming to work, afraid that when trimming time comes, one of the numbers they're crunch is how many times you call in sick. I've never seen or heard so much croupy coughing, sounds like death in my office. I'm usually pretty lax about germs, (used to say, I'm going to get one cold a year no matter what I do), but this year, I'm like a hypochondriac, opening the restroom door with a towel, stepping away from people who are spewing droplets. There is some nasty stuff out there. and now I am knocking on wood!

John Kelly: Interesting. An unexpected byproduct of the recession?

I was saddened by the story about the two Maryland boys who died of the flu. And also surprised that the health folks were still recommending flu shots. I thought the season was pretty much over but I guess it isn't.

Cover your mouth folks! The story today even recommended coughing/sneezing into the crook of your arm, just like my kids learned in Montessori school!


Silver Spring, Md.: I'm sorry, not to stir up the hornets' nest here, but if you live in "NoLo" don't you in fact just live in Shaw?

John Kelly: Are you now trying to incite interjurisdictional civil war?


Bad drivers: Go up to Hartford Ct. The car horns wear out before the tires.

John Kelly: Sounds like Rome. Maybe a lot of Italians settled in Hartford.


Speaking of apostrophes: I find even more aggravating the people at work who ask me to do something without actually asking me. For example, in my e-mail this morning was, "Would you be able to help set this up." There was no question mark, even though I'm fairly certain it was a question. And hey, you're my superior, why don't you just say, "Please help me set this up." I realize that I'm low on the totem pole... just tell me to do what you need me to do!

John Kelly: It's like they're being polite then realize that they actually have complete dominion over you and thus don't actually need to include a question mark. It would probably be better to just write: "Help me set this up." Writing "Help me set this up?" would look too much like something Paris Hilton would type.


Arlington, Va.: You hit the nail on the head with your observation about misused punctuation. Far too many people have no clue how to introduce emphasis into their writing; in desperation, they use quotes when they "really" want to stress something. Ack.

For some reason that reminded me of the beauty parlors in NYC that used to put a sign in the window when they attracted a new stylist: "La Beaute Salon Welcomes Mr. Ken, Formally of -Some Other] Salon!"

John Kelly: I can't stand excessive exclamation points. They're often used in a pathetic attempt to inject a little life into pretty routine sentences. Like this one! Often they end up looking sort of self-referentially ironic or snarky: We're having tater tots for dinner!


Wheaton, Md.: I say that I'm from "The D.C. suburbs" when I'm too far away from this area for those to know where Wheaton, Md, is. But say "Silver Spring, Md." when I'm closer in. But actually I'm a New Englander, born and bred there and lived there until I went away to college.

But my daughter was born in D.C. -- Walter Reed hospital. but we were living in Maryland at the time; does that make her a Washingtonian? She doesn't care; she is living in Pittsburgh now and is very proud of that "h" on the end.

John Kelly: Wait a minute. You live in Wheaton and you tell people you're from "Silver Spring." This means war. My SS storm troopers will be marching up Georgia Avenue and cutting you down in the Wheaton Plaza parking lot.


Mason Dixon Line is old: Sorry, but The South starts at Fredericksburg now. DC/NOVA is NOT in the south anymore. There was an old radio show my mom told me about that opened every day with "Richmond, Virginia: Where The South begins."

John Kelly: That also means the South ends there, too, right? Or was that Appomattox?


Born at Providence Hospital in NEDC: And I get offended, when someone who was also born in the area, says they also from DC. Case in point. . . my "EX" wife was born in Riverdale, MD. . yet she always CLAIMED to be from DC.

Unless you born in the NW, NE, SW, or SE confines of the 51st state (State of confusion) then you are NOT from DC. Inside the beltway doesnt cut it. (Hell, when I was born, there WAS NO BELTWAY).

Bring back Hot Shoppes, Peoples Drug, DC transit streetcars, Landsburgh, & Shepherd Park night club & I'll be a happy camper. . . you can keep the "EX" wife.

John Kelly: Can this marriage be saved? Nope.

I was born at Providence, too. But I'm too young to remember the streetcars. See, every generation has its own thing. Eventually people will be writing into this chat saying, "Yot're not a real Washingtonian unless you drank stem cell cocktails at the rotating bar atop the Lincoln Memorial and remember using the floating Segway paths."


The DMV: There's your term for "the Washington metro area" -- it can't be that obscure or hip any more if I've heard it! It's in that Mambo Sauce song for gosh sakes.

John Kelly: The DMV? I like it, though it implies waiting in line for hours. Hey, just like Washington traffic! And better than the MVD, which sounds like a sexually transmitted disease, and DVM, which is doctor of veterinary medicine.


Born there: I get this all the time. I live in Waldorf but no one outside of this area knows where that is, so I say "I'm from Southern Maryland." People who live in St. Mary's County seem to hate this and claim that Waldorf is just a strip mall extension of P.G. County and D.C. Although I've never resided in Baltimore, that's where I was born. Even so, I'd never say I was "from Baltimore".

John Kelly: So people in St. Mary's get angry when people in Waldorf say they're from "Southern Maryland"? Man, this planet is just one seething cauldron of tribal hatreds.


D.C. Metro area: New name - Porkopolis

John Kelly: I see the bumper sticker: "Oink if you're from D.C."


Arlington, Va.: Okay, here is a punctuation question. Why do people (mostly on-line) use -parenthetical word] instead of (parenthetical word)? Aren't those curvy marks called parentheses?

John Kelly: They are, but they may prefer [brackets] because they're easier to type. You don't have to hit the (shift key).


Richmond, Va.: My supervisor's e-mail disclaimer (the part where they say if you get this e-mail by mistake, tear it up and eat it) has an unnecessary apostrophe ... "should I tell him" ? !

John Kelly: "Yes."


What makes a Washingtonian: I'm always struck that the two things people know about D.C. are Marion Barry and that "no one's from D.C." Who do those people think Marion Barry represents?

John Kelly: Right. The Washington area does have a high proportion of outsiders, but so does any region that has a lot of colleges and a lot of young people coming to a place where there are a lot of white-collar jobs.


Arlington, Va. (again): From my earlier post - For some reason that reminded me of the beauty parlors in NYC that used to put a sign in the window when they attracted a new stylist: "La Beaute Salon Welcomes Mr. Ken, Formally of -Some Other] Salon!"

John Kelly: I can't stand excessive exclamation points. They're often used in a pathetic attempt to inject a little life into pretty routine sentences. Like this one! Often they end up looking sort of self-referentially ironic or snarky: We're having tater tots for dinner!

Ack! The exclamation point wasn't the point (you should pardon the pun)! Hint: check out the adverb.

John Kelly: Ah, "formally," as if he cut hair in a tuxedo.


Cameron, N.C.: I grew up in a small town in N.J. From the roof of my house, on a clear day, I could see the twin towers. A lot of NYC could not see them. I would never claim to be from NYC.

John Kelly: You could just say you were from "Joisey." Of course you probably didn't pronounce it that way, but perhaps some Jerseyites did, although maybe THEY said they were from NYC.


Everyone Lies: Thanks to this election, I can now proudly say I'm from Virginia, rather than fudging that I'm from D.C. Of course, I really live in Vienna but I fudge and say McLean, since we are on the border and my kid goes to McLean schools. Some who live in McLean fudge and say Great Falls!

John Kelly: The grass is always greener in somebody else's Zip code.


Atlanta, Ga.: People say the same thing (no one's FROM there) regarding Atlanta...given all the transplants.

Not only is my husband from here...his grandfather was BORN here. People are shocked when he tells them that. He jokes when people are surprised he's from here that 'the six of us get together for meetings every month.'

Of course, his family still thinks I'm a carpetbagger (I'm from N.Y. -- but have been here about 15 years).

John Kelly: If the South ends in Richmond, does it really get up to speed in Atlanta?


New name: Another new name - WashVirginMary

John Kelly: I'm pretty sure I saw that on the "to-do" list when I was an altar boy.


St John's, Newfoundland: I 'am' from D.C. (GW hospital, grew up near the Uptown Theater). However, I am currently living in a provice where, even if your grandparents were both born here, you would be considered a "CFA" (Come-From-Away). Unless your family has been here since before the Ark, you can NEVER be "from" here.

John Kelly: My god, we have a reader from Newfoundland. Do you need us to send you warm socks or flashlight batteries or anything?


"Yes.": May I quote you on that?

John Kelly: Of "course"!

That's all for today. Thanks for coming by and chewing the digital fat. (Ugh, that's a disgusting image.)

Answer Man's parole officer allowed him out of his apartment, so expect a column on Sunday. And don't forget the blog,

John Kelly's Commons

. Enjoy the weekend, wherever you live and whatever you are.


Everybody knows the South starts ...: ... when the sweet tea stops. Also Yankees do not know how to make fried chicken.

John Kelly: But just try getting a bagel in Sumter, S.C.


re: My supervisor's e-mail disclaimer: I vote "no," don't tell. Nobody reads those things.

My supervisor often requests that she be allowed to review things that I write before I send them out. She makes changes and ADDS grammar mistakes. She insists I send stuff out as she writes it, even if I say something. Some of these are recurring e-mails, so she'll see it months later and correct "my" mistakes.

John Kelly: That's what I meant when I put it in quotes. Everyone knows that putting a word in quotes makes it take the opposite meaning. Am I "right"?


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