Chatological Humor: Single-handedly Saving the Newspaper Biz

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 12, 2009; 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, 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: I am 37 or Younger | I am 38 or Older

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

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

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

____________________ Good afternoon.

Important alert: Today's introduction might be boring to you. You might want to skip it if you are the sort of person who doesn't like to learn startling things about important historical topics, just because they are really arcane esoteric and will never have any direct relevance to your own self-absorbed, incurious, feeble, me-driven life, you culturally illiterate slob. You good folks might want to skip ahead to the dirty jokes.

This weekend, purely by accident, I discovered what I believe is the most enormous and ubiquitous still-uncorrected error on The Web. This is a bold statement to make, and is by its nature unprovable. But I am applying a simple test of multiplying the breadth of the error by its historiographical significance, and the resulting number is impressive. I will welcome competing nominations.

(Because of the vaunted supposedly near-instantaneous self-editing nature of Wikipedia, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the Army-of-Davids behemoth to slap itself in the forehead and begin correcting the record. The clock starts now.)

Most of us have heard of Howard K. Smith, the famous American radio and TV newsman of the 1940s-1980s. Fewer of us probably remember Joseph Kingsbury-Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaperman from the same general era. Almost no one is aware that Howard K. Smith's middle name was Kingsbury. The two men were apparently not related. This is the beginning of an amazing set of coincidences that culminate in The Most Enormous and Ubiquitous Still-Uncorrected Error on the Web.

As it happens, Howard Kingsbury Smith and Joseph Kingsbury-Smith both ably covered World War II in the European theater. Both nailed famous interviews with world leaders: Howard K. with Hitler, Joseph K-S with Stalin, Khrushchev, and others.

In October of 1946, there appeared in newspapers all over the world one of the most famous, dramatic, and remarkable pieces of wartime journalism ever. It was the report from the only media eyewitness to the serial hangings of the 12 Nazis convicted of crimes against humanity at Nuremberg. There were evidently a few versions, filed on different deadlines. This is the one that has best survived.

To say the story was gripping is an understatement: It is riveting, from first word to last. In the most concise version, this was the opening sentence:

Nuremberg, Oct. 16 -- Hermann Goering did not lead the last Nazi parade today--the one to the gallows. He lay dead in his cell by his own hand and Joachim von Ribbentrop took his place at the head of the march into eternity.

What followed were about 4,000 words of remarkable power and enviable restraint. The writer is unflinching when he must be; he conveys the mood in artistic ways. He doesn't say that it was nearly unendurable to watch Von Ribbentrop slowly strangle in what was the first of several botched hangings; he reports only that the executions were stopped for a couple of minutes so people could smoke a cigarette if they wanted, and that nearly everyone in the room wanted one. Only once or twice did the writer make his revulsion of these men apparent, and when he did, it worked.

He reports that Julius Streicher, the fulminating Nazi maniac, went down the hole kicking, at an awkward angle, which apparently slowed his descent and resulted in a desperate struggle at the end of the rope culminated by the hangman, who walked down the stairs, got under the body, and yanked him dead.

Stuff like that. Any journalist would have knocked out his own eyeteeth to have written this story. The question is... who did?

The byline on the story read:

"By Kingsbury Smith."

It was Howard K. Smith, according to hundreds of hits on the Web, including his Wiki bio and the bios of several Nazis, including Streicher.

It was Joseph Kingsbury-Smith, according to hundreds of other hits on the Web, including his obit in the Los Angeles Times (but, curiously, not his obit in the New York Times.)

At least one Web site goes out of its way to report that "Kingsbury Smith," the newspaper journalist from the Nuremberg Trials, went on to reinvent himself as "Howard K. Smith" for his new career in TV and radio.

The truth becomes apparent if you research enough. It was Joseph Kingsbury-Smith, who hadn't used his first name that day, and hadn't hyphenated his name, because it was his custom sometimes not to. His byline remained "Kingsbury Smith" for most of his illustrious career.

So now we know. If you are bored, you have no soul.

Wiki, are you listening?


Small but interesting addendum to the story: These were horrifyingly botched executions; not only was the drop too short but the trap door was too small, resulting in grotesque face lacerations of the condemned as they fell to their deaths. The hangman, U.S. Army Master Sergeant John C. Woods, was proud of his work that day, as he said in several interviews. A few years later, Woods died in an accident. He was... electrocuted.


Before we abandon the grotesque and horrible for the light and frothy and sexually suggestive, we need to link to this story. Please make sure you rotate through the photos of the perpetrators, and of their house.

---Okay, Henry Chen sent in this, which appears to be real if completely inexplicable.

And Molly Weingarten sent this.

Here is the Clip of the Day, which is absolutely delightful, and delivers the promised sex.

I proud to report that the number of re-captioned comics received by Chatological Humor have been increasing exponentially, which is to say that last week we had submissions by two people, and this week by four people. By my calculations, at this rate, in three months I will have about 8,000 from which to choose.

In the meantime, we have the same winner as last week, Mr. Horace "Bluebeard" LaBadie, who submitted these two: ONE | TWO.

Okay, please take today's poll. (I am 37 or Younger | I am 38 or Older). We'll be discussing through the chat.


Philadelphia, Pa.: Gene, is the Post Hunt still happening in JUST FIVE DAYS? I haven't heard you talk about it at all! Are you excited? Should we be excited? Will it be even better than last year? Give us some hype! 2009 Post Hunt

Gene Weingarten: Glad you asked.

Yes, it is this Sunday. Yes, it will be more spectacular than last year. Yes, we expect more people to show up. And yes, there is going to be a special chat devoted to it tomorrow at noon. Tom Shroder, Dave Barry and I will be hosting. Answering questions, making fun of you, etc.

For those of you going... huh? -- The Post Hunt is an enormous puzzle that will be happening in the streets of Washington this Sunday, from noon to three p.m. Weird events will be happening, big prizes to be won by people smarter than I am.

If you're in the area, you want to be there. All the details are in Sunday's magazine.


Seattle, Wash.: To be pedantic: "wiki" is a generic term for the "anyone can edit this web page" web site infrastructure. To say "wiki, are you listening?" would be like complaining about something in the Post by saying "printing presses, are you listening?".

Obligatory wikipedia link. Whatever, nerdo.

Gene Weingarten: I predict the error will be corrected by 4 p.m. today, in as many Wiki venues as it exists.


Boston: Clip of the day: the best was the one guy who's first reaction is shock like all the others but who recovers in time to take one more look at the ladies before leaving. What evolutionary conclusions can we make about this?

Gene Weingarten: I know! I noticed that too! Wasn't that great?


Washington, D.C.: Speaking on behalf of only myself, the only thing I can get from the Post and the Post alone is its sports page. As a big fan of the local teams, I can't get the info I want from national of other local sources. If I need to pay $5 for the sports section I would, anything else I would not pay for and feel that I could find a reasonable facsimile of elsewhere for free.

Gene Weingarten: You know, there's an interesting philosophical question here; why do people feel they SHOULD get it for free?


Arlington, Va.: There is a searing, detailed account of the Nazi war criminals' execution in the Time-Life WWII book series. Based on the link you provided, much of it appears to be drawn from Kingsbury-Smith's account. I can't wait to check and see if Time-Life credited him in the footnotes/references in the back of the book. If it's credited to Howard K. Smith, I'll let you know.

Gene Weingarten: Please do!


Wiki, MD: Gene, did you see the experiment a University of Dublin student did regarding placing a fake quote on Wikipedia shortly after the announcement of an Oscar winning composer died. The quote was: "One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head that only I can hear." And apparently it led hundred of obituaries in both print and online from writers that take Wikipedia as fact (or are just too lazy to fact check...)

Gene Weingarten: Wiki is a boon and a scourge to the journalist. The awful thing is that it seems to be about 98 percent accurate. It's ALMOST a reliable source.


Ethical Dilem, MA: Hi Gene! I love these chats. I recently heard the following scenario, and it seemed to be right in your wheelhouse, touching on journalism and ethics:

My sister-in-law is the editor-in-chief of the newspaper for a relatively small liberal arts college. They recently started putting all their content online, which included archiving content from 5 to 10 years ago so it would be searchable and available on the web.

Soon thereafter, she received a call from an alum who had googled himself and found an article where he had been quoted in an interview from years back. The article mentions that he is gay, which alarmed him because he was not out to all of his family or friends back home, even though he was out to his friends on campus. He wanted the school to not make that one particular article available online.

Her initial reaction was that while this was unfortunate, he had consented to be interviewed years ago and had willingly divulged that he was gay, so they couldn't censor their own story.

He responded that, sure, he had consented to give an interview to the paper, which would presumably be distributed only campus-wide where everyone knew he was gay anyway, but had NOT consented to the wider distribution, nor had he any realistic expectation that that might occur. He says he shouldn't be at risk for being outed just because he didn't anticipate this.

So . . . what say you?

Gene Weingarten: I think he has a completely valid point. This is an issue of fairness and common sense, not journalism, realize. They probably have a right to put the thing on line, but an ethical obligation not to.

Gene Weingarten: And by "not journalism, realize" I mean "Not journalism, really."


New York, N.Y.: "Ikey" Dreyfus may be the greatest ball player name ever. My mother-in-law's name is "Ikey." Well, nickname.

Gene Weingarten: There was a very good player from the teens named Piano Legs Gore.


Philadelphia, Pa.: On the newspaper front, I think someone who's still in decent shape (like WaPo) needs to jump into the deep end of the pool -- sell off the printing presses and traditional support around it, develop a line of premium services to entice subscribers, shut down all free access and let 'er rip, using leaks, tweets and bloggers to let the rest of the world know what great stuff they're missing. Make it do or die. Come on, you guys are the only ones who can pull this off...

On Miss California, has anyone noticed that she was WAY more attractive in the naughty pics, from top to bottom, than she is post-enhancement, in pageant styling? Why do we expect our beauty queens to be hideous-looking?

Gene Weingarten: The most interesting part of the whole affair may be this, which appeared in the NY Daily News:

Prejean, whose anti-gay marriage comments during the Miss USA pageant thrust her into the national spotlight, may also have some explaining to do about a series of court documents from her parents' messy, decade-long divorce proceedings.

The papers, dug up by, show that Prejean's parents flung a series of homosexual allegations against one another.

In one of the documents, Prejean's father describes a confrontation he had with her mother in 1996, in which "Ms. Prejean accused me, in front of our daughter, of homosexuality."

Another excerpt quotes a court-appointed doctor who said "The mother questioned [within hearing of the girls] whether [her father] was a homosexual or had a homosexual roommate."

Court papers dated May 16, 2000, include the following statement from a court-appointed counselor: "The mother also alleges the father told the girls their stepfather was gay, that all men with mustaches are gay."

Prejean's father "acknowledges talking with the girls about the stepfather's brother being gay, not the stepfather," said the papers.

Prejean has said she believes her gay marriage views cost her the crown. She has since signed on to star in a controversial National Organization for Marriage campaign supporting "opposite marriage."

_______________________ Gene's having a little trouble with the chat tool. He'll be back momentarily.


Why should we should get it for free?: Because we can get it for free somewhere else.

Gene Weingarten: That's like Willie Sutton, who, when asked why he robbed banks, said "because that's where the money is."

This is a serious question: Why do people have a right to get news for free, when the producers of the news are professionals, working for pay, producing a product people want.


Your questionable ear: Gene,

I didn't attempt this during the chat because I saw no way it could be done, and I still don't. I'm not sure how anyone so insistent that whatever rhymed with Hartford had to end in "fuhrd" (which, by the way, "fer't" does not) could defend rhyming calves with laughs. Salves, maybe, or even Aves., but there is absolutely no "v" sound in laughs.

Thus, by your own standard, this limerick does not work. Or, you need to better explain these rules you keep preaching about.

Gene Weingarten: This is an articulate argument for reading the updates. All was addressed in the updates.

1. The plural of calf can, and should, be pronounced "calfs," and not calves, for the obvious distinction between leg muscles and animals. Some dictionaries permit this, but most stay stubbornly with "calves." However, to address this situation, at the suggestion of Tom Scocca, I changed the lines officially to "I'm well covered," she grins/As she shaves both her shins...

2. Hartford is truncated pronounced "Hart-ferdt" or "Hart-fidt" in the vernacular of the region. It may be successfully rhymed with a -ferd or an -fert sound.

Gene Weingarten: Karla Miller did send in this nice limerick:

Your effort to justify "calfs"

Is among the more heinous of gaffes.

You can cite dictionaries

Deflecting our queries

But I think you're just covering your afs.

Gene Weingarten: All this reminds me: As of today, you're going to find Pat The Perfect answering language questions on Ask HER if my stuff rhymes. She is a little more forgiving of slant rhyme than I am. But I am confident she will not accept, say, "Fart turd" for "Hartford." As so many of you would.


Old Dogs: I'd like to get "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," but I'm so offended by that colon in the title that I'm repulsed. It's like meeting a beautiful woman who wears a monocle; just couldn't go there.

Can you explain how you let this happen? Your stories and Michael Williamson's photos are great, but man, are there no editors at Simon & Schuster?

Gene Weingarten: The colon doesn't exist. It is simply how the title is displayed online, for some reason. The title is "Old Dogs." the subtitle is "Are the Best Dogs." No colon.

I argued against any subtitle. S&S felt it was necessary.


20002: About your poll--didn't the New York Times try charging for certain contenta couple of years ago with Times Select? I don't know anyone who paid for it and it failed, right?

Gene Weingarten: It failed badly.


Baltimore, Md.: Of course, I foresee the topic du jour as Wanda Sykes' "comedy" routine over the weekend. I would really like to hear a relatively objective analysis of the "humor" therein, but asking that of you would be akin to asking Karl Rove for an objective analysis of Obama's policies. Ain't gonna happen, so don't go there.

What increasingly annoys me about political discourse and "humor" of late is that, at least in what I've heard or seen myself, the "left" is increasingly using ugly and irrelevant attacks on physical appearance, failings, etc. rather than substantive disagreements with policy, etc. The "right" calls Obama a "socialist" (which is an exaggeration of what they feel his policies are, and has at least some substance in fact), whereas the "left" calls Limbaugh a "fat Nazi gasbag addict" or the like. Even if I agreed with the "left," I certainly wouldn't be inclined to hang around with a bunch of name-calling bullies. (Oh, sure, the "right" uses such tactics, too, but for the past decade it seems the "left" has been outdoing the "right" 2-1 or better in such insults.)

Gene Weingarten: For those who missed it:

Wanda Sykes' routine was very good, until she lost it -- and lost the room -- with viciousness. She's a very skilled comedian, but she made a rookie error.

She started edgy but terrific, complimenting Michelle Obama for baring her strong and beautiful arms, noting that some previous first ladies "need sleeves. Hell, they need ponchos."

She chastised the president for appearing shirtless too often, noting "there is no 'Nipple Portrait" of Licoln.

She noted that black people are deeply proud of our first black president, until something goes wrong, at which point everyone will start saying "what's up with that half-white guy?"

She really went out on a limb, but didn't fall, by joking obliquely about THE verboten topic, chiding Obama for going to a burger joint with the vice president. "Whose idea was that, Nancy Pelosi's?

In short, Wanda was fabulous, until she got to Rush Limbaugh. She hates him. Hate doesn't work great, as an engine for humor. Referring to Limbaugh's arguably awful contention that he wants to see Obama fail, she said "I want to see his kidneys fail." This did not get a laugh.

She really fell off the cliff, though, when she said that Limbaugh was the 20th hijacker, but he missed his plane because he was too buzzed on Oxycontin. Not good.

Obama: Very funny. Best line, in recounting his accomplishments of the first 100 days: "No president has ever named three commerce secretaries so quickly."


Southern Maryland: Simply an incredible opening today. I've read several books on Nuremberg, but none had any of the incredible details that Kingsbury-Smith provided. Thanks for posting this (and for correcting Wikipedia).

Gene Weingarten: I want to hear from people who thought it was boring. Because if there are none I want to be able to laugh at Chatwoman.


What A Ga, ME: Is it at all possible that the Povich on the Hebrew All-Stars could be Shirley Povich? He would have been 21 at the time and have been at the Post for 3 years.

Gene Weingarten: I dunno!


Arlington Gay: Concerning the fellow in the college newspaper article. I could agree with you, Gene, if the article had been 15 or 20 years ago. But newspapers were already online 5 to 10 years ago. That recently, I can't agree the guy who put himself back in the closet has a reasonable expectation of privacy. I feel his pain, but not much.

Gene Weingarten: But the paper WASN'T online 5 to ten years ago, and presumably he knew that.


RE: Please Patronize The Nation's Youth: This anecdote is sort of the reverse of your Gene Pool inquest, but it kind of fits. My sixty year old father finally got the hang of email and was corresponding with some far away friends who were dealing with a death in the family. Every email, he would sign off the same way, thinking he was sending them 'Lots of Love'. He later realized the true meaning of the acronym LOL.

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.


Raleigh, NC: Ahh, Gene, I believe you made an error about the Katzenjammers. They were South African Boers and their strip was set in that nation, not the US of A.

Gene Weingarten: I tink dey were ektually citizens of Der World:

From a bio:

The main characters in the comic strip were Mamma Katzenjammer, her twin sons, Hans and Fritz, and the long-suffering target of their mischief, The Captain. The Katzenjammer Kids is an "ethnic" comic strip. All of the characters speak with a German accent. "Just" becomes "chust," "we" becomes "ve," and the Captain is, of course, "der Captain." This device provided part of the charm of the strip in the early days, though it may be regarded as politically incorrect today.

In the early decades of the strip's existence, the Katzenjammer family engaged in adventures all over the world. Ultimately, they settled on a tropical island. But, wherever they were, the continuing and repeated theme centered around the ability of Hans and Fritz to pull creative pranks, get into trouble as a result, and end up being hunted down or spanked over someone's knee in the last panel.


Baltimore, Md.: I am 55 years old, and I've been subscribing to the Baltimore Sun for 30 years. I am ready to cancel because it is but a ghost of its former self -- virtually no national or international news. The only thing stopping me from canceling my subscription is my need for dog-poop bags.

Gene Weingarten: See, I have long contended that there is a natural plateau, a level of circulation below which ink-on-paper newspapers will never sink. It's the Poop-bag plateau.

That's my business model: Newspapers should partner with dog shelters, dog breeders, etc. In fact, newspapers should BECOME dog shelter entrepreneurs. Start devoting our still-significant resources to making sure that every adult in America owns at least one dog.

Sure, there will be challenges: Private poop-bag manufacturers will try to move in on this new market. But nothing will replace the newspaper sleeve for value-added convenience and efficiency. That's the future.


Poll: I wanted a choice to say "If you are already a paid print subscriber, you would get web site access as part of your subscription". I would not pay an additional $5 a month for web access since I am one of the 219 people who still get a print subscription to the Post.

Gene Weingarten: Many people make the same point. This seems like something that would work.


Denver, Colo.: Is there a masculine equivalent of "shiksa" that carries a similar derogatory freight - or do Jewish girls never marry non-Jewish boys? The generally acceptable 'goy' is not an equivalent.

As an aside - there appears to be no female equivalent of "uxorious" (describing a man who loves his wife/women too much). I guess men think that no woman can love them too much.

Gene Weingarten: A male shiksa is a sheygetz. The spelling is phonetic.

Uxorious is an interesting word: A major contradiction exists within the accepted definition of the word itself. It supposedly means a man's extreme affection for, or submissiveness to, his wife. The first definition seems praiseworthy, the second not so much. Ergo, the word can be used simultaneously as a compliment and in derision.

There does not seem to be a female version, you are right.

This led me to wonder if there was a cross-gender word for misogyny; eg, the fear or hatred of men. There should be and is: Misandry.


Laytonsville, MD: Wait a minute! Pat the Perfect on Style Conversational? Where is that? Why didn't I know about this? Can Liz give us a link -- I've looked! Style Conversational

Gene Weingarten: I believe this is a brand-new feature. The two women are friends, but very wary of each other.


It's the 21st century!: He should just come out of the closet! Everyone must know by now anyway. He'll feel a lot better

Gene Weingarten: Yes, but I think outing is something one must do to oneself.


McLean: Gene, Did you get the newspaper survival poll idea from "On the Media"? The past week's show had a long segment dealing with the problems that newspapers have with the Internet, not the least of which being Google. And the notion of the Amazon Kindle was white knight was torpedoes when a newspaper executive said that Amazon not only wanted a 70% cut of the revenue, but also an unlimited free redistribution license. The notion of an antitrust exemption for major newspapers to collectively determine a schedule of online subscription fees was also discussed.

My feeling: If the BoSux and the Yankeesuck can have an antitrust expemption, why not newspapers?

Gene Weingarten: The antitrust exemption for baseball was one of the oddest ratification decisions ever by the Supreme Court. I have read monographs on the subject. Newspapers would make a lot more sense.


A hot 40 year old: thought it was boring. Sorry, Gene. I do have a soul, but it has nothing to do with attributing words to the correct person.

Gene Weingarten: They are not just "words."

But, succinctly stated. Thank you.


Alexandria, Va.: Gene, it is my understanding that the Post has not lost subscribers. So, print lives! So, what gives? No advertisers?

Gene Weingarten: We have lost subscribers, but not to the degree we have lost advertisers. That's the financial nightmare.

Craigslist alone destroyed classified advertising, which used to be a huge part of newspaper revenue.


Falls Church, Va: This is a serious question: Why do people have a right to get news for free, when the producers of the news are professionals, working for pay, producing a product people want.

TV is free.

Gene Weingarten: Well, no. You're paying a service provider, no?


Pat the Perfect, ME: The thread on The Style Conversational is called Watch Your Pthep. I'll monitor it at least daily.

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Washington, D.C.: Found in the WashPost 5/6/9: "MIAMI -- A Miami priest known as "Father Oprah" for offering relationship advice on the archdiocese's radio network is no longer broadcasting after photos surfaced that show him embracing a woman at a bar and at the beach, church officials said Tuesday."

Father Oprah's real name? The Rev. Albert Cutie.

I submit that with a name like that, the women were embracing him.

Gene Weingarten: Now, see, that would be a weak aptonym if that's all we had. But in His Infinite Mirth, God smiled down on us. Lizzie, can you please link to a photo of Fr. Cutie? Fr. Alberto Cutie


Chatters retort: A double double dactyl:

Higgledy Piggledy Chatmeister Weingarten Trumpets his talent with All kinds of verse

Chatters however are Not undeservedly Labelled as tinears and Dullards and worse

Unwilling to stand for these Vile accusations the Chatters react when the Gauntlet is thrown

Embracing conventions of Dactylic meter they Albeit awkwardly Make it their own

Gene Weingarten: Good.

You embraced conventions of dactylic meter but not the requirement that one of the eight lines be a single double-dactylic word. It's necessary. I mean, it's necessitudinous.


Trivia question: There is a minor bumbler named Durkin as a recurring figure in a certain form of mid-20th century genre fiction. Anyone know who? : Fred Durkin, the biggest and dumbest of the three private investigators occasionally hired by Nero Wolfe when his sidekick Archie Goodwin needs help with the legwork of a case. Fred is "an Irishman who once mortally offended Wolfe by calling for ketchup at a dinner cooked by Wolfe's chef."

Gene Weingarten: Exactly. He's the ugly dumb one. The ugly smart one is Saul Panzer. The suave handsome one is Orrie Cather.


Just Wonder, IN: What is the joke about the two women on a plane - one from Boston, one from Charleston? I tried Google but found nothing...

Gene Weingarten: There are various incarnations of this joke. I think most are collegiate, involving a student from Harvard vs. a student from some lesser-known school. But I'll do it with ladies from Boston and Charleston.

Lady from Boston seated on a plane next to lady from Charleston. Charleston lady says, "Do you know which end of the plane the bathroom's at?"

Other lady responds: "I'm from Boston. In Boston we don't end sentences with prepositions."

Charleston lady responds: "Oh, sorry. Do you know which end of the plane the bathroom's at, bitch?"


Washington, D.C.: If newspapers became non-profits, wouldn't the op/ed pages have to become drastically different? I'm asking this because I am not totally familiar with non-profit designation rules. I thought there was restrictions on the type of information for which they can advocate (ie, not political).

Gene Weingarten: I am not sure that Op-Eds would have to change, but newspapers would no longer be able to editorialize in favor of candidates.


Bo, Red.: Gene, sorry it took me so long to post, but I just woke up after having been put to sleep by that boring introduction, even though I only skimmed it.

Please stick to cute dog stories or any other personal musings in your intro.

Thank you.

Gene Weingarten: How can anyone find botched executions of Nazis not to be compelling.


NEJM: One thing I never understood about the subscription to the New England Journal of Medicine is that if you get the print and online subscription, it's $52 per year. If you want ONLY the online portion, it's $104 per year. What's the reasoning behind that?

Gene Weingarten: Can anyone with better business sense than I have explain this model?


Why "Times Select" Failed: The Wall Street Journal has about a million online-only subscribers; we pay $99/year. I do this because I don't want or need more paper in the house.

But WSJ subscribers are, for the most part, capitalists. We believe that in the marketplace of ideas and news, some products are worth paying to read.

New York Times readers must tend more to the socialist side, which proposes that each should receive according to his "needs," and clearly the Times content reinforces that belief.

Ergo: those who would be most likely to want to read the NYT are also those who would most feel entitled to receive it for free.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting! Possibly a nutty interpretation, but possibly true.


The wikifix: Gene - The opening wasn't boring in the least, and correcting the historical record is a worthy cause. But you're not correcting it, though you take ample credit for doing so.

By your own admission, hundreds of other sources -- including an LA Times obit! -- have already attributed the article properly. So, what exactly did you uncover here?

Gene Weingarten: Well, now, hey, hold on there. By that reasoning, the record was corrected by the hundreds of cites that say it was Howard K. Smith.

Here's what I could not find: Anything, anywhere, saying that there's a big misconception out there.


Did it ever matter?: "I am not sure that Op-Eds would have to change, but newspapers would no longer be able to editorialize in favor of candidates."

Do you think that ever changed anyone's mind?

Gene Weingarten: I think it used to. I think the Wapo's endorsement decided some mayoral races many years ago.

I have always felt newspapers should not endorse candidates, and I have always been on the fence on whether we should even write editorials. These things never felt right to me.

Fred Hiatt will hate me for saying this.


The opposite of uxorious: It does indeed exist! Maritorious means "excessively fond of one's husband."

Also, The Opposite of Uxorious would be a really genius album title.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I saw this, but it seems to be a never-or-seldom-used, made-up word.


That Infamous Island Off the Coast of Massachusetts: Gene, your standard for limerick rhyme is not perfect.

The infamous island name ends in "et," while the rhyming words end in "it". last I checked, "et" is pronounced different from "it."

Additionally, the Wikipedia entry for the Infamous Island needs to be edited. A section of the Wiki entry lists mentions of the island in literature. Alas, there is no mention of The Limerick, much less of the infamous young man from...

Gene Weingarten: See, now, this is just wrong. There is no reasonable distinction to the ear between the ending of Nantucket and either of the two rhymes for it in the famous poem.


Greater Green Bay, Wis.: Great title for Howard K. Smith's memoirs: "The Events Leading Up to My Death."

Gene Weingarten: Yes! It may be the best autobiography title ever!


Alexandria, Va.: Here's my business model:

If you have a paid subscription to the dead tree edition, you get online free.

If you choose, you can pay only for online, like the Wall Street Journal.

If you can prove you're within the Wash DC delivery area, you can subscribe to the online version price.

If you're outside the metro DC area, it's more for you by a couple of bucks a month.

If you see something on Google etc and want to read just that article, it's 10 cents billed against an existing account, like the EZ Pass.

Voila! Problem solved.

Gene Weingarten: None of this is quite as easy as voila!, especially that last one.


Dulles, Va.: I work for a large (used to be much, much larger) "online" company in "America." Four years ago we did the opposite of what you are suggesting in the poll. We started giving away our huge wealth of content free to anyone that could get on the Internet. At the same time we encouraged our paying subscribers to cancel their subscription service and remain users of our free content. How has it worked out for us? Well the online advertising market has tanked and we've gone from 13,000 employees worldwide to about 7,000. Hopefully things will turn around soon. Perhaps we'll shed the giant publishing and entertainment company we bought nine years ago and go it alone. AOL never did so well as it did in the early days of the Internet when they were able to charge subscribers hourly usage fees. A hardcore chat room addict could rack up bills into the thousands of dollars per month. -- An "online" company in "America" alumna.

Gene Weingarten: I don't think AOL has ever quite recovered from its (not entirely fair) image as an opportunist and a usurer, when so many people had this slap to the forehead revelation that they were paying for exactly what others were getting for free. I was one of those people.


Cultural Touchsto, NE: I just have to agree with you about your column this weekend. I was 27 years old when I learned that "tell me about the rabbits, George" was not just something from Bugs Bunny or Rocky and Bullwinkle. I prize that discovery as a moment when my world got bigger. Let the whippersnappers learn for themselves how our culture was built so they can make it their own.

Gene Weingarten: Liz, can you link to my Sunday column here?

Yes, you have iterated my thinking exactly; Tom the Butcher and I were in some disagreement about this -- he thinks the original essayist had a point, and he frequently asks me to elaborate on some point I have made or eliminate what he considers to be an obscure historical or literay reference. I always diplomatically inform him that I see his point but that I personally do not subscribe to the notion that persons under 40 are illiterate, incurious self-absorbed twits.

I think the presence of the Web has actually made it less necessary to explain things, because explanations are a click away. In a column I wrote yesterday, I used the expression "tit for tat," then realized that while I understood the meaning, I had no idea of the etymology.

It's a corruption of "tip for tap," apparently referring to retaliatory tactics in swordplay. Interestingly, it has been hijacked and modernized by mathematicians and game-theory experts.

I envision a world of the future, a panacea where everyone is completely culturally literate and nothing has to be over-explained. You know, a "tell me about the rabbits, George" scenario. Below the Beltway, (May 10)


Old Flame, Ca: I had not known what happened to a woman that I loved over 40 years ago. I have moved on (happy marriage, children etc.) since then but always wanted to know what happened to her. So I googled her and easily found her. Sent an email to her work addy giving her an easy out. (you may not remember me, are you this common name etc) She replied the next working day. Turns out she had been wondering what happened to me for those same 40 years. She also is happily married with children etc. She still had a letter and other stuff that I sent her long ago.

We exchanged pixs of our children, our spouses etc. For both of us, this was a sweet virtual reunion.

Mentioned this to my wife and she had no problem with it. Mentioned it to a few female friends and the response varied from "how romantic" to "what are you doing? trying to break up 2 marriages?" Latter comment mostly from divorced women and some single ones.

Maybe this is a question for Hax but I will ask Gene and company first. Whatdayathink?

Gene Weingarten: Well, you are talking to a guy who, at 49, located his second-grade crush and took her on a date. With approval of the wife.

I think that if a marriage is so fragile, and so volatile, that it is threatened by something innocent like this, it's not much of a marriage. You and your wife are right. If You Go Chasing Rabbits..., (Post, Feb. 11, 2001)


New York, N.Y.: I'd like to think the Chicago Tribune's endorsement of Obama may have changed some people's minds.

Gene Weingarten: I believe in 2004 (I think I am remembering this right) newspaper endorsements favored Kerry by 2-1 or more over Bush. So, y'know.


Chicago, Ill.: Gene,

Today is my birthday, so I feel that you must take my comment. I am a (now) 25 hot female future doctor.

Anyway, I wanted to comment on all your readers waking up with numb arms. Most likely they are having entrapment of their ulnar nerves in their elbow. I would bet that most of them sleep in some sort of fetal like position with their arms bent up under their chin. Some people are unlikely enough to have their ulnar nerves be in a position to get squished, much like in carpal tunnel, all night. Thus waking up with numbness. Some people can do this both to their median nerve and ulner nerve depending on their position in sleep. The remedy neurologists would give is buy a elbow brace to keep them in a more open angle. However, one neurologist I worked with suggested a cheaper and more comfortable solution of hugging a pillow. This will keep your arms open and prevent the numbness.

So nothing to worry about. No weird neurological diseases

Gene Weingarten: Doc, I don't think that's it. I think it's circulatory, because the affected arm is both numb and cold, and the condition is relieved almost immediately when the arm is lowered to below the level of the heart. You can feel it filling with blood again.


Hyattsville, Md.: Here's why I answered no to this question - "Assuming ink-on-paper newspapers die and the online products cannot turn a profit, do you think it's worthwhile to try to save the industry?" The traditional press has lost its adversarial role with the people in power. We really saw this with Bush, but I'm sure it started before and it certainly continues now. For every Dana Priest, it seems like there are twelve Chris Cizillas, George Wills and Dana Milbanks. As Stephen Colbert said at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, too many reporters have become stenographers.

Gene Weingarten: You don't find Dana Milbank to be an adversary of people in power????


Father Cutie: is not really an aptonym, since it's pronounced Koo-tee-AE, with the accent on the last syllable.

Gene Weingarten: Nope! I believe I am the world's leading expert on the aptonym. It is an entirely written phenomenon. The only exception is where the name is well-known, so it seems a stretch and dishonesty to pronounce it as written: Case in point, Rep. Boehner.


Why do people have a right to get news for free, when the producers of the news are professionals, working for pay, producing a product people want?: Then why did newspapers start putting so much of their content online in the first place? Just because they could? Were they unable to foresee the consequences? Did they assume that only a very few elites would ever use the Internet? Didn't they realize that computers and Internet access, like so many other forms of media technology, would become dramatically cheaper and simultaneously better (as, e.g., newspapers did, then radio, then TV), thus becoming a tool of the masses?

Gene Weingarten: This is the sad truth: We put it on the Web because we didn't know what else to do. We knew everyone else would do the same thing. We figured that eventually we'd figure out how to turn a profit from the Web and also that the paper product would remain more profitable than it has.

I think it is fair to say we blew it.


Free Media, MD: I feel it necessary to mention that I am a daily subscriber to a newspaper that goes in the recycling bin because I read it online. The newspaper has always been free to filchers. I have seen people pull it from the recycling bin in Metro, leave sections on the train for others, etc. While not as good, it can be seen every night at 5 on tv. You're fighting that culture of openness. I still buy the paper though I prefer to download music for free mostly for aforementioned reasons.

Gene Weingarten: Here's a question: Would you put coins in a newspaper box, open the box, and take two papers?


Why not?


Your colleague Richard Cohen needs to be waterboarded: Was he making a joke, or was he serious? I think his columns are generally good, but his essay on torture completely ruined my morning. His column is WRONG in so many ways, but I'll just start with the lede.

What if Cheney's right? I don't care; considering the merits of torture is wrong in-and-of itself. Maybe your next poll should be on torture, although I seem to recall you did one some time ago.

Gene Weingarten: Hm. I haven't read this yet. Should have. But I am always persuaded by the occasional interview with world war II interrogators who got everything from the Nazis by playing chess with them.

South American generals with a chest full of medals and mirrored sunglasses are what I think about when I think of torture.


New York, N.Y.: I still like the dead tree version of the paper - no one is recording what articles I read or don't read on a given day and no one is selling that information to marketers.

Gene Weingarten: There is also an element of organization of information that I think is lost on the Web.

This is not just a losing battle, though. It's a lost battle. People under 40 don't get the argument.


FWIW: I usually ignore your introductions. Today, I was glued.

Gene Weingarten: A backhanded compliment, but I'll take it.


Gene Weingarten: Here's a question: Would you put coins in a newspaper box, open the box, and take two papers? : Wrong analogy...we are being offered news online for free. Do you think we're stealing it by reading what's is made freely available? By that logic, all your chat buddies here are thieves.

Gene Weingarten: Actually, I didn't mean it to be an analogy. I was just trying to be obnoxious.


Openinga, CT: I had been reading your opening comments about the enormously pertinent six-decade-old byline controversy, but then I became distracted by a droplet of water on my office window. I watched it slowly makes its way down the glass and connect with other drops, morphing into a blob of water that looked quite a bit like the profile of Alfred Hitchcock, had he been sporting a fedora.

Gene Weingarten: Hahaha.


RBIs: This question came up yesterday on Mike and Mike on ESPN radio: What is the plural of RBI? Greenberg insisted that it is RBIs, defending this with 100% confidence. You agree?

Gene Weingarten: Yes, though it bothers me.

More interesting: What do you call a single Red Sox player, to be parallel to a Yankee? Is he a Red Sock?


Washington, D.C.: Why is farting so darn funny????

Gene Weingarten: Because it exposes an essential hypocrisy and absurdity of the human condition. We think of ourselves as a sophisticated species, elevated above the beasts of the field. But we still have to do this ridiculous thing.


Princeton, N.J.: Hey Gene - This may sound like a dumb question, but is the text in comics always all done by hand as well as the drawings? It always just seems so perfect and unwavering.

Thanks, mister.

Gene Weingarten: Some toonists still letter by hand. Some use computer lettering, which has gotten very sophisticated. Even the purist Garry Trudeau made the switch to computer lettering a couple of years ago -- I believe to a lettering system created from his own past lettering.

Barney and Clyde, the strip Dan'l and I are doing, will be hand lettered by the artist, David Clark.


Palookaville: The reason "Fart turd" doesn't rhyme with "Hartford" is because the former is a spondee, the latter a trochee. "Partnered" does, however, rhyme with "Hartford, because an initial consonant of an unaccented syllable is irrelevant. Thus, Jonathan Richman's great rhyme of "catamaran" with "flat o' the land" in "That Summer Feeling," and Billy Strayhorn's of "lush life" with "mush stif-" are both fine.

Gene Weingarten: Partnered and Hartford is a rhyme that The Empress might accept and I would not. It is an off rhyme but a right sound.

Okay, we're gone here. Remember that we've got a Post Hunt chat tomorrow here at noon, with Tom Shroder, Dave Barry and me.

No updates this week, for that reason.


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