Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron (Updated Jan. 18)

Gene Weingarten
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 30, 2010; 12:00 PM

UPDATED: Jan. 18

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 one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. This month, that day is Tuesday, Nov. 30 at Noon ET .He will chat about anything. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, 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.

Please take this week's polls: You Are The Editor | Pronunciation | Wikileaks and TSA searches: His /Hers.

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.

Ed's Note: 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.


Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon.

This will be a desultory introduction, filled with short items of incalculable value and heartbreaking drama.

We begin with my column on Sunday which obviously led to today's pronunciation poll. The mail on this column was predictably voluminous, mostly from fellow pedants who agreed with me completely. But a sizable minority were fellow pedants who agreed with me completely, except for "lickeriss," which they indignantly rejected because THEY just don't say it that way, dammit. My favorite of these emails was from the intriguingly named Stephen Twentyman, who noted dryly: "Did you know that 'Gene Weingarten' is properly pronounced 'Lubomir ap Dallapiccola'? It's true! I'll grant you that nobody in the world has ever thought to pronounce it that way, but you can say the same for lickeriss."

Point taken! And rejected! It is clear that "lickerish" is a mispronunciation begun by juveniles and perpetuated in ignorance and laziness. The proper pronunciation should be reclaimed by all of us, through force of will. If common sense doesn't persuade you (see the column) perhaps this will: A recording of one of the most literate individuals on Earth saying the word correctly, many times, in a great poem of his:

Nonetheless, the real point of this column was that American dictionaries are no longer to be trusted as guardians of pronunciation. If you didn't agree with me before, I think you will after clicking these two buttons here, both official pronunciation guides from the odious



I suggest you click on these buttons many times, to fuse them into your brains. In fact, I will be asking Producer Paul (henceforth referred to in this excretorily-based chat as "PP") to sprinkle these links at random through the chat, so you can be reminded of what violence our dictionaries are doing to us.

There may, actually, be hope. A revolt from within. If you go to, and search for "nuclear," you will see that the text suggests two pronunciations: The correct one, and the execrable one made infamous by George W. Bush. There are two buttons to push. The first one, recited by a man, says "NUKE-lee-ar." The second one, recited by a woman, is SUPPOSED to say NYUKE-you-lar. She at least has that option, by the written pronunciation guide. But she doesn't! She cannot seem to bring herself to say it! She says it correctly!!!!!!

We will discuss the rest of the pronunciation poll by and by, but I need to tell you something shocking: You are all wrong about iodine. It should be pronounced "EYE-o-deen." This is not even open to reasonable debate. Why? Because, folks, it is an element. It is the same part of the periodic table as the other elements with the same properties. They are astatine, flourine, chlorine, bromine. All -eens. This is simply obvious. Suck it up. (Disclaimer on behalf of Post lawyers; Don't literally suck it up. It's poison. Okay?)


Okay, did you all happen to catch Pearls Before Swine two Sundays ago? Here it is.

A terrific strip, but ... what was the horrible pun Stephan Pastis was going to make? WAS there one? I couldn't figure it out, but my friend Horace LaBadie did, and I confirmed it with Stephan. Can you get it? First and best answer wins a signed copy of "The Fiddler in the Subway."

PP, you know the answer. Please keep an eye out for the first right one to come in. Also send me wrong guesses.


I'm glad to see your reaction in the poll, so far, to the Wikileaks stories. I agree with you. This thing makes me very uncomfortable.

I am a fierce proponent of the public's right to know, and the media's right to tell them. I support the media in virtually all such issues when they arise, even pretty controversial ones. I think in almost all cases, exposing government misdeeds to public light is a good thing, even, sometimes, through theft. The Pentagon Papers were a valid, important story; they told a sordid tale of how our government spent nearly 20 years lying to us about essential, life and death matters of foreign policy. I think the Abu Ghraib photos had to be released, despite the extreme damage to our national credibility -- even at risk to our war effort. They told a dreadful tale of an occupation gone seriously awry. I think Dana Priest's disclosure of secret renditions to "enhanced-interrogation" camps in foreign countries was vital evidence of the amorality of the conduct of elements of our war on terror. The key to all these cases is the public's right to know about government misconduct.

This is entirely different. I've been poring through the releases so far, and it all looks pretty normal to me: Diplomacy as it has always been practiced; diplomats are counted on to give frank, often blunt assessments of foreign leaders and foreign motives, secure in the privacy of those assessments. I don't see anything that tells me our government (either the Bush or Obama administrations) has been operating deceitfully, or even particularly ineptly. The use of dips as mild-manner, low-level mini-spies is as old as diplomacy is.

And here is where things get tricky; this is all part of a new world, where leaks can happen completely outside the purview of the (mostly) responsible media, which is trained to weigh and prioritize news based on importance, fairness, and potential impact. I find myself wondering what would have happened if this were 15 years ago, and the leak of all these documents went straight to, and only to, The New York Times or Washington Post. I KNOW neither newspaper would have hemorrhaged them all out there, intact. I suspect they would have pored through them all and written a restrained series about diplomacy, using only those fact they felt were pertinent to a responsible story. It would look nothing like the story they were forced to run in the last few days -- an embarrassing, juicy, snarky, but ultimately largely meaningless trove of secret -- likely stolen -- stuff. I think it is also possible The Times or The Post might not have run it at all; these are probably stolen, and are not The Pentagon Papers. You run with stolen goods at your own risk, and only for the most noble and defensible of reasons.

The Obama administration is trying to downplay the impact of this, but it is going to be chilling: Diplomats who should feel free to express their true opinions will be hesitant to do so, at least in writing. Other countries will feel we cannot be trusted. Important people with enormous egos will be miffed, possibly at significant cost.

Can a case be made that this stuff should be published merely because it is -- undeniably -- interesting? A weak one, maybe. But responsible media has always resisted running interesting stories in the interests of national security, or fairness, or relevance. The New York Times famously knew of the Bay of Pigs invasion weeks in advance -- a huge story -- and chose to withhold it. Before he died, former Post managing editor Howard Simons told me he had over the years personally ordered three major stories withheld -- they never ran -- two over concerns of national security, and one because the damage to a reputation outweighed the importance of the story.

So, yeah, this worries me. The agenda is being set by people who are both untrained and untethered to a large organization with a centuries-old reputation to uphold. It's basically some guy in hiding. The Times had to go with what they published -- withholding it from their readers would have been nonsensical, when it was out there anyway, all over the globe. But if they were being completely honest, I think they would have shared, by now, their discomfort over all this.


Okay, some quickies:

I had planned to make the Clip of the Day one of the most brilliant Andy Kaufman routines I have even seen, but Leslie Nielsen's death forces me to hold this back until the updates. Or the next chat.

I loved Nielsen's work. He had great deadpan comedic delivery. Here's a 20-second clip he nails beautifully:

But that's not the best of Leslie Nielson. The best of Leslie Nielson was his humanity. And because this is Chatological Humor, we will send Leslie off with what may be his finest moment: The time he farted on camera, and then had the class not to ignore it, but to run with it (aided by a very quick thinking reporter in the field):


And finally, an absolutely fabulous aptonym.


Okay, let's go.


I know I'm a bad person: But stories about HS students feeling sorry for Downs Syndrome kids and giving them a "special day" really annoy me. Some may vote them for homecoming because it means something to them, but others are voting because it's mean to them.

There was a story about a bad HS football team that put in a Downs Syndrome kid late in the game. The other team knew they were going to hand off to the kid, and let him run in for a touchdown. Congrats kid. They felt sorry for you and were patronizing.

Gene Weingarten: See the next post.


New York, NY: There's definitely something missing from the story: Cara. The reporter never speaks to her, and we only hear about how she feels about the event from other sources. She's been erased from her own story.

Gene Weingarten: Very good.

Yeah, the online commenters seem to have been bamboozled a bit by sentiment, and the story's many other strengths. It IS well written, and is DOES avoid schmaltz, and the story IS compelling. But there is this gaping hole at its center that lowers its grade to C.

The worst thing about it is that, right or wrong, it suggests deception and/or manipulation. It raises the reasonable inference that the writer is trying to avoid dealing with the degree of Cara's disability, because it would in someway undermine the cheery tone of the story.

The best way to understand this is to watch this TV clip about Cara. It's not nearly as artful or skillful as the story, but in focusing directly on Cara, it underscores the story's weakness. In this short clip, we get a sense of the girl that is completely missing from the newspaper story.


Gaithersburg, MD: I've noticed lately that toilet paper commercials are stressing "how clean" you'll be if you use their product. It used to be "how soft" the TP was. Remember Mr. Whipple? There are also extra products to use AFTER you use the TP. Have folks forgotten how to use TP?

Gene Weingarten: This is part of an even more bizarre phenomenon. Have you seen the Charmin ad campaign based upon the apparently ubiquitous problem of toilet paper sticking to your butt? They do it with cartoon bears:

Is anal adhesion a widespread problem of which I am unaware?

We need to get to the bottom of this, as it were.


Caramel vs Carmel: I'm SO glad you included this, because this drives me insane: there is, presently, a radio commercial for McDonald's caramel latte or whatever it is (I'm so distracted by my anger that I can't remember what they're hawking) containing a man and a woman arguing over the correct pronunciation of the word "caramel". She argues, correctly, that it is "KAR-uh-mel", but he scoffs and says "It's CAR-mel, because you don't say KAR-uh-mel, Indiana, do you?" She sighs and he sits back in smug triumph, and I want to reach through the radio and smack him, because of COURSE you don't pronounce it that way: it's spelled Carmel, without an extra A, and as such is pronounced CAR-mel.

Sorry. I had to get that off my chest.

Gene Weingarten: Correct.

Also, I am shocked at how many people say Ed-you-cay-shin. Which is correct.

And that as many as 20 percent say "shraynth". What is WRONG with you people?

Gene Weingarten: Er, "shtraynth."


Traveling question: Gene - is it irresponsible of me to go to Israel when I have a young child? I have a fantastic opportunity to go (something I've wanted to do for a long time), but my husband is against it. He's worried about safety and doesn't like the idea of me leaving our toddler-age son for a week. While I'm not thrilled about being apart from him, I really don't want to pass this up.

So I guess my second part of the question is: if I really want to go and my husband really doesn't, am I a terrible person for telling him too bad? This isn't just a personal vacation - it also a great research opportunity and something I'm going to have to do at some point anyway for my career. I'll be traveling with someone, and staying with friends who live there. I've tried explaining these benefits, but I guess I don't really have a counterargument for safety.

Since you've been there (and are a parent yourself), do you have any advice, either on whether I should go or how I can help alleviate my husband's fears (at least enough to let me go)? And should I take into account the newest TSA pat-down procedure? I heard Dave Barry recount his experience on NPR - not sure if I'm ready for that!

Gene Weingarten: Do you have a fuzzy groin, like Dave?

I think your husband is being unreasonable. Clearly. Going to Israel might raise your risk of death, statistically, as much as getting into a car and driving a few blocks. If that.

I wouldn't spend hours riding buses in Jerusalem.

And yes, you are an adult. Your husband does not own you. If you feel you should go, it is your right.

Interesting question: What if you feel you should skydive? Is that your right, with a small child at home?

In that case, I'd argue it is your right, but you should listen careful to your husband's objections and weigh them fairly.


Washington, DC: It's weird to me that your poll used the term 'Treason' when talking about wikileaks. Does any reasonable person really think Julian Assange is a traitor? The accusation doesn't make much sense, first and formost because no one in the organization is even a citizen of the US. And even if they were, the label doesn't feel right unless you think "treason" means "doing something the US government doesn't like."

Having said that, I have no qualms with fully prosecuting the Army private who leaked the material. Hopefully, our witchhunt will end there, otherwise, I feel bad for those of you all in the business of reporting news.

Gene Weingarten: Who ALLEGEDLY leaked.

I used the word treason because it is being bandied about out there, notably by Sarah Palin on Twitter.

But... um, you could conceivably argue the army private, if he leaked, is guilty of treason. He's an American.

And no, I am not in favor of prosecuting the press for this; we are, essentially, covering news here.

Gene Weingarten: That last thing is the perverse part of it.


Pastis strip: is the pun: "Whyte Choo Aye!"

Like, "Right you are!"

(that's a terrible pun!)

Gene Weingarten: It is. But it's not the right one.


Howser, MD: I was shocked to see your pronunciation guide missed the classic "both" vs "bolth" argument. Where to do you weigh in on this one?

Gene Weingarten: Bolth? People say "bolth"?


Embarrassing names: $42M Holocaust-fund 'rip-off' (see photo)

Gene Weingarten: Both names are kind of great.

Gene Weingarten: I mean, bolth names.


Baraka again: Original poster here. Obviously you and I disagree, not just about this poem, but about the merits and functions of a poetry of anger (including irrational anger). But I thank you for posting the whole poem, and for making clear that it is a poem about race, not about 9/11. And I think your criticism, harsh as it is, does establish that that context matters.

Gene Weingarten: A poem, in my opinion, must be in control of itself, even if it is expressing anger. ESPECIALLY if it expressing anger. But my contempt for Baraka's rant, as I wrote, goes beyond its irrationality. It's fundamentally an immature poem, with dumb-ass rhymes and dumb-ass conclusions and flagrant racism.

Reader Eric Francis wrote in to ask me if I felt the same way about William S. Burroughs's "Thanksgiving Poem," which is similar in tone, and is reproduced here in its entirety:

For John Dillinger
In hope he is still alive
Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1986

Thanks for the wild turkey and the Passenger Pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts

thanks for a Continent to despoil and poison

thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger

thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin, leaving the carcass to rot

thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes

thanks for the AMERICAN DREAM to vulgarize and falsify until the bare lies shine through

thanks for the KKK, for nigger-killing lawmen feeling their notches, for decent church-going women with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces

thanks for "Kill a Queer for Christ" stickers

thanks for laboratory AIDS

thanks for Prohibition and the War Against Drugs

thanks for a country where nobody is allowed to mind his own business

thanks for a nation of finks yes, thanks for all the memories... all right, let's see your arms... you always were a headache and you always were a bore

thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.


Here is my response: This is a vastly better poem, of adult sentiment, in adult cadence, using adult words. It's powerful. And, ultimately, it is poisoned forever -- a negligible poem, really -- because of that idiot AIDS line.

See how stupid it makes him seem, over time? It brings his reasoning into doubt, for the rest of the poem. Sort of like Si and Gar saying "groovy."


Herndon, VA: Hi Gene,

I have an unusual question for you.

Last year we bought a foreclosed property here in Herndon. The house was trashed and it looked like they had left the place in a real hurry-- there was still an XBox, etc. as well as huge amounts of clothes and furniture in the place. It had been vacant for months before, I believe, but I'm guessing someone was told they had a few minutes to leave.

We disposed of almost everything, but we have hung onto one last box: a box of personal VHS and DVD tapes of family memories. One is of a wedding; another is a creepy DVD memorial that was apparently made after someone died. The titles are handwritten, in Spanish.

We have no way of contacting these people and they have not been back to ask if we've kept it. And we have a small storage space, so we're aching to throw it out. But it seems to violate some cardinal moral principle to send personal family memories to the landfill. What do you think?

Gene Weingarten: This has given me a huge rush of deja vu. Someone else, someone in person, someone I know well, had the same experience, down to the DVD of the dead guy, in Spanish.

My memory fails though. Er, this was not you, was it? If you were a librarian at the Washington Post, or most of the reporters, you could find these people. Surely, there are records of the foreclosure. It shouldn't be that hard, if you really care.


Bethesda, MD: I already had a problem with the stupid, ineffective inconveniences like taking off our shoes and putting all our liquids in little 3 ounce containers that the TSA has been making us put up with. I think little by little, the TSA is eroding our dignity in the name of "safety," but is trying to move slowly enough that no one gets too outraged at any one step in the process. It seemed, for like 20 seconds on the internet, that this time they may have taken too big a step, but it turns out most people still don't care. It's scary.

Also, while the groping would feel much more invasive to me in the moment than the body scan, I'm bothered by the idea that having walked through a body scanner some time last week, there's a naked picture of me on the TSA's computers somewhere. I know they have policies in place saying that they'll erase these pictures, but I am not confident that all TSA employees will perfectly adhere to policy at all times. Additionally, even "erased" data can often be recoverable.

Gene Weingarten: Okay.

I Don't Care.

I'm surprised to see so many of you agree with me!

I just finished a column about this -- I wrote it three weeks ago, before the furor began, so it will seem pretty outdated when it appears this Sunday. But basically: I have metal knees. I have been flying a lot recently. I've been getting groped a lot.

The gropers hate having to do this. They are embarrassed. They are gentle and don't really touch your junk.

We are in a hellish situation. I can only presume the TSA is doing what it feels it must. I'm willing to trust that.

Have any of you ever flown into or out of Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv? What we go through is nothing. They took a half an hour to inspect my laptop. I was frisked by a woman, because she was the only one available. People just accept it good-naturedly because they've been dealing with terrorism longer than we have. The Israelis are not sheep; they are pragmatic.


Pronunciation poll: Would be much better if you actually gave us the word you're interested in, spelled out. I'm stuck at "root" and "rowt" because I'm not sure if you mean route or rout. Guessing the former, but if we didn't have to guess you'd get more meaningful results. That is the only one that actually is spelled out:

"11. How do you say 'route': "

Gene Weingarten: Sigh.


Washington, DC: Gene: In your opening, you wrote:

"Before he died, former Post managing editor Howard Simons told me ...."

Um, do I even need to point out the bad writing to you? Or will you defend it? You clearly don't know about the Post's Ouija policy.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha.

I meant to say "Just" before he died.

Paul, that Ouija-sourcing think was Washington Post proprietary information.


pun: I have a feeling it's going to be "don't 'choot' until you see the 'whyte's of their 'ayes', but how that was going to work into the strip I don't know.

Gene Weingarten: That's it! Don't Choo.... Please send your info to me at weingarten(at)

No, Pastis didn't know exactly how he was going to bring it in, either. But that was the skeleton of it.


Re: the aptonymn: You are being bad to the Bone.

Gene Weingarten: I am.


Don't touch (or scan) my junk: The TSA poll didn't give enough's why: The 4th amendment to constitution protects us against unreasonable search and seizure - specifically, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

For the vast majority of travelers TSA has no "probable cause" and therefore, in my opinion, the scans and frisking are unreasonable searches. But, by flying, aren't you agreeing to surrender your rights to some degree to the TSA's rules? They don't have probable cause to scan your bags, either.

Gene Weingarten: I am sure this has been litigated; in this case, common sense rules trump everything. It would be wildly against the public interest to allow no searches. I'm with Paul.


Near Crofton, Md: I have been in a self-imposed exile from this chat for several years, so the first question I would like to ask is: "Have you realized that 'Fawlty Towers' is one of the best sitcoms of all time?"

Also, I want to concur with a previous chatter that suggested you should appear on the Tony Kornheiser show. All you need to do is be prepared to spend 11 minutes talking about: Donovan McNabb, current movies; the monkey invasion; music from the 60's; or popular television shows that are only available now on DVD. Preferably, you should conversate with Tony in a British accent so fake that it makes the Geico lizard sound like Laurence Olivier.

Personally, I think you would be much better on "Wait, Wait, Don't tell me." There are pauses built into the show that you can handle. Roy Blount, Jr., and Tom Bodet aren't exactly fast talkers. And, you interviewed Rodney Dangerfield for crying out loud! How difficult is Peter Sagal?

Gene Weingarten: Peter is a friend of mine, and I suspect I could get onto the show if I asked. I will not ask, and will not be drafted. I'd be a bad contestant. First, I have a face for radio, but a voice for newspapers. But it's not just about physical presence. I'm not great extemporaneously. Given a short time to think, I can be passably funny; given no time to think, I am a witless dullard.


Bethesda, MD: Greetings Gene-

It seems to me that, to a great extent, the pat-down kerfuffle is another unfortunate example of the Obama administration failing to communicate. Like with the health care bill, they have failed to get the word out on the parameters and benefits of this policy. The pat down hysterics got several days of airtime implying that EVERYONE was being groped before the TSA and administration representatives stepped forward to explain that only a small subset of passengers are selected for the scanners and only a small subset of them select the pat down option.

I think the broader issue is the apparent silliness that continues to go on. For example, I often forget to separate my carefully packed less-than 4oz liquids from my bag but none of the screeners catch it. If the system relies on honesty/cooperation on the part of the passengers, it seems like it would be pretty easy to carry BAD stuff on and just not pull it out to show the screeners.

I have nothing but sympathy for the TSA workers. Every time I fly I find myself being extra nice in an effort to make up the grouchy and downright mean passengers they have to face day in and day out. It does not help them, however, that they are often required to implement policies that, from the perspective of the traveling public, are strange and pointless.

Gene Weingarten: I think this is completely right. I do think the Obama administration is terrible at explanation.


Finger without a name: While playing with my daughter, I realized that one of my fingers doesn't have a name. There's thumb, index, middle, no-name, and pinkie. Do you think this needs to be corrected? If I were that finger, I'd feel slighted.

Gene Weingarten: Uh, it's the ring finger.

What bothers ME is that there are no names for three of the five toes. I think we should name them. I'm taking nominees.

Gene Weingarten: Er, taking nominations.


i've been accused of "bolth": And it's a very subtle l sound. But I don't know how else to say it! Bowth? Beouth? It sounds very awkward when I try to skip the l.

Gene Weingarten: It rhymes with quoth.


Wikilea, KS: Can I simultaneously think that light is good and think it is treasonous? If you have the global perspective, then light on truth is good. If you have a US versus the world view, then it's treasonous.

One question may be, if leaks came from another country's diplomatic plans (say Russia, China, or Canada), how would you answer the question?

Grammar question - the "a US" or "an US" depends upon how you read the statement aloud - how would you read it?

Gene Weingarten: A.

but "An US" is funny for other reasons.


Chicago IL: After reading your concerns about WikiLeaks, I'm actually more comfortable with what they did. You wrote alot about the media's traditional gatekeeper role, noting that there were instances in the past where the Times and the Post sat on stories for reasons only sometimes having to do with national security. I was all set to agree with that line of thinking . . .

. . . until I remembered that this is the same media that endlessly hypes non-stories like Chandra Levy or Natalee Holloway at the expense of actual important topics. Nobody's perfect, and nobody has a perfect track record in choosing what the public does or does not need to know. So given history's lesson that the ruling elites always manipulate and exploit the masses, I'd prefer having everything out in the open rather than behind closed doors. If that gets some diplomat's panties in a twist, perhaps it's all the better.

Gene Weingarten: Interesting. So I guess the news media should have leaked plans for D-Day, huh? Time and place? We all knew it.


Washington, DC: First off, hahahaha pee-pee.

Second, you missed one option on question 2 of the TSA poll. I don't think either option is useful, they are both pretty outrageous and probably won't stop a terrorist, but I'd choose the grope-down over the nudie-scan. Most TSA agents are just there for the paychecks, but on the off chance that I get one who isn't, I'd prefer him or her to be groping me rather than sitting in a booth where he or she could potentially save the image they see (yes, I know the TSA says the "save" option is turned off, but I've no reason to believe it can't be turned on by a savvy agent). If someone gropes you, it's just that one person who violates you. If someone takes your picture, it can get passed around. For whatever it's worth, I'm female, under 30, and reasonably attractive.

Third, I was all about the previous WikiLeaks expose, where they showed video of what looked like a massacre in Iraq. I thought it was just as necessary to see and talk about as the Abu Ghraib pictures. This recent one just seems goofy and pointless. Lots of gossip, not really criminal activity, and a lot of it seems to be the kind of thing everyone thinks or whispers to each other but never says out loud or to the subjects of discussion.

Gene Weingarten: Others have mentioned "saving" the image.

So, here's an interesting epistemological question:

Who cares if they save the image, if no one knows who it is? And no one does. Why would you care? Your face is not recognizable, really.

You know who I think would have a right to be worried about this? Celebs. Scarlett Johansson might have reason to worry that somehow, a signal was given: Keep this one.


That's not Cara: Gene - that's not Cara. Did you link to the wrong video or not understand that more than one person with Down Syndrome has been crowned Homecoming Queen?

Gene Weingarten: Oop. Did I? Crap. Sorry if I did. Did I? is that not Cara?


Monty Python on Pronounciation: It's spelled Raymond Luxury Yacht but it's pronounced Throat Warbler Mangrove.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Denver, CO-Reclining Plane Seat: I received this greeting card. I think this chat group will "get it".


Gene Weingarten: Nice.


DC: For those of us who are sick of hearing sports teams and players give God the credit when they win, it's refreshing to finally see a player who blames God when he messes up. Buffalo Bills receiver Steve Johnson, after dropping a touchdown pass that would have won the game on Sunday, tweeted:


Gene Weingarten: Yes. I twote about this yesterday. It is wonderful.


Why that "Spending" ad isn't racist: Actually, there are a couple of reasons.

First: the speaker and the audience are portrayed as smart, handsome and successful--no WWII-era stereotypes. The director was wise to take perceived racism off the table as a conceivable objection to the ad.

Second: the script is "accurate" in its depiction of the next 20 years if El Presidente del Recreacion Y Vacaciones is allowed to finish what he started.

Gene Weingarten: I completely disagree. I think it is hugely racist.

It's the way the audience cackles with malevolent laughter. To me, it is resurrecting the Asians-as-devious-sneaks World War II storyline.

Y'alls disagree?


CAGW ad: I do not think the ad is actually racist, but I do think its makers intended it to tap into some racist sentiments of its audience. I'm not entirely sure there's a difference there, though.

Gene Weingarten: I contend there is no difference at all.


ARGH: Just tell me -- should I call him or wait for him to call me? wait

Gene Weingarten: Wait.


Atlanta, GA: Gene,

While I fly every other week for work, I have yet to go through one of the full body scanners (aka nude-o-scopes) yet.

During peak travel times, the TSA sends most passengers through the old metal detectors while "randomly" selecting some passengers for the body screeners. I've observed that ones odds of being "randomly" selected are directly correlated to their hotness and femaleness. Being an older, unattractive guy, I'm neither hot, nor female, so they never select me for their "random" screenings.

TSA defends themselves by saying that the persons viewing the nude-o-scopes are in another room, but I've noticed that most TSA employees are male, they rotate positions throughout their shifts and, as you know, us guys do look out for one another.

Gene Weingarten: My feeling is that if this were true, it would be super obvious and the uproar would be deafening. No?

I am surprised, and delighted, that in the poll, a lot of people seem un-outraged in general, and that women in particular don't feel so threatened by the full body scanner. My wife doesn't care, either. Or Gina Barreca.


Three toe names: Ring Toe (next to the big toe), Middle Toe, No Roast beef toe

Gene Weingarten: No roast beef! Good.


Capitol Hill: Hi Gene,

I saw you a couple weeks ago at a new restaurant in the neighborhood. I was there with my wife. I had to explain to her that I knew it was you because you had a Cornell Vet School shirt on and that your daughter went there. The look on her face was a combination of amusement and alarm and I then realized that I really know a lot about you. Do you ever worry about over sharing?

Also, what kind of hot dog did you get and what did you think?

Gene Weingarten: This is a restaurant, DC-23, that serves only hot dogs, drinks, and ice cream. I had high hopes. They were mostly dashed. They have 25 different kinds of hot dogs, and by our two-visit sampling, none is particularly great.

Worst fact: The soft ice cream was completely tasteless. Like eating soft unflavored tofu.

Gene Weingarten: It's DC-3, not 23. After the plane.


Blurred groin: Hi Gene, I caught a short interview with Dave Barry on NPR last week discussing his recent TSA full body scan and subsequent diagnosis of "blurred groin." Pant-wettingly funny! I recommend everyone find it in the NPR archive.

I don't care if someone looks at a scanned image of my ladybits, I just don't want to be exposed to the radiation -- so given the choice I guess I'd take tha patdown. However, I have small children who I would definitely not expose to the radiation of the scanner yet would be uber-cheesed (to put it mildly) if someone wanted to pat down their genitals. So based on what I understand to be the options, I can't see successfully making it through security with my kids. Humorist Dave Barry And His TSA Pat-Down : NPR

Gene Weingarten: Yep.

I cannot believe the "radiation" is harmful.


Strength: What kind of weirdo says 'Stray-nth' OR 'Shtray-nth'? Most people say it with all the letters pronounced: 'Streng-th' (though I will admit to having heard 'Shreng-th' more than once).

Gene Weingarten: Several people have noted this. I'm amazed people pronounce the g, but respect it.


Chantilly, Va.: Gene, can you also please lend your incisive wit to the cause of eradicating the word "DIE-sect"? It's dis-SECT, with two esses, as in dissemble and dissent.

I am heartbroken to see that even my older edition of American Heritage accepts DIE-sect. Blech.

Gene Weingarten: How about dih-VISS-ive? Yuck.

Obama says dih-VISS-ive.


Wikilea, KS: Do you like all of your in-laws and family members? How about that incredibly annoying aunt who likes to dictate what everyone brings to Thanksgiving? I bet a few other family members have consulted to decide the best way to deal with her so that everything can run smoothly and the rest can enjoy their dinner. Sometimes it requires direct confrontation to deal with Aunt Crazy and sometimes it requires a subtler plan like giving her something specific to be in charge of so she doesn't drive everyone nuts. She's family and there's no getting rid of her (and you do still love her) so you figure out how to cope.

Wikileaks just ruined subtle plans between nations, only the result could be considerably more grievous than having a screaming match with Aunt Crazy at Thanksgiving. The Middle East is a powder keg on the best of days. North Korea needs only the slightest encouragement to attack its neighbors. Africa and Central America are not in good places. Undermining the trust between nations, even if it's a false trust, will have long- term effects.

While I'm not sure how non-American citizens involved could be tried for treason, it does not require breaking the law for an act to be fundamentally morally wrong. These diplomatic leaks could easily be another cog in a machine that goes on to kill people and destroy societies. Attend a few security briefs and you'll understand just how precarious peace is. It doesn't take much to push people over the edge.

Truth is a beautiful thing if everyone you deal with is upstanding. Rulers are imperfect, but in power despite this and sometimes because of it. Our friends and family are imperfect, but we focus on their positive aspects and hope they do the same for us. Shining a blinding light on all our imperfections and especially the imperfections of others must be a carefully considered thing. Just because it's The Truth doesn't make it Right.

Gene Weingarten: Very well stated. I agree completely. Obviously.

_______________________ Hey, so if you don't like Merriam Webster, what online dictionary do you use? (Don't tell me to buy a book. I often work remotely and still need access to one.)

Gene Weingarten: I use Merriam-Webster. I just contemn it for the pronunciations.


No Where: Gene -

Ah the holidays - when you hang out with relatives you don't see on a regular basis. Case in point my sister (42), her husband and family. They live in Alabama....she made several homophobic comments during the week. "Modern Family" is a good show, except when they go on-and on with the gay marraige thing like it's normal.

Another time when we were in Clarendon, she started to tell me about a gay male couple that was in a store talking about furnishings - then she spotted them outside and exclaimed "oh my god - they are holding hands!".

What does one do in the face of someone who you once looked up to that is in fact now totally different than you in things like this? I kind of smiled with a "huh". I don't want to get into a "nature vs. choice" argument with them. We only see them once a year. But not saying anything seems wrong.

Gene Weingarten: Why not say something? That conversation can be held in a respectful fashion.


Digging the old format: Just a quick note to say that I'm glad you're using the old (and superior) chat format. I can't post messages from my work/Gov computer. Sadly, I don't have anything better to post than this.

Gene Weingarten: The newer format had its advantages, largely at my end, but we all found the display kind of confusing for readers. And it's All About You.


Harold = Hallowed: Harold be thy name, huh? What, is he Asian?

This reminds me of a great The Simpsons sight gag when the family was hiding out in Springfield's chinatown and the sign for "Toys 'R Us" was "Toys 'L Us."

Disclosure: I am Asian.

Gene Weingarten: It also reminds me of the great joke about the woman afflicted with Ed Zachary disease.

Okay, since we have you here, and you seem game: Are Asians sensitive to Asian-accent humor? Or is it seen as pretty benign, the way Jews are not very offended by Jewish cheapness jokes? I'm thinking of jokes like this one:

I was in a Chinese restaurant the other day when I called over the waiter and said "Waiter, this chicken is rubbery."

To which he replied Thank you very much.


In case that is offensive, I deny having told it.


Belgrade, Serbia: Gene, I thought your tirade about tomatoes was exaggerated until I moved to Belgrade this fall. The tomatoes (and all other produce) are incredible here! Book a ticket for August.

Gene Weingarten: Done.


Macon, GA: Strainth? I had no idea what word you were asking about, so didn't answer it. Did you mean strength? If so, there should have been an option for "strength."

And I know "SHERbert" is wrong, but I still say it.

Gene Weingarten: Your first point is dumb. Someone who says "shtrainth" would see "strength" and say, yeah, that's how I say it.

On your second point: Shame on you. Have you no self-respect?

Gene Weingarten: I will admit I should have included a pronounce-the-g option.


Arlington, VA: Gene: A few weeks ago Sarah Palin posted a tweet stating that it was illegal for Gawker to violate copyright and publish sections of her book prior to release. You came back with a snarky tweet of your own stating that it wasn't illegal. A judge seemed to disagree with you but we never heard anything else from you on the matter. I dislike the woman as much as you but you seem to have a tendency to refuse to admit when you're wrong. Any follow-up thoughts on her statement/tweet?

Gene Weingarten: I did follow it up. I never said Gawker was RIGHT to post the stuff. I said it was not ILLEGAL.

We have a first amendment. In the manner of the simpleton that she is, Sarah is confusing civil law with criminal.

It is not ILLEGAL, for example, to libel someone except in certain extreme cases. It does, however, make you subject to lawsuit.


NY, NY: I don't get the fuss about the "full" body scans. A), it's not like a photograph and B) the person seeing the scan can't see you. Plus, quite frankly, I've seen myself naked and if anyone should be protesting, it's the TSA employee who has to look at me.

Gene Weingarten: Me, too.


Privacy, Va.: I would be totally OK with body scans, except that I am totally NOT OK with this: TSA Agent Caught Masturbating While Scanning Women

Maybe he can't see the people who are actually being scanned, but this still wigs me out. Big time. The story is from the UK equivalent of The Onion. Other headlines include: Santa Pissed Off After WikiLeaks Reveals Xmas List

Gene Weingarten: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.


I love this. Thanks for the catch, PP.

_______________________ 1.



Bethesda, MD: Gene:

I was glad to see you break down your TSA poll by gender, because I have been really interested by the gendered reaction to the new TSA procedures (ie, "Don't touch my junk"). I think part of this is that women are relatively used to being groped or having their personal space invaded in public places, while men are not, and are suddenly outraged by the whole thing.

I'm personally outraged by the whole thing, but not because someone's looking at a picture of my naked body or patting down my butt (happened on Sunday!), but because of the whole security theater aspect of it all. The people who are like "Well, I'm just happy if it makes us safer" are the people I'm angry at. It's NOT making us safer, it's just reacting to the last attempt (that didn't work) and eroding our reasonable expectation of privacy. It makes me furious. You didn't really have a good poll answer for that feeling, though.

Gene Weingarten: I agree with your first point! Women are more used to being treated like meat!


Overseas Somewhere: Hi Gene -- My reaction to the Wikileaks is based on personal experience as a wife to a diplomat for the past 20 years. I am tremendously upset about numerous things: 1) all of the cables on Wikileaks have the person's name who wrote the cable on it, exposing that person to possible retribution; 2)the reaction on the WaPost has been disconcerting to say the least -- the vitriol against diplomats has been horrible, vicious, and ignorant.

Diplomats take an oath similar to soldiers, swearing to protect and defend our nation. We don't ask for pats on the back. Our pay is a federal worker's pay (not much) -- all of the men and women I have encountered in my years overseas have signed up to work for the benefit of US citizens. Diplomats are not political -- so this debacle cannot be blamed on the Obama administration -- my husband has worked for George HW Bush, Clinton, George W Bush and now Obama.

Most people do not know that when a diplomat signs up to go overseas, their entire family goes as well. How many people would live in destitute countries voluntarily? My children have seen their friends kidnapped off of school buses, they have had Molotov cocktails thrown at their bus, and been rounded up by American security at their school for threats and riots outside their school. My husband has been confronted by gangs wielding machetes. I have been routinely screamed at, had people pound on my car windows, surrounded by people upset with the United States. Just this past weekend, I had a woman get out of her car, come up to my window and scream at me for being an American, giving me a double bird and threatening to do damage to me and my car if I didn't leave. So I left.

But we do this because we are proud of our country, despite the struggles we have had in our past.

And we would do it again. We don't talk about the sacrifices that we make or the danger we confront because we voluntarily took it on. It's what we do. But it upsets me when people think that we have a cushy life and that exposing these cables is a good thing -- it's not -- we in the embassy community are just waiting to see the fall- out -- it's not going to be pretty. (And I'm not talking politically either.)

I understand the curiosity of seeing what's in the cables (they're reports of what people are doing in their job, nothing more or less) - but just like exposing the Iraqi war documents was foolhardy, this is as foolhardy.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you. And I agree with you up until the end. I think the Iraqi war documents had more merit.


Chicago: The TSA question boils down to the trade offs involved. If the scanners made us even slightly safer, I might approve of them. But all they do is force the would-be terrorist to go after an easier target or just hide the explosives inside himself. In exchange, the government is creating millions of invasive pictures that nobody seriously believes are being systematically deleted. (If they did find a suspect, wouldn't they want to check out the scan from his trip three months ago?).

A wholesale invasion of privacy in order to force a minor change in plans for the terrorist doesn't seem worth it to me.

Gene Weingarten: This requires the assumption that the people who are doing it are idiots.

I assume they know more than I do about what the threats are, and what various levels of diligence can accomplish.


Wrong video link: Gene, the YouTube link above about the girl with Downs is not about Cara from Florida, but about Kristin from Texas.

Gene Weingarten: AGH. Sorry.

I had Cara. I must have sent the wrong link.


Baltimoron, Md.: There are a couple things I learned in linguistics classes in university. Among them:

-Pronunciation, like language itself, is malleable and ever-evolving. It is typically highly dependent upon local dialect (American South? Minnesota? England? Scotland? Australia?) and social setting (you speak differently in church services, for example, than you do in the "coffee hour" after the service, or at work). And we no longer all talk like Shakespearean plays or colonial Williamsburg.

-Anyone who proclaims that there is only one "correct" pronunciation for a word is a pompous a--hat, blissfully unaware of how language and linguistics actually work.

It seems odd to me that someone who at least appears to prefer interpreting Constitutional law as malleable and open to interpretation depending on circumstances (as opposed to, you know, actually writing a new Constitutional amendment) is, conversely, so dogmatic when it comes to a similar "living, breathing" organism. The words of your dictionary are binding and ironclad, but the supreme written law of the land isn't? Puh-leeeeze, to use a different pronunciation......

Gene Weingarten: Noted.

You okay with "liberry"?


Love, Little Piggy: Gone To Market Tattoo

Gene Weingarten: WOW.


radiation fears: are nonsense. I work in nuclear energy. I wish I had copied a chart for how high a radiation dose is needed for it to actually be dangerous. It is so much higher than anything we are exposed to here, exponentially higher. (And, due to the fact I'm not a scientist or an engineer, I cannot use any of the correct words here. Sorry for the imprecision on this, but still--stop freaking out about radiation from xrays and these scanners!)

Gene Weingarten: Yeah.


Well no...: don't say CAR-mel, Indiana. You say car-MEL, Indiana.

-Hoosier Also, Peru, Ind. is pronounced PAY-roo, not puh-roo. - fellow Hoosier.

Gene Weingarten: And it is HOW ston street in N.Y. So what?

Amherst, Mass. is pronounced AM-erst.


McLean VA: My real problem with the wikileaks document dump is that a lot of regular diplomacy will now be harder to do, since diplomats won't want to put their thoughts in writing.

Because diplomacy is the alternative to war, this seems like a bad idea.

Gene Weingarten: Exactly my point.


Arlington, VA: "My feeling is that if this were true, it would be super obvious and the uproar would be deafening. No?"

People on women-oriented sites are talking about it, but it seems like no one's complained enough to raise it to the point where it would be systemically studied. I've seen lots of anecdotes and no data.

Gene Weingarten: You know, the situation is so heightened, I think it would be obvious by watching for any five minutes.

Also, not to put too fine a point on it, but these images are not exactly sexy.


TSA: What's the goal?: Here's my problem with the increased TSA screening: What's the goal? What are we afraid of? If it's that someone will blow up a plane in mid-air, then why aren't we just as afraid of someone blowing up a bus, a train, an office building, a Yankees game, or an airport security line? Why not have full-body scanners and invasive pat-downs everywhere?

Another 9/11 plane-as-missle situation won't happen. Cockpit doors are locked and passengers would immediately tackle any attempted hijacker on any plane anywhere. So why are we so much more afraid of bad guys in our airports than anywhere else?

Gene Weingarten: Because "bombed plane" is still very real.


Tacoma, Wash.: Am assuming you've spent some quality time with the latest issue of GQ magazine. Wow!

Gene Weingarten: Just for the record, I find this whole sultry, pouty look a complete turnoff in a woman. It's like an effort to look vapid. It almost makes her look unattractive to me.

Gene Weingarten: Almost.


Washington, DC: "Who cares if they save the image, if no one knows who it is?"

I care! Which is why I'd choose the grope-down. Honestly, I'm more offended that they think anyone's convinced this stuff will work. The TSA hasn't seemed to notice that fully half the human population comes equipped with a spare pocket. Neither the scanner nor the "enhanced pat-downs" factor that in. They can neither scan nor feel through human flesh.

If they just paid attention to basic things like, say, whether a passenger is flying to Detroit in the dead of winter without checked luggage or a coat, that would be more effective than these machines or these pats.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, let's put that out there. Worst-case scenario: Your sort-of-but-not-really image has been stored and is serially ogled by strangers who have no idea who you are and can't see your face.

How bothered are you by this?


Here is why you shouldn't call:

Gene Weingarten: I'm trusting Paul on this. No time to watch it.


West Chester, PA: I think the racism in the advertisement goes far beyond WWII stereotypes. It seems to be trying to resurrect the "yellow peril" scares of the late 19th century. It depends for its effect on a latent fear that Americans will be subservient to an overwhelming horde of Chinese.

Also, "bolth" is a New Hampshire verbal tic, in my experience.

Gene Weingarten: Yes, I think you said it better than I did.

I was really disturbed by that ad when I saw it on TV and was surprised there wasn't much or any furor.


TSA Patdown: Gene, I swear I am not making this up.

In June, I flew out of Dulles. I was wearing an undergarment with stays (my mistake) and was patted down by a female agent who wasn't quite sure what to do but did her regular routine.

I'm a male crossdresser who was dressed as a woman at the time.

After it was over, a guy came up to me and said "how can I get her to do that to me?"

Gene Weingarten: So, did she make you for a guy?


Airport Scanner Problem: I'm female, but I'm not young, and I'm not hot. My problem with the airport scanners isn't that they exist, or that they freeze - temporarily or permanently - images of my not-too-sexy-for-my-shirt bod. My problem is that the TSA agents don't keep an eye on my stuff after it's gone through the X-ray machines. I lost a Kindle that way, when some other airport patron walked off with it.

Gene Weingarten: I've wondered about that. Because of how the patdown works, I've had to leave my wallet on the conveyor belt.


Richmond, VA: Henrico Police Investigating a Murder at a Homeless Camp

Mugshot alone. Tough to beat this one. Do self designated nicknames count as aptonyms?

Gene Weingarten: I suspect that the reporter made more of these nicknames than the perported owners of the nicknames would have. But I totally understand the impulse.

-- Gene "The Groin" Weingarten


Anonymous: Gene, I'd love to know how those replacement knees feel.

Gene Weingarten: Not great.

My surgery was only a partial success, which is a cheerful way of saying it was, in some important ways, a failure.

I now stand straight, as opposed to being a comically knock-kneed person. I walk largely without pain. But the knees are not real stable and I cannot run, and by that I don't mean that it hurts to run. I mean, I cannot run. If I had to run to escape a runaway stagecoach, for example, I would get flattened.

I am warily contemplating having the surgery again. Not with the same surgeon.


G'burg, MD: Many chats ago you presented us with a formula for determining how old the woman you date should be. It was that she should be at least 10 years older than your oldest daughter. This bothers me because it needs more- what if your oldest daughter is 3? And you're 53? Or even 23? I'm guessing you meant "at least 10 years older than your oldest daughter if she is at least 10 years old" or something like that. And you didn't have your first daughter when you are 60. On the other hand I'm glad you didn't say 15 years older as I'm only 14 years older than my husband's oldest daughter...

Gene Weingarten: I believe I said "youngest adult daughter." And it wasn't the youngest woman you could date, it was the youngest woman you could allow yourself to be turned on by. And I think it was 5 years, not ten. I hope.

I think I was a little naive, though. When I said that, my daighter was 23 or so. She is now 29. If that rule is intact, I have sinned.


Down Syndrome Story: By the time I got 2/3 of the way through that story, I was convinced the girl had been killed by a drunk driver or something. I couldn't think of any other reason that there hadn't been a quote from her.

Gene Weingarten: Yeah, it was a major lapse.

_______________________ 1.



Racis, MS: That ad isn't remotely racist, and here's the litmus test: Set it in the Cold War, and make the villains Russians rather than Chinese. There's nothing out of place in this "revised" ad, and the sense of malevolence is exactly the same. The only way you can construe this as racist is if you believe no one can say anything unpleasant about anyone who doesn't appear Caucasian and speak English.

Gene Weingarten: I'm fine with this ad until the end. I think that evil cackle is a problem. Most of you seem to disagree.


Raleigh, NC: I'm surprised by your lack of understanding- you think one can't be Jewish and anti-Zionist? Zionism is not synonymous with Judaism. Obviously.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I don't think there is any accepted definition of what Zionism is. Technically, it is support of the concept of a Jewish state -- and most if not all Jews are for that. Me, too. In a narrower sense, it has been interpreted as a support for fierce Israeli nationalism, including the provocative, hostile expansion of settlements into historically Arab lands. Many Jews are opposed to that. Me, too.

My point was that antisemites historically have tried to deny behind their hatred of Jews -- and their determination to exterminate a Jewish state -- by making a phony distinction. They claim that it's Zionism, not Jews, they oppose. And that's crap.


Traveling to Israel: Not sure where in the country your going but I was there pretty much by myself and looked every bit the young woman tourist (complete with walking around with the guidebook) and no one ever bothered me. I felt completely safe. Just my own thoughts but perhaps a better question is whether your husband has some anxiety about being left with a toddler for a week on top of being concerned for you.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahaha. Good point.

I believe the poster's husband was not afraid of ordinary crime, but of terrorism.


If You Think That Ad Was Racist: Some years ago a newspaper in Ohio ran a classified ad from a car lot that advertised a Pearl Harbor Day Sale -- "because there's a nip in the air." I just couldn't believe it ran. I wonder if they received complaints about that.

Gene Weingarten: Whoa.

I thought I invented that joke. And never told it.


L St. NW: Gene, can I just tell you how much I hate the expression "lean forward?" what does this even mean? And of course, now MSNBC has chosen it as their tagline. Argh.

Gene Weingarten: Okay, I have to admit, I have no idea what this means. What is wrong with "lean forward"?

It is possible to lean backward or to the side, no?


Gene Weingarten: Important information:

Why is the turkey called the turkey?

Because hundreds of years ago, Europeans incorrect thought it was indigenous to Turkey.


racism: I guess it's playing to its audience, then. I voted not racist because I'm apparently unaware of a lot of the racist undertones that they were going for, but I'm on the younger side. I assume folks who were the target are older and got it.

Gene Weingarten: Good point.

Ever see any WWII -era propaganda cartoons? "Popeye," I believe, did the slanty-eyed, buck-toothed treacherous Jap. A lot.

_______________________ 1.



New TSA searches: What absolutely amazes me is the apparent belief that if only the TSA had started this sooner, they'd have been the ones to find the underwear bomber, the shoe bomber, the 9-11 terrorists, etc. So these people don't plan their attacks _after_ considering the current security procedures? I really wish the people responsible for our security were smarter than that.

So, when the next nut job decides to hide an explosive inside a body cavity, will every plane ticket come with a free pap smear or prostate cancer check?

Gene Weingarten: There has to be a problem with body-cavity bombs or we would have seen them more often. I wonder what it is?


Various things: 1. Dear Madam Curie, thanks for your reassuring words on radiation. How is your health?

2. Gene, I'm sorry you haven't noticed how silly your references to Israeli security are. Israelis accept extreme measures because they believe, with some reason, their transportation is made safer. Israel scans, interviews and definitely profiles, and applies its procedures to everyone. In the US, we apply the most intrusive measures utterly at random, and refuse to profile. We exempt some people from procedures if they think they are important (Hi, Congressman!), make babies take off their buster browns, and pretend that the terrorist's most powerful weapon isn't his brain. It's ridiculous to compare the Israeli confidence in extreme security measures to the American hopefulness that mass inconvenience might somehow result in reduced risk.

When the next attack involves explosives concealed in someone's rectum, will you cheerfully submit to cavity searches at the airport, and scold the rest of us for being outraged?

Gene Weingarten: As I said: I don't know what to say about the rectal thang. Except that it must be very hard to carry off.

I think if it starts happening, we're going to start fluoroscopy, or Xrays. Molly has just told me you can even see feces in an x-ray.


Liars: People are lying about how they pronounce caramel and sherbet. Even though "sher-bet" is a minority choice as it is.

Gene Weingarten: I doubt it. My experience is that most people are proud of their mispronunciations.


Divisive: I bet Tony Blair pronounces it the way Obama does...

Gene Weingarten: I dunno. Is that a Britishism? I hate it. It makes no sense.

Of course, the Brits also say Nick-a-RAH-gyoo-ah. Which is just plain idiotic.


Cables?: I don't get it. I keep reading about these cables being released. What are cables in this regard to the leaks? From our family at Slate: What's a "Diplomatic Cable"?

Gene Weingarten: Noted.


Swine, Pearls Before: And here I thought it was going to involve an estate tax. "Whyte, Choo talking about Wills"

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahaha.


speaking of racism...: quite a few of your 'what-the-heck' pronunciation things are characteristic of African-Americans. Shtraynth and Eksetera probably correlate 99% with race.

Gene Weingarten: What??? no. Absolutely not.

The leading speaker of "shtraynth" is George W. Bush.


Body Cavity Bombs: Watch out - we're silent and we're deadly.

Gene Weingarten: Hahahahah.


The rule: I don't know what Gene might or might not have said about the age rule, but I always heard that the lower limit is half one's age plus seven. For whatever that's worth.

Gene Weingarten: That's for dating. Not looking with lustful feelings upon. Entirely different phenomena.


Palin/Copyright: Copyright infringement can be a crime. Quoting 17 USC 506(a)(1), regarding "criminal infringement": "Any person who willfully infringes a copyright shall be punished as provided under section 2319 of title 18 -"Criminal infringement of a copyright"], if the infringement was committed- ... (C) by the distribution of a work being prepared for commercial distribution, by making it available on a computer network accessible to members of the public, if such person knew or should have known that the work was intended for commercial distribution."

Sounds to me like that fits Gawker.

Gene Weingarten: I need to see more of this. I bet "criminal infringement" is pretty much like "criminal libel" -- almost impossible to satisfy.


On air fart: With regard to the second clip -- its likely he used a "fart machine" during the interview on purpose

EXCLUSIVE: 'Airplane' and 'Naked Gun's' David Zucker Pens Tribute to Leslie Nielsen Right, like how he says something about "slipping one in" before the fart.

Gene Weingarten: Really?

Do we believe this?


Washington, DC: Gene, your take on heroin is documented, but what is your opinion of marijuana? Gateway drug, problematic to society, or innocuous?

Gene Weingarten: Nothing like that is innocuous. But less harmful than alcohol.


racist: I always laugh at the Dariy Queen "moolata"

Gene Weingarten: Hey, there is a Toyota (or Nissan) Murano. How the hell did that happen?


Drives Me Nuts: "Driving is his for-tay".

FORTE IS PRONOUNCED FORT. For-tay is a musical term.

Gene Weingarten: Correct.


Not racist: I am not white and am normally very sensitive to racial issues. However, I don't think that the ad is racist. It may be anti-Chinese, but not because of their race, because their are a world power that is antagonistic to us. As the other poster mentioned, it is like the USSR during the Cold War, or say one of the Latin American countries during the drug cartel wars. It depicts a foreign power as dangerous and menacing. It has to do with creating a bad stereotype of the nation, not the race.

Gene Weingarten: I'll bet you are young. The historical echoes are clear.

Okay, that's it for today.

I had promised a revised FAQ for the chat, and it's ready, but this chat got too complex. Look for it in the updates.

Thanks all.


Balto., Md.: No big newspaper would have printed the WikiLeaks stuff 15 years ago? Well, of course they wouldn't! They were too interested in whether the President had sex, how often, and who with. And don't forget that all that started with fact-light reporting in the NY Times about Whitewater.

Who decides who "responsible journalists" are? You? That's a broad brush you got there: 1995 Pulitzer Prizes

Gene Weingarten: Indeed.




Gene Weingarten: I must report with disappointment but no rancor that I did not win the "Mustached American of the Year" contest. I finished a respectable fourth in a field of 19, losing to a Florida firefighter named Brian Sheets, whose name, I must report without rancor, anagrams to "beers an' sh*t."

So, I lost. But my big fear did not materialize: I was afraid I would lose to Carl Pavano, the Minnesota Twins pitcher who, several years ago, accepted tens of millions of dollars from my Yankees and then proceeded to remain prissily disabled for the entire length of his contract. It must be noted that Carl did receive more votes than I, though, glory be to God, he did not Win.

I want to thank all of you for your support, though I should point out it was not nearly the support given to Mr. Sheets, who does not have a national column with which to shamelessly solicit votes but who won anyway, somehow, possibly because of a deal he made with Satan, Harvester of Souls. I note this reluctantly, only because his name is also an anagram for "Breathes sin."


Gene Weingarten: Two years ago, Michael Williamson and I produced a book about Old Dogs. It was the best we could do to explain the odd, nitwitty, wonderful, primitive complexity of the dog brain. It took us 140 pages and 65 photographs, and it is with enormous shame that I admit here that we failed. I say that because I recently encountered this item in this blog by Allie Brosh, titled Hyperbole and a Half. She does it better than we did, in half the space, and funnier. Also, she is very young. I hate her.


Your sort-of-but-not-really image: Has anyone complaining ever seen one of these images? The amount of detail you can see adds nothing to what I already know about how you look naked. There ain't that much variation.

Gene Weingarten: Well, I'd say "what I already can surmise," rather than "what I already know." A great deal of buttcrack is seen, and breast definition and such. But just how exciting is this, even on a shapelier individual.

Here is an interesting note: In my 1998 book, "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death" I ask whether it would be theoretically possible, some time in the future, for someone to develop workable x-ray specs. I consult an expert who says, yes, it would be technically possible, though the machine would never show pubic hair, since clothing and hair is essentially the same material; if you screen out clothing, you screen out hair.

I concluded, back in 1998, that this meant the product would never be developed because peeking is pointless without public hair. I didn't anticipate -- no decent, sane person could have -- the horrifying developments in body-hair removal.


Racism vs. Jingosim: The ad is very jingoistic (bad ferginers!). Racist, not so much. The same effect would be if it was a lecture involving snooty frenchies. It's just that they're as unemployed as we are nowdays.

Gene Weingarten: I agree. It was racist, but mostly it was xenophobic. Meanwhile, see the next post.


The "spending" ad: Is this the ad where a bunch of Chinese students sit and listen while the professor describes the downfall of the US? If so, one of the extras in the ad had some pretty negative things to say about it. Apparently, most of them thought they were going to be part of "Transformers 3," not some anti-Asian political ad, and the film crew didn't really fill them in on what they were there for.

an extra in the "chinese professor" ad speaks out

Gene Weingarten: If this anonymous source is real, this is pretty disturbing, I think. An actor has a right to know the context of the production.


Illeg, AL: Gene,

I'm a copyright lawyer and you got the whole Sarah Palin thing about as wrong as can be.

The Merriam-Webster definition of "illegal" is "not according to or authorized by law"." No distinction between civil and criminal offenses; they are all "illegal." So when the court held (correctly) that Gawker was infringing, it is correct to say that their acts were illegal. Whether they also might rise to the level of criminal we don't know as criminal copyright infringement requires intent to infringe and we don't know if Gawker had that (but probably not).

Your refence to the First Amendment only digs you in deeper. You were saying that the First Amendment protects speakers from criminal penalties, but not civil??? Not much protection there!

And your invocation of the First Amendment here is misplaced. Gawker wasn't making ITS OWN speech, it was making someone ELSE'S speech, which the First Amendment does not protect.

My advice is leaving the lawyering to the lawyers...and be a bit more judicious about use of the term "simpleton."

Gene Weingarten: I have a feeling this is going to start a long debate.

I contend you are being disingenuous, arguing legally where it suits you, and semantically where it suits you, and confusing the two.

Here is the simplest explanation I have found on the Web:

What is the difference between a tort and a crime?

I never said the First Amendment didn't cover civil law. Now, as for whether the First Amendment covers the appropriation of others' words.... hm.

Doesn't it? I'm ready and willing to be wrong here, but doesn't "freedom of speech" imply freedom of any speech, including quoting others?


Lincoln Tunnel: Please give your take on this -

Dueling billboards face off in Christmas controversy

This is just... ludicrous. Believe, don't believe, but live and let live. These are the same people who get so belligerent about "Happy Holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas". People are wishing you well. Does it really matter in which form that wish is phrased?

Further, as it is December 1st as I type this, Happy Hanukkah!

Gene Weingarten: Well, it's funny. I like Jeannie Moos, only I wish they didn't insist on introducing every one of her segments as "a Moos Unusual Look..."

This one doesn't bother me at all. Both sides are doing it with humor. I do wish the atheist had elaborated on how we KNOW it's a myth, because the explanation can be funny.




Arlington: 1) Go to Google Translate 2) Set the translator to translate German to German 3) Copy + paste the following into the translate box: pv zk bschk pv zk pv bschk zk pv zk bschk pv zk pv bschk zk bschk pv bschk bschk pv kkkkkkkkkk bschk 4) Click "listen" 5) Be amazed

Gene Weingarten: I cannot decide if this is the stupidest moment in Chatological Humor Update history, or the most ingenious. Either way, we are leading with it. Thank you.


Wikilea, KS: I am moved by the argument from international law: that governments are entitled to secure communications from their representatives in the field, and that this is a violation of international law.

Instantaneous transparency doesn't always help, and can hurt; consider, for example, the Manhattan Project. But secrecy should always have a time limit. I'd be happiest with a rule that says: anything can be secret for seven years but after that nothing can be secret. (I'd be open to amendment on the number of years.) Sure, a government can keep a lot of things secret in seven years. But if they knew that they would be found out eventually, then they would act accordingly.

Gene Weingarten: I kind of like this idea. There would need to be a fail-safe mechanism; a way to get rare time extensions on certain information, reviewed by a special court of life appointees, or something.

I am trying to think of real-world examples where, in retrospect, the time extension would have been essential to national security. Not sure I have one yet.


L'enfant Terrible: Just want you to know, I think your latest column was spot-on, from an historic viewpoint.

Yes, I hate that one too.

Gene Weingarten: Oooh, I totally forgot about "an historic." How moronic. I wonder why anyone would ever say this? Would you say "an hicccup?" Does a batter get "an hit?"

I think defenders of this egregious formulation would argue they are really saying "istoric." Which is like defending "liberry" by saying "hey, there are books on berries."


Washington, DC: Gene -- Since you are the pronunciation expert can you help all of us determine the correct way to say the name Brett Favre. How is it that the "r" is pronounced before the "v"?

Gene Weingarten: It is because Brett is a pro athlete, to whom any hint of French is an insult to one's manhood. Gus Frerotte also refused to pronounce his name correctly.

You know who will be my hero? A pro football player -- an interior lineman -- named something like Geraint LeFoucressoise who pronounces it exactly as it is in French.

In a related matter, here are an excellent seven seconds from "There's Something About Mary."

Brett Far-vra

In another related development from my Twitter feed, after I noted this: "Have any of you ever stopped to realize that the lesbian partner of the sister of your nemesis is your nemesis's Sis's Mrs.?" ...

Another Twitter person directed me to this site, where we hear a French woman pronounce, in French, "360 croissants."


Washington, DC: Obviously I'm with you on sherbet and espresso. Don't really care one way or the other about licorice.

But I need your guidance on one that really bugs me. Whenever we go to the zoo, which is pretty often, I point at the hairy reddish ape and say to my toddler "look! there's an orangutan!" And then I hear all the other parents exclaiming over the "orangutang". They appear to be pointing at the same animal. Where did that extra G come from, and why why why do people insist on it so? Are they right? (Inconceivable.) Do I need to let it go?

Gene Weingarten: Sigh. Yes. The odious Merriam-Webster, which I am beginning to think, vis a vis our language, is a burgeoning criminal enterprise, gives "orangutang" as the first pronunciation here:

Merriam-Webster: Orangutan

It does seem to be an elision of "ng," more like a severely nasal "n."

I am not sure which is right here. In the first detective story ever written, "Murders in the Rue Morgue, Poe's detective C. August Dupin solves a series of murders committed by -- SPOILER ALERT -- an escaped "Ourang-Outang" from Borneo. This was written in 1841.

So, like, WTF?


Bad mothering: So after two years of marriage, people (mostly on my dad's side of the family) are starting to make comments about my husband and me having kids - even though I have told them time and time again we don't really know if we ever want kids. They keep talking about "when you have kids" as if I had never spoken.

Considering this is HUGELY demeaning (they're basically saying I have no idea what I'm talking about and they obviously know my mind much better than I do), I've decided the best way to counter this is to start saying I do want kids and then go on about all the horrible things I would do to them, so that everyone will be convinced I would be a horrible mother and shut up about it.

I come to you for help in crazy stuff I can say about what I want to do with my kids - I'm thinking it can't be too out there or they won't believe me. But maybe something like how I want to name the kids Edna and Hezekiah, or maybe feeding them some weird diet like only raw food or how I'm going to enter them in some horribly boring lesson. Please, help me convince these people it's for the best I don't procreate!

Gene Weingarten: From birth, whenever around the baby, you and your husband are going to talk "wrong," inventing a language of grunts, clicks, armpit farts, and nasal snorty-snorty sounds. You will keep the child away from all other adults until the first day of kindergarten. In this manner you and your husband will go down in history as having played the greatest "dirty trick" ever on a child.


Reston, VA: You "anti gropers" drive me crazy: I have been through the full body scanners several times in the last month alone and wanted to offer one additional comment on top of everything else that has been said.

This worry about "radiation" being dangerous is completely silly and unfounded. Every study I've read said that its equivalent to the radiation you get over 3 minutes of flight time. 3 minutes. Plus it has been tested and retested by a handful of agencies.

Even if it wasnt, you're about to strap yourself into a 20" wide seat inside a thin metal tube, a tube made of a million tiny moving parts put together by the lowest bidder, that is hurtling through space at 500mph, 35000 feet above the earth with 300,000 pounds of jet fuel on board - you really think the 3 seconds you spend in the scanner is the most dangerous part of your day?

Please put your tinfoil hat back on and find something else to complain about.

Oh, and you nuts should also try actually READING the terms and conditions on your airline ticket the next time you buy it. You have agreed to abide by all their terms and conditions one of which is all appropriate airport security measures. So please stop with this "their searches are unreasonable" nonsense. You agreed to it. Try reading. Or take the bus.

Gene Weingarten: This is the best summary I have read about why the anti-TSA militia folks should go back to the pursuit of possibly obtaining a life.


You say tomato, I say tomahto: You say potato, I say vodka

Gene Weingarten: Okay, this reminds me of something.

Does anyone, anywhere, actually say "potahto"? Because if not, I accuse that song of chicanery, setting up a straw man to get a rhyme.

Even the aforementioned odious Merriam Webster doesn't give "potahto" as a possible pronunciation. It DOES, for some disreputable reason, offer: Pa-TAY-tuh.

Merriam-Webster: Potato




Gene Weingarten: Okay, first the big news. There will be no chat next week. I'm skipping a month because I've been assigned a quick Magazine cover story that is occupying all my waking hours. This story compelled me to spend much of yesterday obnoxiously asking women in the street whether they would sleep with me. If -- without any inside knowledge -- you can guess the subject matter of the story, you are one of the world's most intuitive geniuses. I'm happy to take guesses at, and will publish the best of them in my next chat, which will be at the end of January.

I will try to do updates through the month, though.


Mark Coale submits this delicious anti-aptonym:

19-Year-Old Charged With DUI Twice In Four Hours


Princeton, NJ: Merely bringing to your attention:

Cox-Zucker machine

This is a real algorithm. Cox and Zucker apparently met in grad school and decided they had to write at least one paper together.

Math isn't always boring, you see.

Gene Weingarten: Thank you.


Anonymous: can anyone tell us what in heaven's name does the term---'think outside the box' actually mean?

Gene Weingarten: Yes. It suggests that we live our intellectual lives confined in a box of our own creative limitations. It is a very disturbing image.

It is not as disturbing, however, as the image called to mind by the expression "I'm just yanking your chain," which suggests that we trudge through life like Marley's Ghost, dragging chains behind us.


Gene Weingarten: This just in: The polymath Dave Scocca has written in to say that there is a literal source of "thinking outside the box." It goes back to the Nine Dots puzzle created in 1914:

The Phrase Finder: Think outside the box


Washington, DC: Gene, the discussion about the "save" feature on the full-body scans got me thinking about a recent incident on a local yahoo group. This is a large and influential parenting group that serves the largely affluent neighborhood that you and I share.

A mother wrote to the group that she was very upset about an incident that occurred on Halloween. She had been trick-or-treating with her children in the neighborhood, and one neighbor had taken a picture of her young daughter in costume. The mother was bothered by this, but didn't say anything at the time. Some time later, she returned to the house and asked the gentleman to delete the picture. He refused, saying that the camera was with his wife, etc. The woman posted the details of this encounter to the group (including the man's first name and block of residence) and asked for advice on what she could do and should have done. She said that she had already checked the sex offender registry and that her husband was going back over to the house to ask them again to delete the photo.

What surprised me the most was the extremely vocal rush of support for the mother--emails poured in about protecting the children, can't be too careful, you should email the police so they know, "I would be so upset, too," and so on. There also were a number of more reasoned emails about the probable harmlessness of the photo, a defense of the neighbor in question, and some emails from people with experience with sex offenders, all of whom thought the mother was overreacting.

At the time, I wrote in asking what exactly was the fear about the photo (was someone going to email it? track the child down? self-abuse to it?), and I never got a good explanation from anyone. My sense is that these parents were somehow feeling as protective of their child's image as they are of the children themselves. I wonder if they would have felt the same way if a Post reporter was coming by to take pictures of cute kids in costume. (And also, hello, she let her kids take candy from this stranger without a second thought.)

Gene Weingarten: Okay, well, I don't know any of the individuals involved (or, more accurately, don't know if I know any of the individuals involved) so I can safely generalize: From this description, everyone involved seems to be a bit of a jerk, including all of the yahoo busybodies.

Someone overreacts; someone else overreacts to the overreaction. Had I been the one taking the picture, and had the mom asked me to delete it, I would have cheerfully and apologetically done so, and then walked away and told my wife what a complete nutjob lived down the block.

It does sound as though there is an untold portion of this story: Some additional (justified or unjustified) reason the mom suspected the neighbor.


Arlington, VA: Dear Weak Knees,

I often make a trek to Eastern Market on Saturday morning to get my weekly supply of half sours. A few weeks back, my 3 year old son was walking with me towards the pickle kiosk. I noticed a brown mopped and mustachioed man with glasses walking a similarly colored dog towards us. I thought it was you, but I didn't notice any odd gait, and I tend to notice those things. Not you?

Gene Weingarten: Probably me, especially if Murphy and I were sharing a crepe. It is her Saturday morning treat, never to be missed.

I have bad knees, but don't walk funny. Ordinary gait.


Gene Weingarten: And finally, a couple of nifty videos pertinent to this chat.

In this one, we have Daniel Radcliffe singing Tom Lehrer's "Elements" song, not as well as Tom, but still:

Daniel Radcliffe sings "The Elements"

And here -- courtesy Christopher Manteuffel -- is a brilliant, brilliant bit by Stephen Fry, in which he castigates language pedants such as, er, me.

Stephen Fry Kinetic Typography - Language




Gene Weingarten: I begin today's update with a humiliating confession of incompetence, the worst I've ever had to make. I am banking on your sense of fairness, and, frankly, on your mercy. I am hoping that my 38-year history of honest, rigorous journalism will not be washed away by this one regrettable lapse on my part.

In my column on Sunday about the endangered toilet-paper cardboard roll, or derder, I failed to do adequate research and therefore denied you, the reader, pertinent information. This was not deliberate, but it was inexcusably sloppy. I did not learn of my errors until the emails started rolling in and the story of my grave errors began to unspool. I shall enumerate them now.

1. The cardboard toilet-paper roll, or "derder" is actually more commonly known by a different name, one of which I was lamentably ignorant. Although it was the derder in much of the Northeast, where I grew up, elsewhere it was the "dootdadoo," or "toodoot toodoo" a term of which I was unaware. I regret the error.

2. The disappearance of the derder, or dootdadoo, is hardly the most serious development facing users of toilet paper. As two different readers pointed out, toilet paper companies have been slowly and insidiously shrinking the side-to-side dimensions of the roll, which used to fill out the width of the toilet paper dispenser but now fall more than an inch short. I had somehow not noticed this, but a quick trip to the bathroom confirmed it: The roll stops so short you can see the beginning of the springback apparatus. A good journalist should have held the toilet paper makers accountable for this but I did not, a further error I deeply regret.

3. In detailing the uses of the derder or dootdadoo -- animal discipline and music -- I neglected to mention two other cherished applications. The first is as a staple of church-summer-camp craft projects for persons named Mary Margaret, Mary Elizabeth, Margaret Mary, and Kathleen. I heard from many Mary Margarets, and Margaret Marys, and many moms of Mary Elizabeths and Kathleens, and they are right. We Jewish kids had projects that leaned more toward the mixed-media of papier-mache and pipe cleaner, but that is not an excuse, just an explanation for my inexcusable cultural ignorance. I regret the error and apologize.

And lastly, an error for which I have neither ready explanation nor reasonable excuse. Here it is, from a reader who desires anonymity:

"The tube could also be used for some impromptu entertainment by carving or burning a hole in it (about the size of a quarter in the first third of the tube), shaping a bowl out of some aluminum foil and inserting that in the hole, then taking the sharp end of a compass for those of us that had roommates that majored in geometry , and pricking 13 holes ( not 12 or 14) in said foil and then placing a thumbnail piece of excellent black Turkish hash in the bowl, lighting same while putting your mouth over one end of the tube, the palm of a hand over the other end, inhaling vigorously then quickly removing your hand, thereby experiencing a lungful of smoke, and some rather weird but pleasant thoughts, not to mention the screaming-ass munchies."

The fact is, I had vaguely heard of people who knew people who had heard of this use and, for reasons I cannot fathom, failed to mention it in the column. Again, I apologize and ask absolution I know I do not deserve. But for the sake of accuracy, I should point out that six holes -- even five, in a pinch -- did quite nicely.


Gene Weingarten: Imagine please that it is the year 2019. The second Palin administration is winding down, to be followed by the third Palin administration after unanimous 50-state repeal of the 22nd Amendment. It is May 15. You are at an NFL football game -- it's football year-round now that baseball has been outlawed for being too pansy-ass and un-American -- and, after the ceremonial shotgunning of a moose and a Jew -- these two codgers step to the mike to sing the New American Anthem. There is not a dry eye in the house.

The Sarah Palin Battle Hymn


Washington, DC: My 91-yr old grandfather suggests the use of vinegar for every ache or ailment imaginable. Sore throat? Gargle vinegar. Sore feet? Soak them in vinegar. Daily gulps of vinegar are also suggested. The list is endless. As DC's resident medical know-it-all, can you think of any way this can actually be true?

Gene Weingarten: Yes. Vinegar is a pretty good antiseptic. Gargling with vinegar can help a sore throat, as can gargling with salt water. I had sore throats a lot as a kid, and both helped.


Washington, DC: Re: Pronunciation of various words, e.g. iodine: eye-oh-dine vs. eye-oh-dine, I've never heard this word, whether pronounced by nurses or doctors, pronounced any other way except eye-oh-dine. I never heard it pronouncied eye-oh-deen, even if it were part of the periodic chart of the elements.

Gene Weingarten: Oh, I'm so glad you brought this back up, because there was something I forgot to mention in the last chat.

I believe there is one person on Earth who combines the expertise of 1) Periodic table and 2) communication and 3) humor.

It is my distinct pleasure to present to you Mr. Tom Lehrer, with the definitive pronunciation of iodine.


I've been waiting for this!: Another chat on pronunciation! Should anyone ever pronounce non-English words with the correct foreign inflection in the midst of a sentence? I'm wondering about "mozzerella", etc. I cannot STAND Giada DeLaurentiiiiiis's insistence on pronouncing her ingredients in this fashion. Please tell me my outrage is justified!!!!

Gene Weingarten: It is. In general if you are speaking in English, stay in English, if there is a worthy English version of the word. The single most annoying such violation is people who insist on pronouncing "manicotti" in the Italian way: Manigut.


The other thing missing from the Cara story: Gene, I agree with your assessment that the Cara story's failure to quote Cara was a big mistake. But I have another problem with stories like this in general.

For reasons unrelated to this story I spend a lot of time looking at school districts' attempts to teach children of vastly different ability levels in one classroom to avoid "tracking". I am skeptical of a story that talks about the wonderfulness of mainstreaming a mentally challenged student without talking at all about the trade-offs involved.

Down's Syndrome, like most disabilities, has a wide spectrum of manifestations. If Cara can function at all in a regular high school classroom, she is on the high end of the spectrum. But what is missing from the story is the effect her presence in each of her classes had on the academic experience the other students had.

Yes, they "learned" from her things like empathy for the disabled. Did they learn as much math or English as they would have learned if the teacher hadn't had to pace the class to accommodate her? Did the teacher have any training in teaching children with mental disabilities? Did all of Cara's teachers get this training just so that she could attend that school?

And if she had a full-time aide so that the teacher could teach the rest of the class, was she really "mainstreamed"? Did anyone compare what it costs to mainstream one DS child with a full-time aide vs. have her attend a school where six such students could have been taught together by one fully-trained teacher?

Do we know what the school didn't get to spend that aide's salary on so that Cara could be mainstreamed? If 100 other students missed out on something meaningful as a result -- say, a gifted music teacher -- was this the best trade-off for the community?

I can completely understand Cara's family's desire to give her this experience. I agree that it's great that her classmates voted her homecoming queen instead of calling her names. But every one-sided story like this generates a lot of starry-eyed sentiment in favor of throwing a lot of resources at a small number of kids to try to give them an experience that won't be "normal" no matter what we do. I wish the discussion could be more evenhanded without losing the heartwarming part.

Gene Weingarten: I'd like to hear more on this subject from an educator knowledgeable on this subject.

I am inclined to think as you do. I remember my very initial reaction to "No Child Left Behind." I thought: Wait, what? Some kids HAVE to be left behind! Even with the best available teaching, SOME kids are dumb or unwilling to learn. If no child is left behind, you are either promoting some ignoramuses into situations where they cannot compete, or you are lowering standards across the board.

And I wasn't thinking at all about people with mental retardation. I was just thinking about the ordinary continuum of abilities.


While we're at it: con-truh-VER-shul or con-truh-VER-see-all?

Gene Weingarten: Either.

But here's one that cannot be disputed or challenged:

It is ne-go-shee-ay-shun.

It is NOT ne-go-see- ay-shun.

Case closed. No appeal.


Washington, DC: I've been meaning to send this observation to you for quite a while, just never getting around to it (until now).

I saw the show "Hair" at the Kennedy Center some weeks ago, and while I liked it more than disliked it, one thing in particular bothered me.

Directors, costumers, set design etc. try so hard to put an authentic feel to a show, and yet this show, about free love, about community, about the Vietnam war, and famously about full frontal nudity...didn't show one follicle of pubic hair. Really? Was it too much to ask the actors to let it grow out for the run of the show? So anachronistic, it took me out of the moment.

This comment probably won't see the light of day, inasmuch as it is ostensibly about topiary fashion, but it is also a critique of the arts, so who knows?

And just in case you or anyone else is wondering. I, a woman, was too young to see Hair the first time around (diapers and all), but too old to be personally following topiary fashions of the day.

Gene Weingarten: Wow.

You're right, that is pathetic!

Case in point: In "The Reader," a movie taking place in the 1950s and 1960s, Kate Winslet appears naked in a couple of scenes. Unwilling to grow pubic hair, she wore a merkin -- a pubic toupee.


Dog Breakfast, VA: Not a question, just wanted to say that I loved the anecdote about Murphy's Saturday morning crepe. I lost my 3.5-year-old dog to sudden, traumatic illness this fall and still can't bring myself to return to the bakery where we got our customary Saturday morning bagels. It was one of two things for which he'd wait patiently outside or in the car, the second being puppy pops at Dairy Godmother. All dogs should be so spoiled as to have a weekend breakfast routine.

Gene Weingarten: Murphy always knows when it is Saturday and Sunday -- the two days that Mitch, the crepe man, is there. She looks outside, sees by the street traffic that it is market day, and bolts for the crepes.

Dogs are not geniuses, but things that are important to them... are important to them.


Gene Weingarten: Okay, hope to see you all next Tuesday, when we resume the ordinary chat schedule.There will also be some Startling News. Please get your questions in below.


NEXT CHAT: JAN. 25.Submit your questions now.


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