The readers speak:

Recently, I described a Pentagon proposal to require active-duty military personnel convicted of drunken driving to place bumper stickers on their cars advertising the conviction.

Reaction was considerable -- and considerably negative -- from the military itself. Here's what an anonymous enlisted man in Southeast had to say:

"I have been in the military 18 years and the only time anything good is said about us is during a war. Then it's, 'I'm glad it's them and not me . . . .'

"I'm not for drunken drivers, but the military community is not the only community with them. We pay for our mistakes dearly as military members (through the military system of justice). Too bad civilians don't do the same."

Oliver Berry of Forestville adds:

"There might be more drinking to excess in the military than in civilian life. But a bumper sticker wouldn't do anything to reduce this. What if a serviceman's wife is the one who uses the car most of the time? What if she doesn't touch a drop, and everyone snickers at her when she goes grocery shopping at the PX?"

Col. Alfred Smith of Arlington says:

"Take every cent they're planning to spend on bumper stickers and devote it to alcoholic rehabilitation. That would be money well spent."

All points well taken, gentlemen. I never meant to argue that bumper stickers were the total approach. The Pentagon didn't, either. But I still think that any idea that works -- on even one drunken driver -- ought to be tried.

Virginia Hitz of Olney writes to bemoan mispronunciations of the sound 'aw' on radio and TV:

"There's tock of otto accidents, country octions, an odditing of accounts and a general muddying of wotters. Linguistically speaking, where are these people coming from?"

Probably the Midwest, Virginia. Where else do you find Milwockee and Minneapolis-St. Pol?

Robert Shroy of Takoma Park writes:

"I recently read about a woman running down another woman with her car. For this, she was convicted of manslaughter. Why manslaughter? This is the age of women's lib and ERA. Even tropical storms have gone coed. So why wasn't she convicted of womanslaughter? Or, at the very least, personslaughter?"

If there's anything slower to change than the legal profession, Bob, especially when it comes to terminology, I'd like to meet it. Come to think of it, maybe I wouldn't.

To win this one, you'd have to climb into a time machine, set the dials to 9th-century England, then figure out a way to get "womanslaughter" accepted into the language of the common law. Otherwise, I don't hold out much hope.

Patricia Woolsey of Springfield calls to say:

"Whenever they see 'WALK,' pedestrians in D.C. walk without looking. Don't they know that motorists get to go at the same time? I'm worried I'm going to hit a pedestrian."

Call it confidence, Pat. Pedestrians walk with heads down because they have the right of way, and assume motorists won't dare or err enough to hit them. But the need to look and listen is mutual. Heads up, foot soldiers.

Finally, Lola Oberman of Bethesda writes to say she has finally unlocked the mystery of how singles can meet other singles in this Wasteland of Workaholism:

Talk cats.

"Don't bother with the singles bars," Lola writes. "Just go to the supermarket and pile cans of cat food in your basket. At the cat food shelves and in the checkout line, you will automatically become involved in friendly conversations with nice people . . . .

"You don't even have to have a cat to attempt this ploy . . . . But cat owners are kind and understanding people, and they will forgive you the deception when they learn you were motivated by loneliness. They may even invite you to come home with them and meet their cats when they learn you have none of your own."

Well, at least it beats the old line about etchings, no?