On April 23, I took City Councilman Frank Smith to task for parking illegally on a busy downtown street, and then trying to explain it away by saying that everyone does it.
Harvey Geller of Greenbelt was especially irritated by Smith's attitude -- and he has the credentials that make him entitled.
"I have lived in the metropolitan area for 37 years, and have never gotten ticketed for a parking violation," says Harvey. His secret? "I am willing to walk a half a mile, if need be. In addition, I always use my watch when I am at a meter." A good approach, whether you're a retired federal employe (as Harvey is) or a public official who's supposed to set an example (as Frank Smith is).
On April 21, I took a nip at the advertising industry, especially those in its midst who write. In sentence fragments. Designed. To attract attention.
"I used to write exactly the kind of prose you deplore, and I deplored it, too," writes Dax Schreibman of Alexandria.
"But if you show the average reader long sentences, full of subsidiary clauses, lists and complex thoughts, he'd say, 'I can't read all that. It's too long.'
" . . . .Clients know what they like and what works for them, and if they liked commas and verbs, you'd see more of them . . . .Sad to say, dumb ads work, sometimes spectacularly well."
I'm no more interested in being bored to death than the next guy, Dax. But instead of turning the language into the moral equivalent of Spaghetti-O's, why can't ads simply contain fewer words? That way, the words they do contain could all be arranged into sentences. Both the client and the mother tongue would smile, I'm sure.
By the way, Kenny Fried, who also labors in the advertising vineyards hereabouts, sent in an envelope full of Gotcha.
The envelope contained three ads from that morning's paper. The ads contained eight "sentences" that had somehow lost either a subject or a verb in their journey along life's highway.
Who was the advertiser? None other than The Washington Post.
On April 15, I carried a list of "state-vs.-state" jokes. One of them referred to University of Nebraska cheerleaders who might be motivated to graze on artificial turf during the halftimes of football games.
"It takes a lot to offend me," writes Maryellen McLaughlin of Annandale. "But I am always offended by jokes which compare women (or men, for that matter) to animals . . . .
"I hope you never again run any joke which refers to a woman as a cow or a dog or anything else. Maybe one must be a woman to realize just how much that hurts."
I think a man can appreciate your point, Maryellen, and this man does. While I think that many jokes (and probably most) are based on one person making fun of another, there is a limit. Perhaps the "grazing" joke crossed it.
I don't think it did, but if you think it did, then you deserve an apology. Here is one, with a chocolate chip cookie on top:
I'm sorry if I offended you. That was not my intention. It never is.
On April 23, I recounted the tale of a woman who bought four steaks at a local grocery. The tab was $44.72. She paid with food stamps. I wrote that food stamp recipients should be more careful about budgeting their monthly allocations.
"Now you want to dictate how public assistance recipients should spend their money and stamps," writes Yvonne Bolz of Silver Spring.
"Next you'll want to tell them they should spend assistance on oatmeal instead of hamburger, as it is really more nourishing. It's like censorship, Bob -- a good idea until you try to figure out who you would want to censor YOU."
Nobody's trying to censor anybody, Yvonne. I'm only pointing out what's obvious -- that many people, food stamp recipients as well as millionaires, could do a much better job of budgeting their resources.
The difference is that millionaires aren't in real trouble if they get a little sloppy or spendthriftish. But if a food stamp recipient shoots the works on steak early in the month, he or she is going to be eating peanut butter for the rest of the month. So will his or her children.
Is that sensible? Is that the best use of public bucks? How can it hurt to take a hard look at ways to reduce or eliminate this problem?
Perhaps we should change food stamp allocations from monthly to weekly. Perhaps we should issue one kind of stamp for meat, another for vegetables, and another for grains, so recipients will be nudged toward balanced diets.
But whatever we do, or don't do, we should never sit back and say that the present system is as good as a system can get.
It isn't. No system is. To suggest that a call for change is censorship, or Big Brotherism, or insensitivity to the poor, is miles off the mark. To change what needs changing is nothing more or less than common sense.