No, I wouldn't call it a two-touchdown victory. But my recent public floggings might have persuaded a few young people to stop misusing and overusing the word "like."
At the very least, young folk may have been embarrassed to the point where they, like, start thinking about what they're, like, saying.
But the eternally vigilant can't rest on laurels. Today, we take aim at another irritating expression that young people have made notorious: "No problem."
It crops up in conversations such as this:
Bob Levey to bus driver who stops crisply at corner: "Thanks very much."
Bus driver to Bob Levey: "No problem."
Who ever said there was a problem?
And why such lack of grace? Isn't "you're welcome" far more genuine and far more lilting?
In fact, "no problem" is a way of saying, "Actually, I really had to put myself out for you. But I'm going to say `no problem' anyway, so you think I'm being polite. What I'm really being is a bit nasty." The shrinks would call it passive-aggressive -- and they'd be right.
The problem with "no problem" is the word problem. It doesn't mean what it has always meant.
Ask a young person why he or she is watching Jerry Springer on television, and the reply is likely to be: "Because I like watching stupid people be stupid. You got a problem with that?"
The young person doesn't mean "problem" the way Einstein or Copernicus meant it. This isn't some puzzle to be solved by logic and reason. Young people have gnarled "problem" so that it means "disagreement" or "desire to start a fight."
Here's the dialogue I'd like to hear:
Bob Levey to young person: "Why are you watching Jerry Springer on television?"
Young person: "Because I like watching stupid people be stupid. Don't you?"
That's solicitous. It's brisk. It's polite. It reaches out without any edge. It continues the conversation, rather than delivering a phraseological punch in the nose.
Comments, dear friends? Surely you don't have a problem with that. I'm contactable in four ways.
By phone: 202-334-7276.
By fax: 202-334-5150.
By mail: Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.
By e-mail: email@example.com.
Speaking of nasty fights, we've been holding a 10-rounder during the last couple of months about drinking water while riding Metro.
The rules say no water-guzzling under any circumstances. Several riders have been ticketed by Metro police for nipping from bottles and jugs, even on brutally hot days, even though they hadn't made a mess. These riders (and others) think that Metro could bend a couple of inches, on water, if not on mustard- coated hot dogs.
I still like Metro's reasoning: Water might not end up down a parched throat, but all over fellow patrons (or their possessions, or their seats) instead.
And what if a water-drinker inadvertently creates a puddle? Those red tiles in Metro stations are slippery enough. Why make them more slippery? Why give liability lawyers any more reasons to get rich?
But instead of finding ways to ban water, why can't Metro find ways to provide it? Several readers thought that installing water fountains would be an easy step. As Tim Burr, of Southeast Washington, put it, "A water fountain would make the ticket-inducing water bottle unnecessary."
Metro spokeswoman Cheryl Johnson poured cold water on the idea (sorry, you knew that was coming).
She said that water fountains would increase the risk of spills and slips. They would also build extra expense into the system's budget, for people to clean up either mis-aimed water or trash left in fountains.
Cheryl also pointed out that it's relatively difficult to die of thirst on Metro, because "it's a fast system. No one's commute should be more than about 30 minutes." Of course, if there's an emergency, a station manager or train operator can summon help. But riders should be able to last until the end of their ride before glugging H20, Cheryl said.
Better yet, can't dried-out riders drink water before entering the system? Won't that protect both their bodies and their bank accounts?
Meanwhile, some Metro train operators seem to have become stand-up comedians.
Michael Forcinito, of Rockville, was amused by the patter that he heard the other day as his train arrived at a stop in Northwest Washington.
"This is Woodley Park/National Zoo/Adams-Morgan," the train operator said. "Metro stations used to have names. Now they have menus."
Cute one from Jo Bales. In case the Secret Service is worried, it's pure fiction.
Jo says she recently heard about a person who made a $1 purchase. The person paid with a $15 bill.
The clerk handed her two $7 bills in change.