Chinese food has become universally popular in our country. It's even served in the U.S. Senate dining rooms from time to time. But would you believe that the silverware used in some Senate dining rooms is also Chinese?
Yes, my fellow Americans, it's true. In that Yankee-est of eateries, the implements used to feed faces were not made on these hallowed shores.
I never realized this before, and never would have suspected it. But Irving M. Binder, of Silver Spring, tipped me off a couple of weeks ago. Seems Irving was entertaining a friend in the public dining area on the Senate side when the friend took a look at the imprint on his fork. In tiny letters, it said, "FORMOSA."
Formosa, of course, is the former name of Taiwan. Although Formosa is not officially used in diplomatic or political circles any more, the word still appears on some exported goods.
John Hitzel, food manager for all the Senate dining rooms, said all the silverware used in both the public and private Senate dining areas is made in Taiwan. However, only the stainless steel implements used in the public dining areas are marked with the word "FORMOSA." The real silver used in the private rooms isn't marked, he said.
John said he buys Taiwanese implements because the Buy American Act allows him to. The act permits him to choose foreign goods if they're 30 percent or more cheaper than the American equivalent. According to John, American stainless is five times as expensive as Taiwanese stainless.
John says he'd have a hard time justifying the greater expense, since he buys between 600 and 700 dozen pieces of stainless a year. At least he buys everything through an American distributor, he pointed out.
On the House side, food services manager Tony Dominick said he "fought the battle a long time ago" -- and lost. House members insisted that all of Tony's china, glassware, silver and stainless steel be made in America, despite the higher cost. So he abides by that decree.
I certainly can't criticize John Hitzel for trying to save us all a buck or two. But couldn't the Senate exempt its silverware from the Buy American Act? To see "FORMOSA" on a Senate fork may not exactly curdle one's appetite, but it doesn't do an awful lot for one's sense of pride.
Ladies and gentlemen, a drum roll, please. We hereby open the doors of the Bob Levey Hall of Grammatical Shame.
To qualify for admission, all you have to do is butcher the English language in an advertisement. Nominations are welcome, from both print and electronic media. Perhaps by publicizing these horrors, we can inspire the advertising industry to double-check its tenses and word choices before our eyes, ears and patience turn to dust.
Debbie Weaver, of Charlottesville, has submitted the first nomination, and it's a beaut. In a circular mailed recently to homes in the Old Dominion, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Virginia blares:
"Now There's a Million and One Reasons to Carry This Card."
As Debbie says, "Pardon me while I scream."
Of course, the sentence should read, "Now There Are a Million and One Reasons . . . ." True, a lot of people make this mistake -- probably more in spoken English than in the written form. But that hardly makes it right.
Got another molar-grinder? Mail it to Shame, c/o Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.
In just 16 days, we can all become 16 again. Little Anthony will see to it.
The rock-and-roll idol from the 1950s will be the headliner at Bob Levey's Happy Days Dance, a kick-off-your-shoes, 1950s-style party that we're throwing to launch our 1990-91 fund-raising campaign on behalf of Children's Hospital.
The party will be from from 8 p.m. to midnight Dec. 1 at the Ramada Renaissance Hotel, 999 Ninth St. NW. Admission will be $35 per person. The Post will contribute $10 to Children's Hospital for every ticket sold. Party-goers of any age are welcome.
If you're unfamiliar with Little Anthony Gourdine, you won't want to stay that way. When he sang with a group called the Imperials, Anthony recorded a song called "Tears on My Pillow." It's about as catchy, and as singable, as any rock song ever put on wax. The Imperials disbanded in 1974, but Little Anthony still sings "Pillow" as compellingly as ever.
Reservations for the dance may be made through The Washington Post's public relations department. Plenty of tickets are available. The mailing address is 1150 15th St. NW., Washington, D.C. 20071. The phone number is 202-334-7969. Checks should be made payable to The Washington Post. Reservations will not be confirmed until a check is received.