Reaching to Offend

I appreciate the point of Joel Achenbach's Oct. 7 Style article, "History in a Nutshell: The Century's Greatest Lists," but was it really necessary under any circumstance to refer to President John F. Kennedy as a "slimeball"?

We can argue the merits of his life and his term as president, but what is it that drives some journalists to reach for the outrageous phrase? Don't they realize that a considerable number of unhip, not fashionably cynical/sarcastic people still can be offended?

That "slimeball" was a war hero. He and two of his brothers gave their lives so that Achenbach would be free to call him a slimeball. The epithet should have been edited from the story.

--Dennis Plitt

Enough With the Fluff

How delightful that you have taken the time to mention the "peacock palette of the country-club Republican wife" in your profile of Elizabeth Dole. Are you letting your fashion editor contribute to profiles of presidential candidates now? Will you be updating this description as Dole rolls out her fall selections? Are George W. Bush's clothes also "immaculate and perfectly coordinated"?

By allowing this fluffy piece of drivel into print, you have cheapened an otherwise interesting profile of a serious woman.

--Patrick McFadden

Anti-Polish Propaganda

I was astounded to read the Sept. 25 Free for All letter from George W. Mason, in which he states that there were "Polish concentration camps" after World War II.

Mason's assertion is the mirror image of the false propaganda put out by pro-Nazi anti-Polonites who try to pin the responsibility for German concentration camps in Poland on the Poles.

After World War II, Poland was occupied by the Soviet communists in accordance with the Yalta agreements, in which Poland and the Polish people had no say whatever. The Soviets imposed on Poland a puppet government whose representatives were no more Polish than the German occupation administration that had been imposed on Poland during World War II.

Poland did not become free until 1989, when the Solidarity revolution expelled the Soviet occupation forces from Poland and restored its independence. There were no "Polish concentration camps."

--W. J. Milan-Kamski

Rules to Write By

Peter Brodie [Free for All, Oct. 9] wants us to consider how important it is to keep the distinction between "its" and "it's."

He wonders "[W]hy should 'its' . . . be denied its rightful apostrophe?" and adds parenthetically that "its" is "different from 'ours' or 'yours' or 'theirs'--which are pronouns." He is mistaken. "Its" is a pronoun, the third-person neuter (neither "him" nor "her") possessive pronoun.

Brodie also challenges the distinction by asking if one has ever been mistaken for the other. While context almost always makes the distinction clear, some constructions could be confusing: "I feel its pain," (the object's pain) and "I feel it's pain" (I feel it is pain).

Most disturbing is Brodie's guess that the distinction between "its" and "it's" was arbitrarily codified by "some 19th-century self-styled grammarian." Your paper's whiny "Red Pencil" feature champions this kind of chafing against rules, which misses the essential point.

Yes, rules were laid down for grammar, but almost all accurately depict and delineate the relationships among words as concepts, relationships hard-wired into our minds during our early years.

--James Wilson

Feast of Fat

The Oct. 6 Food section had a wonderful article by Jeanne McManus about a sit-down dinner for six--good words, good recipes. I was really interested--until I added up the fat grams.

Wow: 120 grams of fat, accounting for 60 percent of the calories. At 1,800 calories, that is not only a gluttonous feast but way heavy on the fat side. I hope you'll consider providing menus that are healthier.

--Ann Hoffer