Study in Vulgarity

It is unfortunate that your paper would print such trash as "Science Is Gross," on the KidsPost page, no less [Oct. 23]. I am not a Puritan, but surely anyone with the least amount of class would not reinforce such purposeless vulgarity with children (or anyone). Give yourself a trophy for your contribution to the further coarsening and "dumbing down" of America.

-- Wayne Boughman

Suspect Science

It's ironic that Richard Cohen's op-ed article about ballistic fingerprinting appeared on the same day as your editorial "Are Polygraphs Lying?" [Oct. 17].

We were assured for years that science supported the claims of polygraphers, but now we know such "lie detectors" don't work. Cohen (and others) claim that science can provide a means of "fingerprinting" every firearm ever sold, but unfortunately that's not so. Just as a good liar can cheat the polygraph and innocent people have been found "guilty," a person determined not to be caught can thwart ballistic fingerprinting while an innocent person can be arrested because, over time, the grooves of his firearm come to resemble those of the guilty weapon.

Until the science can be proved, ballistic fingerprinting stands in the same league as polygraphs. (And no, I don't belong to the NRA.)

-- Tom Neven

Women of Certain Talent

Having just returned from London and seen Judi Dench and Maggie Smith in "The Breath of Life," I was delighted to see Glenn Frankel's article [Style, Oct. 19] in praise of two consummate actors. Over the years these women have given theater and film audiences an astonishing array of complicated, funny, dark, sexy, irritating and regal characters. Thanks to them audiences have come away from their performances entertained and enriched.

Why then must we be told, coyly, that these are "women of a certain age," only to be told later in the article that both will turn 68 in December? Do we describe Anthony Hopkins and Michael Gambon as "men of a certain age"? Is Richard Attenborough a "director of a certain age"?

Please, let's allow colossal talent to stand on its own at any age.

-- Helen Carey

Rewarding Musical Experience

Surely I am not the only member of the prehistoric Woodstock Generation who is weary of your music critics pointing out the ages of still-working superstars such as the Rolling Stones (recently referred to as "artful codgers" in your paper), Paul McCartney, James Taylor and the like.

The most recent jab was in the review of the Little Feat concert at Lisner Auditorium ["Celebrating Little Feat's 25 Years of 'Waiting,' " Style, Oct. 16]. Of what value was it for the reader to know that the musicians were "a little thicker around the middle," or that the members of the audience were gray-haired? Those facts neither diminish nor enhance the quality of the music. In fact, little is served but the ever-widening generation gap.

Why are we never told that the audiences (and even some performers) at the concerts of younger performers are skinny, have pimples or wear braces on their teeth? Spare us the sarcasm and pay attention to the musicianship.

-- Andrea Rouda

Censored Strip

There is, as I am sure you know, a difference between exercising editorial judgment and censorship. Refusing to run the "Boondocks" strip on Oct. 13 falls into the latter category ["Pics and Strips," ombudsman, Oct. 20]. And from just what dangerous ideas were you shielding your readership by censoring the strip? From a reminder that George W. Bush wasn't actually elected president? That Hitler was a popular leader? Is your readership so susceptible to terrible ideas that every reference to Hitler in your pages has to be politically correct?

-- Hugh B. Gordon

Linguistic Distinction

Clue R of the Oct. 19 Quote-Acrostic [Style] asks for "Jewish dialect" and expects YIDDISH as the answer. Yiddish is not a dialect but a language. Descended from Middle High German and written with Hebrew characters, it has its own distinctive grammar, syntax and vocabulary, a small but important part of which comes from Hebrew and Slavic.

Sholom Aleichem wrote his Tevye stories, the basis for "Fiddler on the Roof," in Yiddish. Isaac Bashevis Singer, the 1978 Nobel laureate for literature, wrote in Yiddish. If Yiddish were a dialect, it would be one of the very few if not the only one to have produced a significant body of fiction, poetry and other forms of writing.

-- Jerome S. Shipman