Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron (July)

Jul 29, 2014

Gene Weingarten held his monthly chat with readers.

THIS CHAT'S POLLS:

This is a hot-button topic. I am doing it with some trepidation, and only after two women of my acquaintance found it interesting, and had VERY different reactions to it.

Read this essay. Then, a few questions, each with a male/female split.

1. How would you summarize your feelings about Dave?
MALE
FEMALE

2. How would you summarize your feelings about Robin?
MALE
FEMALE

3. Was Robin right to call Dave and ask for an explanation?
MALE
FEMALE

4. What should Dave have done when she called him?
MALE
FEMALE

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Good afternoon.

There is yet another plagiarism scandal afoot. I declare it a silly one, and therefore  predict that what I am writing here will raise a mini-foofaraw in journalistic circles.  It may well get me targeted by the same journalism Internet sleuths who broke this “scandal,” and they might comb my oeuvre trying to prove that I am a plagiarist myself, which might explain why I am daring to question the agreed-upon level of public tsk-ing, using the agreed-upon hair-trigger definition of what constitutes theft in our a shabby new world of frantic Internet journalism that, in its very DNA,  happens to encourage  and reward theft. 

Here’s the problem, in a nutshell:

The ethics of plagiarism have turned into the narcissism of small differences: Because journalism cannot own up to its heavily derivative nature, it must enforce originality on the level of the sentence.

And so we have the very recent firing of one Benny Johnson, who, in writing crappy listicles for his employer, Buzzfeed, was found to have serially plagiarized phrases from such august sources as Wikipedia, Ask.com and even the disreputable, inane “Yahoo! Answers."

Appropriately, Buzzfeed Benny was was busted by a couple of pseudonymous Internetsters named @blippoblappo and @crushingbort on their site "Our Bad Media."

  After initially indignantly defending his guy, (indeed, calling him "one of the Internet's deeply original writers")  Buzzfeed Benny's boss, @BuzzfeedBen (can't make this stuff up), finally canned him after @blippoblappo and @crushingbort found more borrowings.    @buzzfeedBen announced the firing in a wretched,  groveling post decrying the felony of plagiarism and how much of a betrayal it is to You, The Reader.   The whole event is chronicled nicely here by my Post colleague Erik Wemple, writing not under some cute pseudonym but by his own name, in his strategically  branded “The Erik Wemple blog.” 

The Internet!   

I am here to say that as a plagiarism scandal, this is complete bull-doody.   It’s a pathetic little phony scandal, with a dirty secret behind it, and everyone wrapped up in it is complicit to some degree, including Buzzfeed, up there on top of that high horse whose feet are sunk in the mud, and even the indignant Internet sleuths who broke this gotcha thing, and even to a smaller degree my illustrious MSM colleagues who have been far too willing to certify this thing as a major plagiarism disgrace without asking some disturbing followup questions. 

There’s a difference between crappy, lazy Internet writing and real plagiarism and I contend that when you start calling the first thing the second thing, you belittle the seriousness of real plagiarism.  It all starts seeming like kindergarten-level failure to footnote.  And over time  real plagiarism will not outrage the public as it should.  

Lemme explain what real plagiarism is.  Real Plagiarism is the third paragraph of this very screed, the one up top beginning with “The ethics of plagiarism… and ending with “level of the sentence.”  It’s the best sentence in this piece, for a good reason.  It was written by a more thoughtful and intelligent person than I am, one who had more time to think about this sort of thing, and craft a perfect sentence.   It was written by Malcolm Gladwell in his excellent book “What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures.”    Malcolm was discussing (and by implication, I think, predicting the spread of) this very issue, several years ago.

Now, had I not disclosed stealing this line, I would have been reprimanded by The Washington Post, probably disciplined with a suspension, and possibly fired.  I would not have contested whatever punishment I received, because I would know I deserved it because I had been a thief.

But to be guilty of theft, one must steal something of some intrinsic value.  An original insight, such as Gladwell’s, qualifies very clearly.   When the dreadful Jayson Blair egregiously stole the on-the-scene reporting of journalists who had been to crime scenes that Blair claimed to have been  at but had not, that was indeed grand theft.  But I contend you cannot steal something of no intrinsic value; say, a fart.    Someone who steals a fart is a weird, disreputable person, perhaps, and even someone deserving of firing, perhaps, but not a thief.   This is Mr. Benny Johnson.

Buzzfeed runs hundreds of listicles.   They also do important stuff, and do it well, but they are most identifiable by their cheesy, boiler-room listicle operation, which presumably underwrites the rest of the stuff by feeding the gaping maw of people hungry for cheap, quick amusement in a new paperless world with infinite space to fill and infinite pixel space in which to do it.  The sheer volume of listicle traffic, and the enforced vapidity of subject matter,  means no one is spending any real time or smarts on it, nor can they, nor would anyone expect them to.   Some months ago, I wrote about this awful genre, in which I ridiculed an otherwise smart and talented young BuzzFeed writer for her brainless, pointless, trawling-for-advertising paean to the wondrousness of Dunkin Donuts.

To look at these pieces and pretend they are journalism, and expect the same degree of due diligence from them is like is like going into a restaurant named "Eat, Pay, and Get The Hell Out" and being SHOCKED, SHOCKED to discover the french fries aren't made fresh on the premises. 

I am not an apologist for plagiarism.   I hate real plagiarism, and I think it is the second worst sin a journalist can commit in the course of his work.   And I am not contending that theft requires stealing lots of words.   A few years ago, I savaged the great Molly Ivins in print after I discovered, to my surprise (and, frankly, delight; it made for a good column) that she had stolen five words from a famous British wag.    Unfortunately for Molly, those five words were "a condom stuffed with walnuts," used to describe the physical appearance of Arnold Schwarzenegger.     That's theft -- the description was ingenious. 

So, that was plagiarism (though Molly claimed it was inadvertent).  But this is not plagiarism:  A few paragraphs above, I cut and pasted from the Eric Wemple blog the following phrase: "named @blippoblappo and @crushingbort on their site 'Our Bad Media.'"  Sure, I could have covered my butt and reworded that to something like:  “named @crushingbort and @blippoblappo in a post published yesterday on their media-crit website named 'Our Bad Media""  ... I could have done that BUT WHO THE F CARES EXCEPT  media-crit gotcha sleuths like @Blippoblappo and @crushingbort?   Know what I mean?

Let's take a look, briefly, at what Benny Johnson did.

 The first thing that blippo and crushing found that Benny did was, on its face, sleazy and lazy and bad.  He appears to have seen a U.S. News article on living conditions in North Korea and come up with the crappy idea of doing a Buzzfeed listicle on reasons it would be bad to live in North Korea (note to Buzzfeed editors: Consider listicle on reasons it's bad to have firehose diarrhea).    The U.S. News piece heavily quoted from a report from a Korean institute.   Benny quoted the institute, but probably never saw the report: He was lifting the material from U.S. News, rewording it slightly, giving the Institute credit, but not U.S. News.  Crappy.  Derivative.  

Did he steal the idea, and thereby qualify as plagiarism? Maybe, though if I were Benny I would argue that an article on how bad it is in North Korea merely inspired a spin off TOTALLY DIFFERENT  listicle on why you should not live in North Korea.  

Sure, it's crap, and maybe even fireable.  Though it should be noted that Buzzfeed didn't feel it was.  They were still defending him until other charges surfaced.  So this was SLEAZY, but not plagiarism, really, to them, yet.  There is apparently an acceptable level of sleaze for listicles.

But mostly, there is this question: Reading a listicle in Buzzfeed, just what level of diligence does a reader expect? Is a reader really being fooled here?  Do we think Benny Johnson of Buzzfeed's basement listicle division is going to have gone to Pyongyang to investigate for himself?   Is he going to have spent five days interviewing Korean scholars to better triangulate his sources for his listicle, to make sure he is placing correct emphasis on appropriate facts? 

I contend reader expectations were for Benny to do exactly what he did.   After all, we all know he has another listicle to write ten minutes after this one.

Anyway, Buzzfeed still was fine with Benny, after this disclosure.  He was still their star listicle writer!  It wasn't until Internet sleuths came up with some other examples that he got the boot. 

Let's take a look at the tenor of some of those other examples.

This is from the Wikipedia entry on Timothy McVeigh:  "Commonly referred to as the Oklahoma City Bombings, the attack killed 168 people and injured over 800.  It was the deadliest act of terrorism in the United States prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  As of 2013, the bombing remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. History."

This is from a Benny listicle on manhunts, under a photo of wreckage:  "WANTED for the Oklahoma City bombing, where he detonated a massive bomb outside a federal building, killing 168 people and injuring over 800.  As of 2013, the bombing remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history."

Really, sleuths?  You find this appalling lack of attribution? For a LISTICLE?  In Buzzfeed?

Here's another one:

Biography.com, on Saddam's capture:  "Finally, on Dec. 13, 2003, Saddam was found hiding in a small underground bunker near a farmhouse in ad-Dawr, near Tikrit."

Benny wrote this: "FOUND: Living in a small underground crawlspace under a farmhouse in Ad-Dawr, near the city of Tikrit." 

Okay, then.  Given what I believe the public expects of listicles, it seems to me Benny was as original as Shakespeare, there.  He actually changed some words around.

One more.

From Wikipedia: "The result was the 1898 Treaty of Paris, negotiated on terms favorable to the United States, which allowed temporary American control of Cuba, ceded indefinite colonial authority over Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine Islands from Spain."

This is Benny: "The 1898 Treaty of Paris allowed temporary American control of Cuba, ceded indefinite colonial authority over Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, and precipitated the collapse of the Spanish empire."

Can plagiarism seriously be the appropriation of boilerplate, which is essentially what this is?  This sort of rote description of the end of World War I is probably written word for word, just about exactly like this, in high school textbooks.  Who gets excited over this?  Nothing of any value is being appropriated.

But saying they are SHOCKED by this sort of thing, Buzzfeed is trying to deny what it is.   There is a crappy new world of crappy journalism, and their listicles have been a crappy part of it, and I'm guessing  that there are other listicle writers at Buzzfeed and elsewhere who are today doing that comical finger-pulling-the-collar-out-to-get-some-neck-air gesture, trying to remember how many times they lifted a phrase or two from places like Wikipedia because they have nine crap-writing deadlines in two days, and, besides, who the hell cares?

It's all bad, folks.   But don't start calling this bullhockey plagiarism, because that denies the seriousness of plagiarism.

(My friend Tom Scocca points out there is one thing in the sleazy Johnson oeuvre that fits even my definition of plagiarism: Johnson lifted this line verbatim from About.com: "Technically, any Catholic male who has reached the age of reason, is not a heretic, is not in schism, and is not 'notorious' for simony can be elected pope--there is no other requirement for election." He's right, that's not boilerplate. And if that were the only complaint here and we were not dealing with charges of serial plagiarism, implying all of this is, I'd have no complaint.)

In conclusion, I will write you a little poem, a joyous ode to intellectual theft.

Plagiarize!

Let no one else's work evade your eyes!

Remember why the Good Lord made your eyes!

So don't shade your eyes!

Plagiarize!  Plagiarize!  Plagiarize! 

--

Thank you.   You are too kind.  

I am proud of my doggerel.

But that was Tom Lehrer, circa 1962.  

--

If you haven't already, please take the polls (you will see them just below this box of text).   Chat begins at noon sharp.

Hi.  So something hilarious and ironic  is happening but I can't tell you what it is until you have all read the intro.   So read the intro right now if you haven't already. 

I don't like Dave, from the essay and the poll; he seems like a shallow kind of jerk. On the other hand, Robin seemed to like him just fine, up until the sex part, so either she is equally shallow and doesn't realize it, or he isn't totally bad. Robin seems awfully pleased with herself ("I'm 59 and totally hot (within reasonable tolerances).") And Dave can't help it if he has adolescent preferences, the only control he has is over what to do with it. He didn't start making unwanted and superficial suggestions until after Robin called him to ask, which could plausibly be grounds to think she wanted such advice. Maybe. All in all, it just seems like a sticky personal moment of the sort that happens as people negotiate intimacy, and possibly decide that they aren't really suited to be intimate.

Well said.

As I wrote in the poll, I found this piece risky in that I feared it would disturb women, and also I felt that there might not be enough variation in opinions.

Then I asked two women friends of mine, and was very surprised.

One woman, who is middle aged, had an initial reaction very similar to the majority here: That Dave was a horrible creep and Robin a justifiably angry and outraged victim of his callousness.   But the more she thought about it, the more she  began sympathizing with Dave.   Dave wanted to continue a relationship because he liked Robin for what she was, inside: Smart, funny, etc.    This is what women SAY they are looking for, and too often cannot find.  He was being honest -- yes, brutally -- but didn't want their relationship to end just because of a physical issue.    My friend asked an interesting question:  How would we feel about a man who called a woman after a date, surprised and bothered that  she didn't want to have sex with him?   What would we think of that guy?  

That whole analysis stunned me.  Then I talked to another woman friend, in her early 30s.   She entirely disagreed with friend 1.    She said the guy was monstrously insensitive, and he could and should have been honest but in a diplomatic way:  "Some chemistry is missing.  I'd like to work on it."  Or some such. 

I'm mostly with her, I think.   I found what he told her to be savagely cruel, and I cannot imagine ever saying anything like that, ever, to anyone.   Especially someone I cared about, but anyone, really.   I am in the extreme minority, in this poll.  I would have chosen the option "lie."  Lie to give yourself time.    Once you have said even "chemistry," you are telling the woman that the issue is her body, even doing it gently.   If I were in fact freaked out by the age of her body but wanted a future with her, I would have lied, then figured out a way, in my own mind, to get past my prejudice. 

I doubt if you can entirely make up for a basic problem like this, in your brain, but maybe you can. 

Where I draw the line is drawing a conclusion from this that there is something wrong with Dave because he doesn't find her attractive.  

Here is the ironic thing that is happening online: People are reading the intro and tweeting that Malcolm Gladwell line, attributing it to me !  

Manteuffel says that this should not worry me because it sounds like something I would have written, so it's not plagiarism.

So 48 women said (in the last question) that Dave should have done what he did. But in the first question, only 24 said he was a decent guy. So, women who answered that way, if he did what he should have done, why isn't he a decent guy?

I believe some people changed their minds as they were answering the questions!  Amiright, people? 

I hope you alls remember this spectacular Onion article on listicle plagiarism.

Hi, Gene -- I have a medical mystery for you. I'm 55 and until March exercised seven days a week. Then, walking into the gym one morning, I experienced what I can only describe as the feeling of fireworks going off in my chest. I sat down and, after five minutes, the pain subsided. My doctor did an ECG (normal), and I went for four hours of heart tests (normal). Since then, I've had an endoscopy, a pulmonary test and a gallbladder ultrasound. All normal. At the same time, I've continued to experience one of two problems -- either massive heartburn throughout my chest or something that feels like someone is trying to push a baseball up my windpipe. There's no pattern to it except that I can't do anything that elevates my heart rate without debilitating chest pain. Last week, I had a CT chest scan and a thyroid ultrasound that showed an enlarged, irregular thyroid pushing against my trachea. My doctor isn't convinced this is the cause of my problems. He thought I might have inflammation around my heart, but an anti-inflammatory medicine did nothing. Nor has any number of antacids. I'm having a biopsy on Wednesday because the thyroid ultrasound revealed a number of nodules. OK, all that said: What else should I be asking the doctor to consider?

The thyroid problems could explain the baseball-up-the-chest thing, no?  

For most of it, I am going with the thing cardiologists so often find with heart attack symptoms that prove not to involve the heart:  Gas.  Somehow.

But I don't know what I am talking about.  

When you wrote that in the intro, were you aware of this place? http://bobsgrillobx.com/ -- They famously have a large sign telling you to do that very thing.

Nope, never heard of this.   I think "Eat, Pay and Get The Hell Out" was the name of a restaurant in a New Yorker cartoon from many decades ago.   I know it's not original to me.   So, technically, did I plagiarize that?  

Is that it can also mean personality -- that you don't click. The chemistry was there, the sexual attraction was not. I think if Dave were to say that there wasn't any chemistry, she'd think he didn't find her attractive inside OR out.

I guess he would have had to say sexual chemistry, eh?  That's why I would have lied.

I finally watched all five seasons of The Wire, the last season of which centered on the decline of daily journalism through the prism of the Baltimore Sun. A reporter named Templeton, anxious to move from the Sun to the Wash Post or NY Times, started "embellishing" his stories. Opening day at Oriole Park featured quotes from an African-American boy confined to a wheelchair who had somehow made it from West Baltimore to the stadium on his own power because he loved baseball so much. Templeton only had the kid's first name and there was no photo. This caused the city editor to muse that, "I could understand the kid doing this for a Ravens game, but baseball?" When higher ups loved the human interest Templeton was off and running, culminating with a series about a "serial killer" that winds up, as The Wire ends, with the Sun winning a Pulitzer. Is it worse to steal, as Jayson Blair did, from the work of others, or is it worse to make things up totally, as Templeton did in fiction and others have done in real life journalism.

Well, that's why I called plagiarism the second greatest journalistic sin.   The greatest is making stuff up.   The difference is that the second sin is a direct sin against the reader, and the truth.    The first is more indirect; the main crime is against one person, and the overall factual truth is presumably not breached, just the underlying truth of who actually wrote it.  

Just before the chat, ace copy editor Pat Myers read my intro and came up with a fascinating analogy.  She said the difference between real plagiarism and this sort of carelessness/sloppiness is the difference between writing "dermitology" and writing "teh."

I'm a writer, and I think my take is fairly unique. I look at whether it's plagiarism about FACTS or about OPINION or even CREATIVITY. You can't plagiarize facts -- it's why a recipe can't be copyrighted. It's ingredients and steps. No creativity.

Well, not entirely true.  If you use facts that one person got, through diligence, that's plagiarism.

But nobody should go into a relationship demanding that a partner make changes to his or her body to accommodate someone else's wishes. That's just selfish. For the record "I didn't feel the chemistry" doesn't strike me as a lie. It's just the most polite way of delivering the truth. What Dave did was to deliver his own listicle over the phone: "20 Changes that Older Chicks Can Make to Be Hot Enough for Dave." And yes, that's crappy.

Agreed.

I'm a 30-year-old guy, and I think Dave's pretty gross. My perspective comes from my mom's current dating experiences. When people in her generation date, here's what you get: the other person is going to have some baggage (because life happens to you by the time you're that age), they're going to have some irritating habits they will refuse to change (because they've been doing it that way for 40 years), and they're going to look their age (because, again, life). Asking that the other person somehow change or "deal with" any of those three things is insulting, a waste of time, and a guaranteed argument. Dave's behavior would have been better not by being dishonest with his date, but by being more honest with himself about what he was getting involved with way before this came up and deciding what he was willing to accept in exchange for a relationship.

Agreed.

Gene I figure this is right up the alley for this chat. I have heard, years apart and now from a few different sources, that "thinking about licking a urinal" is a sign that you may have OCD. I just read this again recently in a NYTimes magazine article about a comedian who suffers from OCD and talks about OCD in her skits. That is a pretty specific symptom. Do they mean "compulsively thinking about licking a urinal" or "the thought just crossed your mind" or what? How many people reading this are thinking about licking urinals now? Do we all have OCD? What other random OCD self-diagnosing symptoms are there? A friend want to know. Yeah, that's it. A friend.

I can only say that I intuitively understand this, much as it is repellent.   I'm not sure it actually has anything with OCD, though.  I have a constant internal narrative going on in my brain, and it sometimes deals with odd, impulsive scenarios.  Some is dysfunctional: I am mildly acrophobic, and whenever I find myself on a ledge or roof, I recognize a small, timid compulsion to leap.  I sort of make sure to press back against a wall.  Similarly, I'll have some other narrative going what if a football were there, could I kick it onto that balcony?    And sometimes, yeah, there is an element of ick to the scenario.  Can't recall thinking that about a urinal.

Why would that be OCD?

You shouldn't be asking Gene; you should be asking the Health & Science staff, specifically the ones who write up medical mysteries and how they were solved. Either that, or go to the Mayo Clinic.

But if this person asked elsewhere, he or she could not have first referenced Ms. Poopfinger.

I will admit this is no where nearly as interesting at the woman who had to scoop poop out of her anus with her finger, but as this issue also falls in the "my body is weird" category, I thought I'd come to you for help. My problem: Hot liquids hurt my stomach. I can have about half a cup of, say, hot tea, before my stomach starts aching and cramping. It's not debilitating, but it's uncomfortable enough to the point where I generally avoid hot liquids. I also find they make me burp a lot. Any idea what the heck is going on? I don't even like coffee, hot or cold, so I don't mind missing out on that, but it would be nice to enjoy some mulled wine or hot cocoa every now and then. I also have to abstain from most soups with a broth base, unless there's a lot of actual food in it. Creamy hot soups don't bother me - I'm great with potato soup. But if I try to eat a bowl of egg drop soup, I'm going to be hurting. Help!

 The fact that you aren't bothered by creamy heat is interesting. I assume you'd know if you have ulcers, yes?

This sound familiar to anyone?

I tweeted a stat I derived at Tom Boswell that he acknowledged on Twitter but then used in a column without attributing it to me! As if my work had no value whatsoever! How can I ever make him pay for this insult? I'm thinking of chaining him up and building a wall in front of him.

I have sent your post to the FBI in case Tom goes missing.

who doesn't like the choices for the last question in the poll so didn't answer it. There's ground between "exactly what he did" and "lie a little," and that's where my answer is. One can be truthful without being as much a jerk as Dave was. Is.

A few people said similar things.

The Buzzfeed situation was way overblown. But what do you think about the Montana Senator who cribbed a portion of his MS thesis? When you lift substantial portions of other documents to place in your text in fulfillment of an academic requirement, it's not so cool.

Oh, this should destroy him.    It is not excusable in any way.

I hope high schools textbooks aren't describing the 1898 Treaty of Paris as the end of World War I.

Haha!  Thank you. 

This point has already been made elsewhere on the net, and I'm sure it'll be made here, but let's just toss it in anyway: Robin shows herself to be extremely classy by not mentioning a SINGLE negative word about Dave's body.

I think that's a good point, unless the truth is that he is sculpted.  Though I doubt he is.

But if he WAS you could argue it was disingenuous of her not to mention that.

Still.... I bet he's an ordinary looking fiftyish guy.  And she was classy.

You know how, in trying to talk people out of suicide, people always say that there's something to live for? Sometimes, that's just not true. I have absolutely nothing to live for, and I've spent three days trying to come up with something.

Please email me at gene.weingarten(at)washpost.com.   I won't bulls--- you.    I am not an absolutist about suicide: I believe it can sometimes be a reasonable act.  But I think it is often irrational, when looked at calmly.  I'd be glad to talk.  

I keep wondering what would have happened if she'd asked him, while they were in bed, instead of later on the phone what was going on. (I almost said what's (not) up, but that would have been in bad taste.) I suppose that this is part of my dislike for Dave -- I find the detailed critique over the phone cowardly -- I'm nearly 100% certain that he wouldn't have had the nerve to deliver it while naked in bed -- when he could see the effect of the pain he was causing, and when he would be vulnerable to a similar assessment.

Seriously, I cannot imagine uttering those words in any venue, over any medium.

Let's remember that they spent the weekend together sleeping in the same bed. Naked. I think "why didn't we have sex" is a reasonable question from anybody in that situation.

Yeah, you're right.  

Gene, my company offers a service that uses a particular interface to connect customers to that service. There are enough changes to the interface that we are not contractually bound to advertise this partnership. However, customers experience little difference in the user experience between the two. Their "User Manual" is simply step-by-step instructions next to photos - for example "Click on this icon" "Enter in this log-in info" - and I've been advised to take their text and use it with our screen shots. Is this plagiarism? Higher-up's perspective is, "How many ways can you tell someone to open a door?" Thoughts?

Can you or someone else re-explain this, as though to a mentally impaired dog?  I cannot follow this.

My reaction was quite different than ick ick ick. It was more red flag, red flag, red flag. On some level I appreciated him being honest so she could run away - why would she want to be with someone who didn't want her for her? If he's being this unaccepting now, why would I expect that to get better? The red flags come from a tone of control I picked up, albeit a small one... a form of I'll like you if you just do what I tell you. In my opinion, she lucked out that he was honest.

Many, many people have expressed this sentiment.  You expressed it best.

Gene, pursuant to the theme of naked girls, I have a question for you. Given your widely-known preference for women not to shave their downstairs areas, how do you feel about body hair elsewhere, like on the legs or under the arms? Shaven, unshaven, don't care? You've suggested in the past that there's something a little bit creepy, almost a tinge of pedophilia, about a preference for shaving, and I happen to agree with you (and for what it's worth I'm young -- 22.) But body hair elsewhere is just as much a sign of sexual maturity as ... well, you know. Are you a hypocrite? Personally I'd rather women just rock the natural look and not try to fit some impossible (and undesirable) standard of youthfulness, but I'm clearly outgunned on this one. I haven't met a single guy my age who agrees.

Yes, I am a hypocrite on this.   But (er, hypothetically) it would not be a deal-breaker.    The opposite might be. 

The phrase you're looking for is "intrusive thoughts."

So, are all intrusive thoughts signs of OCD?  My football thing?

Well, when I had exactly the same symptoms, it turned out that I had a heart attack. It took a nuclear-imaging test to verify the problem, since I have enough blood flow from the coronary arteries to supply my heart *except* when I elevated effort. I also have the peculiarity that all my heart attack symptoms presented on the right side of the body, instead of the left, which confused my cardiologist. Fortunately, in my case, we went straight to the nuclear imaging without all those other tests that the original poster described, so we found my problem pretty quickly. It's been 8 symptom-free years since the stent was installed.

But that seems to be ruled out here, no?

The best reasoning I've ever read against suicide is that the overwhelming majority of people who attempt suicide never try again. Whatever's going on with your life that has you at this point, no matter how bad it is, in an hour or a day or a week or a month or a year or WHATEVER you won't feel like you feel right now.

Good point.

Dave should have just asked Robin if she had a daughter.

Ew.

Maybe he was intimidated when she threw herself at him, and he was worried that he might not be able to perform up to her expectations. The rest might be defensiveness. (And I bet Dave has never been married, or at least hasn't been since he was 30 or so.)

I see zero evidence for this !    And if it is true, then he is even crueler than we all thought !

Recently, an internal document I authored was leaked to a public website. Almost immediately, a couple of web-based publications (owned by large, reputable media companies) reported on it. Over the next few days, articles ran in at least ten other publications, online and off, about the document. Those included the websites of major news networks and, yes, a blog on WashingtonPost.com. My name, phone number, and e-mail address were in the original document and remained in the leaked version. Of all of those articles, all those news outlets with their own procedures and fact-checking, how many called or mailed to verify whether the document was authentic, to seek further background, or to vet their interpretation of what it said against the original intent of what it was meant to say? Exactly none. Everybody was rewriting the article where they discovered the document's existence, like a whopping great game of telephone. It is probably no surprise to journalism professionals familiar with Poynter and Romenesko, but journalism today has become rewriting. That's what BuzzFeed does; that's what aggregators like the Gawker family of sites do; and now, evidently, that is what major news outlets do. Original reporting takes too much time and resources, perhaps. But as this practice proliferates, the line delineating plagiarism gets thinner and thinner. "Honey, get me rewrite!" used to be a great journalism movie cliche. Now it's a job description.

Yep.

In case you missed it, I tweeted at both @blippoblappo or @crushingbort in an attempt to solicit a response and see if I could start up an intelligent debate between these self-appointed Plagiarism Policemen and yourself. Alas, this was the response: Tweeted by @crushingbort and favorited by @blippoblappo: '"no offense, but I stopped at the sentence containing both "Malcolm Gladwell" and "excellent book"' Sigh... I guess I was naive to expect anything else?

Haha! 

 

Well, thanks for that poll. I needed another reminder that, as a single 46 year old straight woman, the odds of my ever finding a pleasant, intelligent, kind straight male partner somewhere in my age range are doomed. I forgot from an hour ago.

That was the main reason I hesitated doing this poll.

So a few weeks ago I asked my wife the two profound questions that were first posed on June 1, 1967. She responded in the negative to both. Sadly, I now seem to have no apparent useful purpose in life. Not to mention the fact that I'm hungry.

This took me 30 seconds on Google, and then Wiki.   The two questions are:

Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64? 

 

Please discuss the poll during last week's update. I can't fathom why roughly 1/4 are so humorless as to take offense at Ray Jessel's song.

About to do it.   Needed to find the link.  Chatmistress Jessica is working on it.

How different would the responses to this story be if Robin was moderately overweight? If Dave said that her weight was the issues for being turned off. Is it morally OK to be turned off by a person's weight but not by some other physical attribute?

Oooh.  Good question.

I answered with the first option of he did what he should have done, but I didn't agree with the rest of the answer. I do think he should have been honest - so she could see what she was dealing with and not waste any more time trying to please him. As stupid as his reason was, I would far rather know what was actually behind it then to keep trying to answer a vague answer like "wasn't feeling sexual chemistry." The first one leads to hurt feelings, sure, but at least then she knew not to waste any more time on him. Now she can use that time finding someone who is attracted to her as she is.

I hear ya.  But it was just so promiscuously cruel!

Here's where I'm not sure:  "As stupid as his reason was..."  I'm not entirely sure you can fault the guy for the condition of his lusts.   I do think this is a good question to ask, though.

Is there something "wrong" with Dave because he has trouble being turned on by someone his own age?

As I write this, I'm thinking, maybe.   What do you think?

I think that article is helped immensely by the fact that Robin is downright cute and good looking. Just sayin.

I think it was smart, and courageous, of her to let her photo be used.   It was very much in keeping with the piece: This is me, accept it or not.

And yes, I think she is a handsome woman.

"He had turned me into an object to be dressed and positioned to provide satisfaction for his ideas of what female sexual perfection should be." Well, yeah. That's what we do for our lovers. I grew this stupid beard because my wife likes it, and she's kept her beautiful long hair because I like it.

I'm loving the conversation here.

Gene - Doesn't the Old Bay Fried Chicken Donut sandwich sound just yummy?!? 

I'll agree that it is probably as good as it looks.  Good food photography is hard.

On your update poll about the angry and humorless response to the transphobic song on "America's Got Talent", I found I just couldn't think of a vote. The song was funny, but only if I accept the cluelessness of the singer as acceptable. His character in the song seems to think genuinely well of the woman he sings of, except that he's not ready to cross that line of specific sexual activity. On the other hand, the song really only works if we take the old man's attitude as being no worse than an acceptable foible. But it isn't. I can't speak for anyone who is transgender, but I can speak as the parent of someone who is on this difficult road, and it's kind of hard to see the song as anything other than reinforcing attitudes that make it hard for someone like my kid to have a fulfilling life. So I think I'm with the critic, even though I think the critic is striking a harsh and nasty tone that won't help persuade anyone to come over to the side against this particular bigotry. So I just bailed out and left the vote to others.

Well, this is real interesting and if you all did not watch this video, you should watch it now.   You can start about a minute and a half in, and go just to the end of the song.   My initial reaction to this was that it does rely on a general attitude that there is something funny or unnerving about someone who identifies as a woman yet has a penis, and that this is at least technically insensitive to the transgendered.   So my answer was going to be, technically right, but severely lacking humor.  Then I thought about it some more, and decided the writer was plain wrong.

First off, this old man is calling the person "she."   He is acknowledging her right to identify as female.   He is actually being progressive about this.   And then, what happens?  Who is the butt of this joke, even within the song?  It's him.  He LIKES this woman.   He STILL likes this woman, he's just drawing his own old-man line, and seems quite comfortable with acknowledging it's his fuddy old-man line. 

I say no foul.   Have at me. 

I'm not sure this song would have been remotely funny if sung by a 25-year-old.  

The argument is completely without merit. The piece is clearly written by someone looking to be offended and who appeared to have to make some leaps of logic in order to get to the level of offense. The singer was wistful of what could have been, and he was clearly the butt of the joke. The author accuses him of bigotry basically because he won't take a walk on the wild side.

Well, I think that the author is yelling bigotry because in her view, being transgendered is a completely normal state of affairs, not worthy of comment.   I think to her, it's a non-event, like singing a song about how he dated a woman, and she had a vagina !

Oh, that reminds me.  The author also raises the specter of the myth of entrapment -- that this repeats a canard that transsexuals try to "fool" men into having relations with them.  I don't think that implication is in this song at all.  He doesn't go into how he learns of her penis, and I don't think it's reasonable to infer it was, er, sprung on him.   All in the mind of the listener looking to be offended.

As Carolyn Hax would say, why are you extrapolating this one instance into a condemnation of all the people of one gender in the world? (For the record, I'm female.)

Well, because we are all human, and humans are vulnerable to despair.

I have an off-brand drill that operates exactly the same as a Black and Decker, except looks different. B&D produce my off brand drill. Is it plagiarism to use the wording in the User Manual for the drill, with different pictures/graphics, because the two drills do not look the same, but work exactly the same.

Why would it be plagiarism if B&D owns both companies?  That sounds like me plagiarizing myself.  A little lazy, perhaps, but not dishonest. 

What if the Dave/Robin thing didn't go down quite exactly as she described it--as in she embellished on his obliviousness to make a point about the male acceptance of older women's bodies?

As I said, it could be, but I tend to believe her because she didn't have to include the admirable things about Dave.  I don't think she's being that manipulative.

Gene, I don't disagree with much of your analysis, but I think it's important to get at the question of intent. @crushingbort - who I follow on Twitter, and is regularly hilarious - is first and foremost a troll, not a self-righteous Internet truth sleuth. Buzzfeed pissed him and some buddies off by straight-up stealing their tweets for an article and then telling them "you can always delete them" if they didn't like it. And THEN Benny Johnson got all huffy about someone *else* plagiarizing:https://twitter.com/bennyjohnson/status/492886893911371776 So: that's what pissed them off. Not Benny plagiarizing but him getting all self- righteous about someone ripping him off and THEN blithely dismissing others' complaints about the same behavior, to them, from him. These guys are trolls, but what they troll are the worst people on the Internet. They already knew what Benny was but, since he pushed so far, did the work of inciting what they knew would be some serious mishegas.

Yeah, I knew this.   I invited them to come after me. I don't think I'm guilty of anything like what Benny did, even the most minor boilerplate things.  But I do know I have plagiarized myself.  I've repeated jokes over the years.   The column I linked to about Molly Ivins has me describing Schwarzenegger as someone of "Frankensteinian proportions."   Pretty sure I also applied that to Tony Robbins, and maybe a third person.

 

 

Gene, as a fellow curmudgeon do you have a word to describe instances where you are extremely irritated to the point of wanting to rant and rave, but deep down you know it is something so minor that giving voice to it would just make things worse? For example, about 2 or 3 times a month I come home to the house I share with a roommate to find that her boyfriend has parked in my spot on the driveway, forcing me to park on the street. It infuriates me every time it happens, but it happens so infrequently I feel I would be the bigger ass for admitting to the annoyance than the boyfriend is for taking my spot.

It happens to me at least once a day, at it is always about someone doing something to delay me.   I almost never say anything about it, because I know this is a dysfunction of mine, and that I will only look like the ass that I am.   I broke this rule only once, at it was recently, and it worked out great.  I was standing in line at the pharmacy.  There was a long line.  And the guy at the cashier was having some sort of problem that was taking forever.  He seemed to be complaining about being charged a dollar more than he should, manager was summoned, and everyone was sort of rolling their eyes, but remaining calm.  I was near apoplexy.  Finally, it was over, and as the guy was walking away, I said out loud, "that was the longest transaction since the Louisiana Purchase."   The whole line burst into laughter and the guy just stalked away. 

Of course you're right about the journalistic failure here, but your terms are awfully strong without much demonstration of the reasons behind the emotion. I thought the basic point was made better, and in a more measured way, by Richard Sandomir (4 days before your screed, speaking of non-scoops) here.

This is in reference to my screed about the LeBron James "scoop" by Sports Illustrated.   FYI, I had not read Sandomir's piece before posting mine; I would have linked to it if I had; I would have valued an ally in what seemed to me a lonely position.

Sandomir's piece was excellent, but it wasn't writing a screed; he was writing reported opinion, and I think he didn't go far enough in explaining what was WRONG with this: It published a ridiculously self-serving piece by LeBron.  It was not journalism.  They punted on journalism.

Joggity Boggity / Messi looks / sulky / 'Cause unis are slim? / Or ponders he / How sans tricks / Ur-Maradonian / His team can win?

Metrically and rhymingly, this is the worst attempt at a double dactyl I have ever seen.  And I have seen terrible attempts.  

Dave wants to date a woman with the body of a 25-year-old and the life experience of a 59-year-old. Who obviously doesn't exist, and if she didn't exist, she certainly doesn't want to date a 55-year-old with the mind of a 15-year-old.

Touche.

How did people react when the Kinks song first came out?

It was scandalous, kinda.  Edgy.

I don't know if I would call it wrong, but I would argue it shows a level of immaturity on his part. As you already said, he most likely is showing similar signs of aging. If he can't be attracted to a woman with those same signs, than it's a little presumptuous for him to think a younger woman should be attracted to those same signs on him. I think the only way he could be mature about it is if he realized he's being hypocritical and take himself out of the dating game altogether.

Okay.

Fine, as long as it's limited to one easily manageable feature, like this situation. But Dave seemed to be veering into "if you got a face lift..." territory.

Right.

Ok, I prefer clean shaven down below (not anywhere close to a dealbreaker) but it doesn't matter anywhere else. Hairy legs and pits are fine with me.

Well, you and I are precisely the opposite !

Oooh.... My friend Jack Shafer, re this discussion on plagiarism, has just tweeted "Rarely has Gene Weingarten been so wrong."

I SAID there would be a mini-foofaraw.

If an internet list is a listicle, what's an internet test?

Gee, I don't know!  What is it?

My issue is not Dave's candor per se. I don't think he should have lied to lubricate an awkward social situation. My issue is with his obliviousness. With absolutely no self-awareness about what his own body looks like or any understanding about what life does to a woman's body (pregnancy and childbirth and nursing put a hurt on your body), he wraps his mantle of privilege around himself, sighs deeply, and explains that he just simply cannot find anything to admire about an older woman's body because he has been SPOILED by all the hot young things panting for him. Hey, I like the hot young men I see playing vampires and werewolves and spies on tv but SOMEHOW I manage to have relations with my significant other who is not exactly a stand-in for said male actors. Dave should have kept his mouth shut and followed the sage advice of my mother: if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. The problem was not in fact Robin's body, it was Dave's myopic and crude perspective of women's bodies.

Completely valid.

I read Robin Korth's essay when it made the rounds a few weeks ago. As a 44-year-old woman, it touches on a lot of the hot button issues that women grapple with as they get older. While I understand why the author was hurt and angry, I think Dave's candor is quite to be applauded. It's not often that shallow jerks make themselves known in such a spectacular and shameless way. He saved everyone a lot of time and heartache, in my opinion. Of course the larger issue is the glorification of youth that has so distorted our sense of beauty that a man finds a woman his own age so hideous he needs to look away and pretend she is someone else. Thank goodness there are good men out there who can take aging in stride and still consider their wives to be beautiful at any age.

Several people are making your first point, that Dave's main achievement was identifying what a shallow a-hole he is. 

I would add that, conversely, he is ALSO demonstrating that to him sexual compatibility isn't everything.  It's interesting, no? 

I am (one of millions, I'm sure) writing in regards to the jaw-dropping error in your June 26 column. As a reminder, this was the column about the evils of doing things that slow down lines. It ended with the story of the Cheese Lady, an extraordinarily nice woman who chats happily with all of her customers and hands out free samples, her charm and friendliness causing the line at her store to move very slowly. You ended with the line, "Oh, how I hate her." This column is illustrated by a well-done but grievously incorrect illustration of your head superimposed on a Mickey Mouse watch. It should, of course, be a Snoopy watch. Please assure us that those responsible for this error have been executed.

Ha.  I didn't see your point until a consultation with Pat The Perfect.   Actually, it should have been a Charlie Brown watch.   They made 'em.

Here is the original cartoon to which you refer.

Go read the article from the New Yorker a couple of years ago, which included insights from someone who had attempted suicide by jumping from the bridge. Quote was something to the effect of "The instant I jumped, I realized that every problem in my life was fixable except having just jumped off the bridge." He successfully tried to land safely and lived happily ever after.

I remember this.  It was deeply moving.   Poster: Try to find it, and if you can't, email me and I will send it to you.   All correspondence will remain private.

I assume every listicle I read is somehow plagiarized or, at the very least, is highly derivative, but, if one steals a joke or funny one-liner without attribution, then one should be fired. I don't claim that that's reasonable or within the bounds of journalistic ethics - it's just how I calls'em. He should've been fired for stealing funny stuff because funny people make the world bearable and should be protected and rewarded for their work. I also don't feel that sorry for the guy because he used to work for The Blaze. If ever a group of people deserved ridicule, it's Blazers.

Well, you know, stealing a joke is clearly theft, so long as that joke was obviously proprietary to someone else.   Bill Hicks and Denis Leary come to mind. 

I am not that handsome.

One of the few things I remember from my days in journalism school is you can't copyright a fact and there's little need to spend forever rewriting a factual statement. That seems to match pretty well what Benny Johnson did, so I'm not sure what those Twitter handles were so furious about. (And I kind of liked his recent photographic listicle about the hideous federal buildings around L'Enfant Plaza, as well as his followup about all the hassle he got from security guards for daring to photograph large buildings from public vantage points on the public sidewalk.)

Noted. 

Because it should not happen. The boyfriend has no right to your space in the driveway. Tell your roommate.

But you know, life is too short for this sort of pettiness.  Park in the street once a month.

I don't I changed my mind as I was doing the polls; I simply did not like the offered options as to what Dave SHOULD have said. I think he should have asked to get together to talk about it, which would also give him more time to think about what he really wanted. You can't come off that lie without coming across as a liar. But what really bothers me about Dave is that it's pretty obvious that he would not have been attracted to any 59-year-old woman. if that's the case, why did he even try? And I guess (as someone midway between 55 and 59) I am offended on my own behalf. So yeah, Ick.

Reasonable answer !

I find, as I grow older (near 60 now) I find women closer to my own age to be more attractive. A woman of, say 50 that I would have looked past 20 years ago I now look at. Yes, I enjoy looking at that 20 year old on the beach, but I'll also eye her mom.

Me, too.  

Although I a man of your age (or slightly younger) I shop at the Giant at Leisure World, God help me. I was on line to pay and a woman ahead of me was arguing for about two minutes over an expired 35 cent coupon they wouldn't accept. The New Yorker in me came out. I handed her a dollar out of my pocket and said "Here--now can the rest of us check out?" I got applause from the line. She walked out and didn't say a word. And yes, she took the dollar.

I've WANTED to do this many times.   Good for you.

They were just laughing at your voice...

I never eliminate that possibility.

I think that's probably right, and I also think that what made this funny rather than insensitive/cruel/etc. was (1) the respect to her shown by the rest of the song and (2) the line toward the end about his real objection being that her penis was bigger than his, which I took to be a clear statement that the problem was his, not hers.

Absolutely.  I meant to make that point.

I think the writer was wrong on every level.

I couldn't answer question 4, because none of the options fit. Dave should have told the truth, as he did, but not because he was right or reasonable. His truthful answer told her something important, something she needed to know: Dave's a shallow, unkind asshat with hilariously misguided views about what he "deserves" in a partner. (Also, I would really like to see a picture of Dave in swimming trunks, in order to evaluate his physical flaws and inform him of the best way to hide them. Heh.)

Noted.

I didn't like the options for question 4. I was OK with Dave being honest, but I didn't like the rest of the explanation of his honesty (asking her to meet him halfway). Therefore, I chose option 2. I thought it was interesting that Robin didn't even try to describe Dave, except to provide his age. Unless this guy is Tom Selleck, it seems hard to believe he doesn't have his own wrinkles, flabby skin, ear hair, etc. (and even Tom Selleck probably has that stuff!). If he wasn't a perfect specimen, why expect it of his female companion? And, even young women have flaws, just not the ones that bother Dave, apparently. I thought he was a total tool.

You know, my initial thought was to be somewhat suspicious of Robin's story, mostly because, as a writer, I was very aware that we were getting HER narrative.  Maybe she was a little accusatory in that call to him, maybe she said something to get him angry or defensive, etc.    But I decided that she was probably being straight, for this reason: She didn't have to say so many positive things about him, give him the vague creds she did as a modern progressive guy.   So I decided I would accept her version as fact. 

I am a non-traditional college student. One instructor told us that if we ever used Wikipedia as a source, it would be an "automatic F." Ouch. Harsh, eh? Meanwhile, speaking of college students, wasn't there a Montana Congressman who admitted to "accidentally plagiarizing" in college? How does one "accidentally plagiarize?"

I don't know that he claimed accidental.  He actually mentioned PTSD.

I use Wikipedia, when rushed, for chats and other online things.   I check horizontally if something sounds wrong.  

Wiki has gotten MUCH better over the years, as it was designed to do.

I love that the whole thing is sponsored by AARP, whose tagline is "Real Possibilities"

ha. 

"A little lazy, perhaps, but not dishonest" .... Thanks Gene! With everything else on my plate, I'll take it! (But for the record, I never said B&D owned both companies -- they just *produce* both drills. Don't try to wrap your head around that one, and yes, it confuses most other people too.)

Hmmm.  Okay.

You, plagiarizing yourself, is still illegal in 13 states.

That's why I plan my trips carefully.

There might be something wrong with Dave for not being turned on by women his own age, but there is DEFINITELY something wrong with him that he thinks the solution is for the woman to undertake a series of demeaning, self-negating steps to make herself palatable for him.

Yeah.   There seems to be a strong consensus forming.

There is something wrong with men (or women) who are only attracted to younger people.

"Wrong?"  

Maybe.  Sounds pretty judgmental.

Yes, if you are a dog. They'll eat anything. I nearly puked just at the title of this "sandwich."

Well, you have to feel as I do about Old Bay.

You and I share the same annoyance. I am generally pretty laid-back, but I have an extreme aversion to people who have no qualms about making other people wait unnecessarily. I would have been in your boat at the pharmacy -- had a similar long wait the other day, and I wanted to punch the other customer in the throat.

I just got back from a trip to Denver.  Airplane trips tweeze this exposed nerve about 20 times an hour.   The length of time it takes people to rouse themselves and get their baggage and get off the damn plane.....

Question about the Gladwell quote. In the third graph you wrote, "The ethics of plagiarism..." but when explaining how the quote wasn't yours later in the piece you wrote "the one up top beginning with 'The ethics of journalism…'. Is the forth word of the original quote "plagiarism" or "journalism"? Thanks.

ah, sorry.  Plagiarism.  See how careless I am?

Yeah, they were probably laughing at your voice because as everyone knows, on Saturday, April 30, 1803, the Louisiana Purchase Treaty was signed by Robert Livingston, James Monroe, and Barbé Marbois in Paris. Jefferson announced the treaty to the American people on July 4. France turned New Orleans over on December 20, 1803 at The Cabildo. On March 10, 1804, a formal ceremony was conducted in St. Louis to transfer ownership of the territory from France to the United States. That doesn't seem like a long time to transfer a large tract of land.

Well, I was being accurate, because that is EXACTLY how long it took for the man to buy his drugs.

Apparently Shafer's never read your political opinions.

Or my rules of bumper etiquette.

So you decided to accept her version? Why not try to track down Dave and get his first-hand account. You're going on about "true" journalism ... there's your true journalism, baby!

No time!  Listicles await !

This is an interesting piece - how many times do you hear of a man telling a woman, in essence, that he enjoys her company and personality, but just wants to be friends? It sounds like she was more or less the initiative-taker here. Dave did it with a directness that a lot of people don't appreciate, but one way to read Robin's description of the weekend was that she came on to him a few times and he more or less politely deflected her before he said anything about her body. He was only direct when she directly asked why he wasn't interested. I would be interested to find out if Dave may be attracted to other women in Robin's age group - just not her.

Well, you sort of have to assume that last fact, because 1) he made it clear it was about her wrinkles and body, and 2) she sounds like a very trim woman .

Have you ever seen that hotels.com commercial with the elderly woman and what appears to be a young college male? She books a King room. "Captain Obvious," the sites' mascot, suggest s that she should book a double with her grandson. She smiles a sly smile and says, "Oh, that is not my grandson..." and she winks to a stunned Captain Obvious. That commercial cracks me up every time.

I love that.  

Ironically, I'm young enough that I only know about that Peanuts cartoon because I've heard you reference it before. And I had no idea they ever made Charlie Brown watches!

When I wrote that line in the column, I wasn't thinking Charlie Brown.   I was thinking Big Nate, by Lincoln Peirce, who has nate say it often (clearly homage) about his battle-axe teacher.

And I do. It's the paradox of living in Maryland: fresh blue crabs, but they come tainted by Old Bay, as does any other restaurant dish containing blue crab.

Yep.  It's astonishing to me how anyone can eat that.

I recently attended my 40th high school reunion. It was full of 59 year old women, and my basic thought was: Look at all the MILFs

Well, good for you.   Now, EYE would have been marveling at how intelligent and accomplished they all seemed.

It only says "On Monday evening over the phone" unless I skipped a part. Maybe he called her, which means she definitely wasn't "soliciting" his advice.

Hm.  Does it matter?  She chose to raise the issue, no? 

My wife's an interpreter. That's also rule #1 for her profession. Rule #2 is don't editorialize. Your job is to convey the meaning said in one language as best you can to another.

The best interpreter I ever saw was there when I interviewed the French minister of Agriculture, in Paris.   He not only translated words, but tone, and emphasis.  When the minister used his hands for emphasis, so did the translator.  Really impressive.

Okay, we're done here.   This was a great chat.   I need to go on Twitter now and catch some flak.   

See you in the updates.

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Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

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