Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Sep 27, 2011

Gene Weingarten's humor column, Below the Beltway, appears every Sunday in The Washington Post magazine. It is syndicated nationally by the Washington Post Writers Group.

Take today's polls: Krauthammer and Post content poll | Tom the Butcher's poll (men, women) | New Yorker cartoons poll

About this chat:
At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

Ed's Note: If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them out.

The introduction today shall be an open letter to Amy Lago, comics editor of The Washington Post Writers Group, which syndicates Barney & Clyde.

Dear Amy:

As you know, “Barney & Clyde” has had only modest success in its efforts to become a financially lucrative comic strip. We appear in only a few dozen newspapers worldwide, and while some of them are large and pay handsomely for the strip, many have the size and reach of a refrigerator warranty and pay accordingly low rates, which are based on circulation. From one of these newspapers, for example, I, personally receive, as my share of the royalties, the sum of one dollar a week.

Today I bring you a proposal to rectify this regrettable financial situation through a plan to more aggressively monetize the strip by using modern newspaper imperatives and pricing structures.

If you agree, I predict that within a half year, we will all be rolling in dough.

As you know, "Barney & Clyde" is a complex strip involving interactions among more than 15 regular characters. The principal storyline, however, is about the improbable friendship between Barney, a billionaire, and Clyde, a homeless man."Barney & Clyde" are archetypes: The Doer and the Thinker. Their encounters often produce interesting philosophical insights.    Sometimes, however, as in yesterday’s strip, there’s merely playfulness.     Even in such simple storylines, readers tend to find much to discuss.   A “Commenter” yesterday noted that the rhymes found in that bag would not just be favored by bad poets, but also by Bob Dylan.   An excellent point!  I wish we had thought of it.

I read “comments.”   Which, as it turns out, is the genesis of this memorandum.   So many good ideas come from readers.    You may call it crowdsourcing, if you wish.

As you know, one of the most intriguing characters in “Barney & Clyde” is Lucretia Pillsbury, Barney’s much younger, trophy second wife.   Lucretia is a fully realized character, plenty smart, and prickly about her presumed role as Barney’s arm candy.   She’s not in it for the money – at least not entirely – despite her name, which we chose quite deliberately to suggest “lucre.”

My point is, Lucretia is a nuanced, intelligent and interesting character.   Alas, we have discovered that almost every time she appears in the strip, whatever the storyline, a certain percentage of “Commenters” seem to want to talk only about her breasts.  Or her bottom.  Or the presumed joys of her boudoir.     This regrettable circumstance was probably inevitable.   Indeed, I recall your own reaction at first seeing Lucretia as rendered by our artist, the great David Clark: :  You thought her a modern incarnate of “Little Annie Fanny,”  that ample-bosomed, tight buttocked comic porn star created in Playboy in the 1960s by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder.   

At the end of every episode, Annie found herself in some awful jam, always naked.

Perhaps you see where I am going here, Amy.     Now, just . . . hear me out.

Modern newspaper marketing technologies make clever use of targeted audiences, particularly via the institution of  “paywalls,” in which self-selected customers can choose to pay more for enhanced content.     What if we created two versions of “Barney & Clyde”:  the ordinary version, available at ordinary prices, but also the Enhanced Adult Version, offered at individual subscription rates?   This version would be identical to the ordinary version, except that whenever Lucretia appears, she will just happen to be naked.   This fact will never be commented on in the strip.  It just will Be.

Perhaps you think this tawdry.  And perhaps it is, just a bit.   But I cannot emphasize enough the  income-producing potential here.   Consider the draw.    Suffice it to say that a certain number  of male persons reading this introduction right now are very much hoping that this here next link to the strip is going to be of Lucretia, redrawn, naked.    No such luck, guys, but I am sure you see the potential.



The possibilities are limitless.    For one-time fees readers can special-order their own adult episodes of “Barney & Clyde,” featuring storylines they create.  For these, we would charge a LOT of money.   (“Okay, Lucretia gets together with her sorority sisters from college and they all go to New York, where, purely by accident, they wind up in the Giants locker room, and ….”)


I think I’ve hit on something big here, Amy.  This initiative could even have a title:  “Let’s Put the ‘Strip’ Back in Comic Strip.”  Handled adroitly, this could even help rescue the entire American newspaper industry.    This model would prove very successful applied to some other strips.   Some which come to mind, off the top of my head, are “Blondie,”  “Beetle Bailey,”  “Brewster Rockit,” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.”    (“Pearls Before Swine” not so much.)


Please let me know what you think.

Two other things.    The first is just a simple political observation.   Rick Perry is in trouble with the Republican primary electorate because of two things he did as governor of Texas:  approve a bill to give instate tuition to the children of illegals, and arrange for the mandatory inoculation of young girls against HPV.    Both of these are wise and prudent public policy, controversial only among hateful right-wing ideologues.    So we have this spectacular situation of the GOP frontrunner having to apologize for, and somehow survive the terrible sin of having shown compassion and sanity.   


And lastly, our Clip of the Day is this three-minute video of the earthquake being seen and felt inside the Washington Monument.   It's pretty compelling but I do not understand:  Why did it seem to last three minutes inside the Monument?   It was about a ten-second temblor, no?   


Please take today's polls, which are linked to either above or below.     I have to tell you alls:  With the New Yorker comics, there is one that is CLEARLY VASTLY better than the others.   Genuine laugh out loud.   You are missing it.    I don't know why. 


Okay, great questions await.  This will be a terrific chat, I think.   Let's do it.  

(If you are reading this early, I'll start taking questions at noon.)

The cleaning up of grammar having been touched on in this chat in the past, what do you thnk of the recent kerfuffle over the AP's publishing of a speech made by Obama to the Black Caucus that did not clean up the president's grammar, but rather published the transcript verbatim, with particular attention to the dropped g's. The AP defended its decision as it gave better context to the plaintiff's speech, i.e. leaving in the dropped g's better reflected the fact that the president was speaking to an African American crowd and trying to emulate the style of speaking one would traditionally associate with the stereotypical "Black Preacher." Others are criticising this as racist. What is your take?

I agree with not editing it, for much of the same reason I would have published the s-word in the Post!

It was telling us something important about the president.   It's open to interpretation, but basically he is willing to be a different speaker to African Americans.  Is that good/bad?   You decide. 

Same thing with the S-words.     They told us something about our elected officials -- to me, that was the biggest reason to go with them.   I can imagine not including a vulgarity that was spoken in public, during the hearing.  But this was valuable information for voters.   One way or another: Some people might have found it refreshingtly frank. 

As a gay man I was not offended by your limerick. Too bad you couldn't use "queer" there, even though it would slightly throw of the rhyme it would have been better. What is offensive is gay guys pretending they like women.

Thanks.   I thought it was clear thatI wasn't calling the guy  "weird," that I was referring to the unfortunate tendency of bigots to do so.    To me, the fact that some gay men might choose to seem straight is less an indictment of them than of our society that forces such a choice.    

I got only one letter on this, from a man who also made the point that Jews, in general, are homophobic.   This, too, was news to me. 

This was the conclusion of Elizabeth Flock in the Washington Post. She gave as example your decision to rerun an old column from a few days after the attack. The truth of 9/11 resides with the legacy of thousands of innocent Americans whose lives were forever changed on that day. But it also resides with the legacy of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis whose lives were forever changed in the years following America's decision to invade. The invasion proved positive in some respects (free elections in Iraq for example), but for most part, it has caused death, destruction and displacement in Iraq. I for one, will pray that the promise of freedom in Iraq will one day be fulfilled and that America won't so rashly choose to attack without provocation. And I will pray for peace in the lives of all the victims of 9/11.

Yeah, I saw that.   And I think she touched something interesting.   

I had had a different column in mind for that day, an interesting idea that I ultimately decided would seem crass or stupid.   I'll tell it now. 

On the morning of 9/11, after I left my home to go to work, I stopped off as I did from time to time at Eastern Market, to have their delicious breakfast of fried fish and eggs.    I'd been living next to Eastern Market for about six weeks at the time, and had had this breakfast at least eight or nine times. 

It was roughly as I was enjoying that fish that all four flights were being hijacked.     I got to the office after the first tower had been hit, and by the time I got upstairs, the second had been hit, too.    (Interestingly, I was in a room of journalists, watching TV, and when the second plane hit, I said "Osama bin Laden."    No one in the room seemed to know who that was.   The only reason I knew is that The Rib was a Justice Dept. lawyer, specializing in antiterrorism.)

Anyway, what I was going to write on 9/11 was everything above, but ending with this:  I never went back for that fish breakfast.   Haven't had one in ten years.   

I tried writing this, and it just seemed stupid and self-indulgent.  Probably does here, too.   

So I went with my old column about 9/11 poems, mostly because I really liked it.   If you missed it. 

The New Yorker poll is too confusing for young people. We could tell which one was funnier, but then we couldn't remember which comic went with which choice, so we guessed where it was. It was too much trouble for our generation to check if we were voting for the right comic. By the way, this is also how we vote in all local elections.


creepy and uncomfortable.


Listen, this should have been a no-brainer.   Most of these comics are opaque and/or precious.   One was just a spectacularly funny joke.  


The elephant podiatrist.   There was no other correct answer.   

MOO. I am a writer having modest success with fiction. I am also working on some non-fiction projects that will lead to further modest success. My non-fic stuff is based on my pre-writer career. Someone just offered me an absolute crapload of money to go back to that career. The contract, famously non-negotiable with this company, says basically that I cannot publish anything while I am employed. My professional instincts say the job would probably last around five years before I was laid off. I would lose the momentum I'm building for the fiction, but... crapload of money. If it were a question of what-do-I-really-want-in-a-perfect-world, the answer is the fiction, but I have two mortgages, a baby, college to plan for, and retirement in twenty years. My darling lifemate genuinely means it when he says he supports both options (working at home gives our family flexibility... but lots of money BUYS flexibility). I feel like a cow with two equally delicious piles of hay. What would YOU do?

Oh, this is easy.  

Take the job and write on the side.   Don't publish, write.   When you feel you're financially ready, quit the job and publish, like, three novels in one week. 

The litmus test for the Republican nomination is getting stricter and stricter. You must be against climate change, vaccinations, evolution, and even government itself. You must be for Christianity, the flag, and nation (in that order). Then, when you pass the litmus test, you look ridiculous to the rest of the country. This is not good for Republicans.

It's really exciting to me.    They are self immolating.  It's sort of like McGovern in '72.  

If you can get a dollar for the public father-son bonding mechanism you call a comic strip, take it.


The shaking in the video goes on for so long since the camera is still shaking - not the building. Just like when you start a swing, it doesn't stop right away. But since our computer monitors are still but the picture is moving, our brains tell us the items in the picture are moving - not the camera taking the picture.

B-but why would the camera be shaking so long?  What am I missing here? 

I don't think it was offensive to gays - I do think the last line was lame, but there wasn't an option to dislike it based on quality.

See next post -- a last-line fix! 

As a gay man, I was definitely not offended by your limerick--man with a beard brings the topic to mind without too much straining. The problem is that weird doesn't readily bring gays to mind these days. So, you've got one dated reference (beards) followed by an even more dated reference (weird as the gay reference, which dates back to many old stereotypes). One possible alternate closing line: But the boys still complained that I leered

Excellent suggestion!  A better last line. 

Here is the key question: when do the Barney and Clyde plush toys, posters, greeting cards, and lunch boxes come out?

I think we need to be "bigger."

Of course, we anticipated this and created a character entirely for licensing potential, with an inside joke.   Clyde's adorable pet rabbit is named "Adolf," except when the are panhandling.   In that case he has  a stage name: "Fluffykins McNeedsahug." 

Thought you'd appreciate these pranks happening in northern Virginia of late:

Prank 1

Prank 2

It's very nice that the VDOT spokesperson in the first article pretty much tells you how you can do this too.

Well, this made me laugh aloud, and weep with nostalgia for the greatest signage prank ever, the long-lost Surrender Dorothy on the Beltway, near the Mormon Temple. 

What kind of humorless bureaucrat orders that painted over? 

Is it your opinion that we spend too much money as a society on things like cancer funding, a losing battle, and that we should find a better way to spend all that money? Housing the homeless, feeding the poor, etc?


Interestingly, someone guessed my secret Unmentionable Opinion last chat.  Nailed it perfectly.  And that person should know it because it was a smart, reasonable guess, and I didn't publish it.   

Hi Gene, Just came across this critique of "he said, she said" reporting. It seems to be in line with what you've talked about in the past, although your description of it, "On the other hand, Mr. Hitler contends...." is much more colorful.

Yeah, Rosen's talking about the same thing.   It's basically a straw man type of writing, involving phony moral equivalencies.   It's cowardly: It lets you avoid finding the truth. 

Did you see the pictures/have them taped to the inside of your wall locker? Both are fantastic but the one showing her backside is better.

Yeah, I saw the photos allegedly hacked from her cell phone.  

Okay, forgive me.   This is probably too cynical, but my guess is that ScarJo hacked those herself.   They were hardly porn, and showed off a nice (and recently diminished) behind.   A behind she is probably newly proud of again.    You know?  

Is it even possible to hack cell phone pix? 

Probably because, being hundreds of feet tall, it was amplifying what we can't feel. The shaking of an earthquake is a pretty involved mess of different waves with different motions and strengths, so while the part humans can pick out might have been a few seconds, the actual tremor was probably a lot longer.

I guess.     Anyone know the inside of the Monument well enough to know WHERE that was?  Probably near the base, no?

I am still not getting this. 

Greetings. I'm the guy who successfully guessed your "controversial", not-to-be-shared, secret opinion. Also, I used to live in the 'hood, would see you around, bought gallons and gallons of paint from your kid at Fragers, and yet didn't want to be a weirdo and assume there would be any value to introducing myself based solely on non-existent internet familiarity. There are a few things I've thought would be interesting to discuss with you, though. So, since I guessed right, want to grab lunch sometime?

Er, how do we know you guessed right? 

I admit that the links you provide to columns, cartoon and articles often lead to items of great interest. But can I ask that you stop linking so much, please? The problem is that each WaPo page I link to takes so much time to load that I invariably get impatient and annoyed and end up throwing a brick through my computer. This is costing me a lot - in computers and bricks. I know, I know - I should recycle the bricks. But could you please either stop leading us on these frustrating wild goose chases or else ask your employers to please upgrade their technical capabilities and join the 90's like the rest of us? Many thanks, Gene.

Is everyone having this problem?  I don't find the lynx that slow, though I am not clicking on them during the chat. 

Actually, the Post ombudsman wrote about the slowness of the WaPo site: Post website loads too slowly  Feel free to agree or disagree!

I have a political inaptonym for you! I was visiting a friend out in Centreville, and saw a bunch of those political signs on the side of the road. You know the ones -- where the last name is IN BIG LETTERS with their first name over it smaller and "FOR XYZ" below it. A woman is running for school board, but she has a long, hyphenated last name. So she put her *first* name in big letters on the sign instead. LOLITA for school board. Yes, her full name is Lolita Manchero-Smoak. But all these signs, pretty much all you can read is LOLITA for school board.

Wow.  And her last name is basically "Man Smoke."

Gene: I know this isn't your usual area, but it's a serious question. I'm a single woman in my 40s looking for the equivalent in men. I go to church, I volunteer, I'm out and about in the community. And who's there? Interesting women. Interesting married men. Interesting retired people. But divorced men of about my age? MIA. Sure, I'm trying online, but they never initiate; the few who respond just seem to want to email forever. I'm nice, normal, attractive, blah blah blah. Any ideas?

Okay this is probably a terrible precedent, and I WILL NEVER DO IT AGAIN, but:  

Send in a second post in which you describe yourself and your interests a little better.   Not long, like 100 words.   I will post it.    Any interested men will email me at  with their audition.  Subject line:  "Suitor."  I will matchmake and send you only one suitor.    This means of course that you, too, must email me to tell me who you are. 

If this works and you get married we'll all have a story for the rest of our lives.   

Attention other singles:  Please don't write in pretending to be this woman.   From context, I'll figure out who she is, and ignore you. 

You want to charge for Porn on the internet? Really? Not the best business model.

A reasonable point.   But this would not be internet.   I should have made this clear.   THE SPECIAL ORDER ONES WILL BE DRAWN TO ORDER, AND YOU GET THE ORIGINALS!   

Er, I haven't actually discussed this brilliant idea with David Clark, who would have to be the one to execute it.  I have a feeling that David -- an observant Roman Catholic -- might have an objection or two. 

YES! The drawing was brilliant, which unfortunately doesn't happen all that often with New Yorker cartoons.

Oh, it's just a wonderful sight gag!    And wonderfully absurdist as a concept. 

A false comparison, surely, though I know it's been a common one. Has there ever been a live reality program? Sport is about structure and form--those are the things that make one sport more interesting than another, and make baseball the most interesting of all. Reality shows have the form of melodrama--they are edited in the style of soap operas. So there's no actual relationship there.

I think the results of this poll are going to surprise The Butcher, and cause a bit of a pained conversation with Mrs. Butcher, whom Tom, I suspect, suspected represented AllWomen.    

It's news to me, too, as a gay-friendly Jew. Reminds me, though, of a joke I first heard 20 years ago: three old ladies are sitting in the part. One says, "My grandson, he gives me such simchas and such tsuris." "How does he do that?" "Well, the tsuris is, he's gay." "Oy!" "But the simchas is: he's seeing a doctor."

Nice.   For all you goyim:  Simcha is a blessing.  Tsuris you know. 

I'm of two minds about the taboo on dirty words. On the one hand, it seems absolutely ludicrous that a few words should be considering offensive, and even more ludicrous when we get around that offense by using baby talk substitutes (criminy!). On the other, as the taboo fades, these words lose their power to shock, and sometimes you want that power.

That last point is very interesting.   I think it's true.

I thought it interesting that so many of you feel The Post is not being overly genteel.   I'm glad, actually.   I sometimes feel we are being positively Victorian -- just wildly out of sych with contemporary mores.    I had to beg to get the word "ass" into an upcoming column.   


Andrea Pitzer has a flattering breakdown of the Peekaboo Paradox. I know other chat voyeurs would enjoy this.

I haven't read it yet.  It would be funny if you are trolling this, and it's a terrible putdown.  

Am I still hot? I need to know if there's any hope left. I'm 8.5 months pregnant with my third child and the unending humiliations of pregnancy have left me reeling. On Friday afternoon, for example, I went to pick my son up from school. While waiting outside the classroom with all the other parents, another mother, whom I did not know, very graciously came up and whispered in my ear "excuse me, but your skirt is tucked up into your underpants in the back." Seriously? I mean come on! I had walked several blocks like this carrying my 2-year old, you'd think someone could have honked or something. Good think I was wearing full unders that day instead of my usual thong (though perhaps had I gone with the latter, I'd have felt a breeze or something). And then to make matters worse, on Sunday night I was sound asleep when I had a very vivid dream that I had to go to the bathroom really badly. And then in my dream I was actually in the bathroom peeing. And then in reality I was actually...peeing. Even in the drunkest moments of my life I have never wet the bed. So, am I? Still hot, that is? Or can I at least hope to ever be again? At least in some small way?

I find you unbearably hot.   God made you pregnant to make it less likely that you will be dealing with unwanted hit-ons.     Just be worried when it's over.   You are a smoke machine. 

To me, the fact that Krauthammer is quadriplegic (which I did already know, thank you) doesn't really add or distract from my reaction to yet another conservative waxing rhapsodic about how baseball is purer, more noble, more American than pesky politics. Unlike George Will, he has an excuse for sitting on the sidelines (and at least he doesn't refer to grown men playing a game that is compensated by obcene amounts of money purely for its entertainment value as "Men at Work") but still -- what is the point? It is to Krauthammer's credit, I guess, that he doesn't invoke his physical limitations in his usual rants against those who are far less economically privileged than he is, but I still find them pretty mean-spirited, That's nice that he can check out of the political circus to enjoy a ball game, but I'd respect him more if he didn't keep feeding the elephants all the rest of the time.

Wow, this is bitter. 

I found it really powerful, because of the beautiful, almost romantic regard he was showing for physical skill.    I do not regret that tweet, though I do see the other side.   I have not talked to Charles about it. 

I loved that column.   Better than Will. 

I don't work around Capitol Hill, nor do I frequent spots where local or national "celebrities" could be seen. Thus, I don't have many run-ins with famous people. I have, however, seen you three times: twice outside of Eastern Market, and once on H Street in Chinatown. My question: what should one do upon seeing you? My first instinct was to say "hello, Gene," yet I did not. I also thought about screaming "HeylookyouwontwoPulitzers!" but thankfully decided against that. For what it's worth, my parents (who are from Kansas) were with me once when I saw you at Eastern Market. When I told them that you won two Pulitzers, my Mom said "yes, that's very nice."

Your ma sounds Jewish. 

I never mind if someone comes up and says hi.   It's a little embarrassing for me if it's someone I should know.  I am terrible with faces, and worse with names. 

Nope, the video they showed on the news yesterday is from a camera neat the observation level. That's why everyone had to go running down the stairs. For sure the swaying at the top would have been more pronounced. It's just basic physics. Not sure why you don't get it.

I don't get why it would last three minutes, when the temblor was so brief.   

I need to buy a new laptop computer. No gaming, just web browsing, movies, music, email,etc. So, PC or Mac?

Depends.   If you are like me and are forever in danger of destroying your laptop by accidentally dragging it off the table by the power cord, you must go Mac. 

The power cord is magnetic-detachable.    I'd have killed at least seven PCs in the three years I've had this machine. 

"Same thing with the S-words. They told us something about our elected officials -- to me, that was the biggest reason to go with them." Fair enough. But I don't see how readers' knowledge is improved by replacing "I don't give a [expletive] what you think" with "I don't give a [actual s-word] what you think." Do most people know those words? Sure. But I have a great deal of sympathy for those who don't want to encounter those words, as well as those who don't want to have to screen the paper for the sake of their children. And I also think that if the Post yields to the rising tide of vulgarity, it becomes complicit. By analogy, I am sure you would, for example, reject an argument that the Post should let stand the use of "15 or less items" rather than the correct "15 or fewer items" because "everybody knows that phrase." I think you're on the wrong side of this one, amigo.

The answer is that if you do not use the actual epithet, people will substitute whatever they think, and they usually think the worst.   I remember a time when the word actually used was something really benign, like "ass," but not using it suggested something much dirtier, like the a word or the c word or the long c word, etc. 

Think about a giant tuning fork stuck in the ground. It would pick up the vibrations and shake a lot longer.

Okay, this makes some sense! 

It is indeed time to lament the seasonal loss of summerwear fashion, which is so comfortable and uncumbersome  for the ladies.   

Do you ever go to farmers markets? The fruits, vegetables, meats, breads and cheeses are so much better than what you can find at the grocery store. Plus you are supporting (generally) local growers and getting a healthier product (you don’t want to know what’s been pumped into those Purdue chickens). This is one of many ways to fight against factory farms, one of the least funny things going on in our country today. I always start with the old farmer at the corner booth who has the best heirloom tomatoes, obviously knows everything about growing, and has absolutely no salesperson skills. He awkwardly stands over each customer as they look at his produce, often scaring them away. I love buying from that guy.

Truth.  There is a farmer's market every weekend one block from my house.  

I still haven't found a great tomato, though.   The whole gene pool has been poisoned. 

Great mid-season corn. 

My husband recently decided he needed some new underwear. So he went to Walmart to buy plain white boxer shorts, the same thing he's been wearing for the past 50-some years and they didn't have them. Neither did the next half dozen stores at various levels on the price spectrum. Apparently, you can buy white briefs or colored/patterned boxers but not white boxers any longer. Wondered if you'd noticed this and had any explanations. Since it involves underpants (but not blogs) it seems like your territory. It's driving him nuts. Why would something so basic and standard just disappear. But he's not getting much sympathy from me since this happens with women's clothing all the time. The style mavens decide that pants will only come half way to your waist, so you can't buy normal pants for a few years until that trend passes.

I'm not sure where do begin. 

I don't know how any man can wear boxer shorts.  What's the point?  It's like wearing a bra that sags. 

But beyond that, you used an expression that, in context, made me snort out my coffee.     I shall describe it by telling a joke. 

Pirate walks into a bar.    He looks like most pirates -- eye patch, parrot, pegleg, etc,  but he also has a steering wheel impaled on his groin.    Huge steering wheel!   The bartender looks at the pirate, looks at the wheel, says: What the hell is that?

Pirate says:  "Aye don't know, matey, but it's driving me nuts!"

It's sort of a cliched aptonym because of the former member of Congress from New York, but it caught my eye anyway.

Context is everything.  It's good. 

And you have given me the opportunity to link to some of my favorite doggerel, a series of poems I wrote in the middle of the Anthony Weiner event. 

Around my neighborhood are several whimisical signs reminding dog walkers to pick up after their pets. None of them are in verse. Can you favor us with a bit of doggerel on this topic?

Why yes.   Yes I can. 


Everyone poops: It's a physical need 

For elephants, leopards or birds,

That doggie you worship as well does the deed,

So pick up her sanctified turds. 



There are no links to the polls I can see anywhere in the intro. I see some references to an elephant and the New Yorker so I know they are - or were - there. Somewhere. Can you tell me where, please?

First time chatter, I take it?

The polls appear at the top of the chat page before and after the chat.  During the chat though, they appear at the bottom.  Be sure to take them!

"I think the results of this poll are going to surprise The Butcher, and cause a bit of a pained conversation with Mrs. Butcher, whom Tom, I suspect, suspected represented AllWomen." Correct: WHO Tom, I suspect, suspected represented AllWomen.

Explain, please.  

I know Wiki editing.   I still don't see this as anything other than completely ordinary, just an observation that might be mildly amusing to some unfunny person. 

Is it that pedophilia and ephobophilia (or, for that matter, bestialism) are hard-wired sexual orientations just like homosexuality? Not that I want to equate them, but it's just that, if one logically argues that sexual attraction/identity is an inherent part of who we as humans are, then it follows that these 3 (or similar) orientations are no more moral or immoral at their core than homosexualtiy. Of course, acting on these attractions is morally reprehensible, and that's where the distinction lies -- not in the orientation, but in the action. I realize you can't come out and say this for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the argument plays into the hands of that anti-homosexual bigots who argue that allowing gay marriage will lead to dogs fornicating with cats in the middle of the street. However, if I'm right, could you please acknowledge with the code word "tubelcane" somewhere in the chat, and if I'm wrong, please use the code word "jabberwocky".

Nope.    I DO believe this, and am not afraid to say it.   I think pedophilia is often if not always hard-wired, and I feel sorry for these folks.   And yes, acting on it is immoral and illegal.   They're in a terrible situation.   And yes, if they do hurt a child, they should be treated as the criminals they are.  

So, no, this isn't Secret. 

Does the Indianapolis Star publisher have an unfortunate last name, or does she have the most unfortunately last name ever?

Wow!   I think it's astonishing I have never heard of this before.   You need to navigate several inches into this story to find her, but it is so worth it. 

Gene - When did it become acceptable to use "but" to start a sentence? I see it all the time in the Post, but when I was learning basic English and grammar (mid 70s), I clearly remember a teacher saying that you can never start a sentence with "And", "But" or "Or". Here's sentence from an article in the Post that I was reading: "But it faced setbacks, missed deadlines and cost overruns." Is that even a sentence? If you removed the "But", I know it would be, but with the "But" it feels like we came in halfway through a thought.

Most rules of writing suck.   Including the one that says you cannot start a sentences with "But."    You are right that, to a strict grammarian, the sentence you cite is not a sentence.   But I can tell you (ha) that many good writers use an introductory "but" to great effect, with no confusion.   "No confusion" is the key to good writing. 

Which brings me to this:

(Note, it is also a rule not to start a sentence with "which.")

Anyway, which brings me to this:

There was a fabulous front page yesterday in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.   Here it is.

It's just brilliantly inventive, and an interesting example of what wouldn't work as well online.    When I showed it to a particularly literate friend, her first response was "Whom."

She's technically right.   No question, grammatically.  And yet that would have ruined this particular presentation, which demanded the colloquial.  "Whom" calls attention to itself.   Even Pat The Perfect, who is Perfect, agreed.   

Gene--Baseball America named Angels outfielder Mike Trout its Minor League Player of the Year. Last Angel named, in 1992, was Tim Salmon. Somewhere in day care, there's a kid with the last name of Bass who should take up baseball.


Fact:  I do believe that Mike Trout is related to former pitcher Steve Trout who is related to former pitcher Dizzy Trout.  

I gave a similar answer to a woman who wrote in to Prudie: I dated online for about 10 years on and off after I separated from my ex. I was in my mid 40s when I started. I had a great time doing it and met tons of guys. My handle was Ready, Willing and Able. A bit sexy, but also fun. I posted pics of myself in which I smiled a lot. Most loved the smile. You need to project confidence in yourself and it will come through in your profile. I finally decided to settle down and met a wonderful guy. We've been together almost seven years. There is hope, even in DC!


Hi Gene, Did you see this political cartoon from the Orlando Sentinel? It's supposed (?) to depict the Monkeys on the Back of Romney (healthcare) and Perry social security). But to my first, second and third glances it looks like a couple of monkeys pleasuring themselves with Perry & Romney as their a-hems.

Okay, it's number 11 in this series.   You have to click on it. 

And yes, I am laughing.   He made a SERIOUS mistake by putting in the "sweat." 

Gene, in honor of this glorious sartorial season, I was hoping for clarification. You've explained the perceived attraction of the skirt portion of the ensemble, but I don't recall your reasoning for the boots. Why are they superior to heels or flats? Because they tend to be paired more frequently with shorter skirts? With bare legs?

You remind me: We need to have Lucretia in boots and skirts more often. 

The reason is leather.   Strength.    A slight hint of domination.   

Out of curiosity, do you favor polygamy? Don't get me wrong, I'm not an opponent of gay marriage making a "slippery slope" argument...but I do think it's hard to make an argument for one without including the other. Provided, of course, all partners enter into such an agreement willingly and of their own free will. There seems to be no "reasonable" opposition for either.

Yeah, in general I am for anything privately consensual so long as it doesn't materially, in some way, hurt society.    I'm trying to think of a privately consensual thing that hurts society, actually, and it is hard.  (Private contracts to mutilate one person for reasons of deviant masochism, perhaps.)   I suppose if I could be convinced that polygamous families hurt children, I'd be opposed to it, but I'm not sure why that would be.

One caveat: "Polygamy" would have to include polyandry.   If women were not allowed to have multipole hubbies, men should not be allowed to have multiple wives.  Obviously.   

Really annoying. Put them in the intro, as was always the custom. It is cumbersome to have to dig to find them.

I agree.   This is hugely annoying.   There is some idiot glitch in the chat software that moves the polls to the bottom only during the chat itself. 

Rage.  Rage against the machine. 

So why not use "I don't give a s---" or "bulls---" or "he doesn't know his a-- from a hole in the ground"? This is the equivalent of how Jon Stewart says the word under a bleep; we can read his lips and know what he's saying, without actually hearing the word.

I think the Post actually has a policy against hyphenating dirty words.    Precisely because it DOES put the word in your mind. 

I personally think we should be sparing in the use of these words, but when we use them, we should use them.  Even the f-word.      Our readers are not children.    Even our CHILDREN readers are not children.   Who doesn't know these words?   Who would be shocked by them?

But that's just me.   The effing editors at The Post don't effing agree with me.    Neither do a lot of you, apparently! 


I just read your update where one of the readers said that if autistic children were spanked more, it would curb their behavior (I think the topic of the post was something to do with a secret opinion). As a parent of an autistic child, all I can say is that spanking teaches and autistic kid that it is OK to hit someone. So by all means, spank your autistic child, but don't be surprised if he comes back at you and wallops you one later when you are not doing what HE wants you to. After all, you hit him when he wasn't following your directions, didn't you? So that obviously must be the way to get people to comply with one's wishes. These kids learn appropriate behavior by EXAMPLES of appropriate behavior, and by rewards for good behavior and ignoring bad behavior. Which means you have to put up with a lot of bad behavior, but when it doesn't get the desired result, the child learns it is not an effective means to get what he wants, and the behavior stops (this is called extinguishing an undesired behavior). I am not a therapist or an expert, just a Mom with seven years experience of what works and what doesn't (some might say that that makes me a therapist and an expert after all). Usually I would not respond to people I disagree with on your chat, but in this case, I couldn't let that opinion stand, that my son's behavior is a result of me not spanking him enough. The poster of the original comment is welcome to come over and spend an afternoon with me and my son and get some first hand experience in what works and what doesn't when working with someone who has autism. The really sad part is the only barrier keeping my son from developing his full potential in terms of behavior and social skills is money - the therapy shown to most help children with Autism is ABA (Applied behavior Analysis) - it is expensive - say over $30K a YEAR and insurance does not cover it for the most part. We do not have the money to provide this for my son (I know families who have taken out 2nd mortgages to do this), and I feel guilty EVERY single day that I am not doing all I could for my son. Thanks for listening, and sorry for running on so long.

Thanks.    I think this applies to ALL children, you know?   Neither I nor my wife ever hit the children.    We didn't hit each other -- why on Earth would we hit them? 

I've been dating a great guy for about eight months now. He's warm, caring, thoughtful, funny, etc. Things could be good between us, I think. BUT, he has atrocious grammar. Luckily, he's agreed to let me help him without thinking I'm a nagging grammar shrew. So, I correct him and the next time he says the same/similar thing correctly, when he would have previously gotten wrong, he is entitled to an, ahem, special prize. Here's the problem: He consistently misuses verb tenses that I know are wrong, but I can't explain why. Example: "There's a lot of food in the fridge that needs to get ate before we go on vacation." Or: "I haven't wore this shirt in weeks." I know it's "eaten" and "worn," but can't properly explain why so that he understands what he's doing wrong. I've googled verb tenses, etc. to no avail. Can you help? Thanks!

Oddly, I am having trouble here myself.  Is Ms. Perfect within the reach of these pixels? 


Ah, she is, and just responded in an email that I herewith cut and paste:

First of all, you should realize how incredibly lucky you are that your boyfriend is receptive to your helping him with his grammar problems -- not to mention that he could fix such ingrained practices so quickly. I guess your system of incentives is very effective (and especially appropriate to teaching the difference between "lie" and "lay")! 
The mistakes you cite reflect a pretty significant lack of knowledge of what are called the past participles of basic verbs: the form that goes after "have" or "was."  If you look in the dictionary under any present-tense verb -- let's use your examples, "eat" and "wear" -- it will list the three basic verb forms: present, past, and past participle:  eat, ate, eaten;  wear, wore, worn.  So: I eat, I ate, I have eaten/ it was eaten;  I wear something; I wore something; I have worn something/ it was worn.  If he's really eager to learn these -- standard English seems almost like a foreign language to him -- you might actually just work with him on a list of irregular verbs: go, grow, know, take, etc. (Google "English irregular verbs" and you'll find a list.)
I also really commend you on being able to see past his grammar problems and not equating a lack of knowledge with a lack of intelligence.  This is a problem I'm dealing with myself; I have a friend who mistakes "your" with "you're" in writing all the time, and one who says "they was doing something," and I've had to consciously note that WHAT the person was saying -- not just how he was saying it -- was thoughtful and interesting.
I'm still enjoying the image of you standing there in scanty clothing and holding up a series of Verb Tense Flash Cards -- "Okay, honey, get all 10 participles right and I'll verb you as you've never been verbed before!"  
This is Gene again, with one last thought.  You know it WOULD be in his best interests to, like, keep making mistakes for which he can atone.    Why it might even be possible that he can speak the King's English, if he wants to.  

Lands End.

Thank you. 

Say, there's a new business model that just might work.

I know!   The New York Times should pioneer in it. 

Between your chat and this week's ombudsman piece lamenting how long it takes for WaPo pages to load I am feeling like you need to get some new blood in the IT staff. There's no reason for the Post to be the only website that takes forever to load and there is no reason, none, for the polls to be stuck (in the middle of unrelated blocks of text) way wayyy down at the bottom of the page, where, if the readers are late to the chat, they have to scroll past discussion of said polls. Take the poll links and put them into Gene's first comment! It's not rocket science!

No fear, dear chatter.  The polls will reappear at the top of the page when the chat is over.  I could go into the reasoning for this, but I'm afraid you'll compare it to rocket science again.  I'm afraid I can't help you with the rest.

What's wrong with single guys in their 40's? Yep, apparently we're damaged goods. Much better to date divorced guys who are "broken in" already. Not that divorces can change guys for the worse....

Don't whine about it -- send me your pitch.   


"as well as those who don't want to have to screen the paper for the sake of their children" My 8-year old reads the Post (not, not just the Kid's Post). If she saw "I don't give a [expletive] what you think", she would say "Daddy, what's this word?" I would say "It's a curse word." She would say "Daddy, what word did so-and-so use?" and we'd go back and forth on this. As such, excluding it doesn't really help. Screening will still need to be done and screening is a parent's job and responsibility.

You know, this is a good subject for a poll. 

I got into a pretty heated letter exchange with a guy who was steamed that we used the word "horny" in a Barney & Clyde, AND that we had a storyline based on a marriage that broke up because of an infidelity.    

He was peeved that his 9-year-old daughter had to read these things.     

I was civil, and he was civil, but we couldn't agree on this.  My message, basically, was, well, when she asks you about it, explain it.   Explain it in the way you think would be most comfortable. 

I don't believe in babying children or trying to extend innocence to absurd ages.'s number 12. FYI.

Interesting.  I think it was number 11 this morning! 

HAHAHAHAHA YES Gene of course it is. Very easy, actually.

Really?  If I gave you my cell number, you could hack it for pix?    You don't have to have the phone? 

You're not a free weekly, Your writers should, and generally are, far too talented to use lazy, inappropriate language: and I include "ass." Sure I'm crotchedy, but I like to read the PRINT EDITION with MY 7-YEAR-OLD and not have to worry what's in it.

Oh, don't be an ass. 

Haha.  Irony. 

Sorry, but not all epithets are lazy .... some are exactly the right word at the right time. 

Has your 7 year old never heard the s-word?? 

I generally hate New Yorker cartoons, for exactly the reason displayed here: Only one out of every 10 or so is actually funny. The diner cartoon really takes the cake (or the egg I guess). Could you please explain this? I consider myself a reasonably intelligent and enlightened human being, but I can't even figure out what is supposed to be funny about this. Is it that diners use egg substitutes instead of actual eggs? That's the only thing I could think of.

I think it is that they are so used to substitutes that they are bragging about an egg that is egg-colored.  Yes, lame.    So lame that I would pronounce it lam-AY, like the cheezy fabric. 

I am amazed at people who think that hitting someone, especially a child, gets positive results. OK, let me be clear, and this is only my opinion, but spanking should only be between consenting adults. If you don't understand that, think about it the next time you are thinking of hitting a kid.

I doubt it.   He is not the subversive type. 

OK, so bioya didn't work. I have been searching for something that the urban dictionary doesn't yet have, and I think I have found one for you, which is sort of naughty looking at first sight: titswc Tell it someone who cares. What do you think?

I like it. 

Bioya was my attempted coinage of a new acronym, for "blow it out..." etc.   But someone on Twitter pointed out it's already in the Urban Dic. 

Thank you for linking to the Madison column, which contained this great one-liner: "Interestingly, one of the quickest nose dives in recent years was Monica, which was number 77 in 1997, but for some darned reason fell 100 percent to number 150 the following year, and has continued to go down."

Indeed.  I blew that right past the editors. 

In last week's update you said, "You cannot oppose gay marriage without being a bigot." You could, if you were opposed to ALL marriage -- if you believed the institution itself should be abolished, divorce lawyers and the bridal industrial complex put out of business, everyone taxed equally, etc. So there's that. Also, is your controversial opinion that bisexuals -- or more narrowly bisexual men -- don't really exist, that everyone is either gay or straight? If so, we seem to have changed Dan Savage's mind on this subject, so perhaps there's hope for you too!

No, that is not my opinion.   

Well, if you are opposed to all marriage, you are not opposed to gay marriage.   Or, you are, but it is totally beside the point.    It is like defining a vegan as someone who refuses to eat rabbit.    True, but... 

An analogy to the "reclining airline seat" issue is the "standing up at concerts" issue. I don't like standing up at concerts, but when the person in front of me does it, I am forced to do likewise in order to see anything. Of course, this forces the person behind me to stand up, and so on all the way to the back row, putting all of us back at parity (although now we're pointlessly standing, instead of sitting). If you choose to "protect" the concertgoer behind you by staying seated, more power to you, but you're not going to see the concert. Likewise with airline seats: if you choose to protect the person behind you by not reclining your seat when the person in front of you reclines his, I can admire your noble act without necessarily going along with it.

Good analogy! 

How can you, a Giants fan, think that was some supergreat catch, after you were the beneficiary of one of the most improbably awesome momentous catch in Super Bowl history? Plus: the Hixon catch only became impressive after the doofus let it bounce off his chest.

Tom the Butcher also argued that this catch , which I linked to in the last update, wasn't great.   You're both wrong.    And the greatest proof of its greatness is that it turns out that in making the catch, Hixon tore his ACL and is out for the year. 

I was never, however, comparing it to this catch, the greatest in history.    In fact, probably the greatest Super Bowl play ever.    Both amazing and momentous.   It gave the Gents the game. 

Bacon is awful (har har). Seriously, in what other form do people consume something that is literally half fat? Cooking more has the benefit of liquifying and removing more of the fat, which may well be worth the tradeoff. But ugh. The very thought of it makes my arteries stiffen.

Ask any chef: Fat is what makes meat taste good.  (For better or worse, health-wise.)  

Have you seen the 9/11 piece about April Gallop, who refuses to believe that a plane hit the Pentagon, even though she was there and had to dig her 10-day-old baby out from under the rubble? I read that story, and my mind just couldn't handle it. The best part was how she is party to a suit seeking damages for trauma she and her son suffered from ... wait for it ... the impact of the plane that didn't hit the Pentagon. How is it possible that someone can so steadfastly refuse to face facts, to the point of alienating almost anyone she meets, and to the point of becoming party to a lawsuit that is absurd on its face? Is she really that stupid (I'm talking Cynthia McKinney stupid), or has she perhaps been so traumatized by the events of that day that she has gotten a divorce from reality? I sure don't know. What are your thoughts? (The whole thing seems to me to be a perfect setup for a humorist -- Jon Stewart comes to mind -- but something in the story says maybe savaging this woman would cross a line.)

Well, she is a conspiracy nut.   She thinks that the Pentagon was bombed by our government, for diabolical reasons involving geopolitix.  

So her suit makes sense within its own warped logic. 

The question presumes that there is anything genuine about the latter. There's some anecdotal evidence that the shows are scripted. But I also wonder if pro sports are scripted to some degree almost like pro wrestling, especially after Super Bowl XL, and I say that as a Steelers fan.

You think FOOTBALL is faked?


I simply note that in your comment about polygamy you referred to "multipole" husbands. Perhaps this is a requirement for men who have multiple wives.


Best typo ever?

I guess! 

Since we have pretty thoroughly covered the issue of whether to recline seats in airplanes (no), I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents about the drop-down trays in airplanes. Those trays were designed only to hold the food brought around. They weren't designed as laptop desks, nor as pillows. It's often really distracting when people use the tray behind me for these purposes. I've been jostled throughout my flight by people pounding away on laptops or plunking their heads down on the tray table for a rest. I wish all the airlines would have those trays that pull out from the armrest instead.

This is the first time I have heard the argument that it is inappropriate to use them for laptops!   

What's the most important humor writing advice you've heard?

It's mine.   I stole it from Dave Barry and claimed it for myself with a simple modification at the end:

"Always try to put the funniest word at the end of your sentence underpants." 

I'm going to tell you something I've never told anyone, and which I can't imagine I ever WOULD tell anyone who I know in real life. I'm a woman, and I've never experienced an orgasm via sex or any other sex-related activities. I am fully and easily capable of experiencing them on my own, something I figured out around, ohhh, age 4 or so. This is not a matter of having only been with inexperienced doofy guys. I've been in several long term relationships with men who I would consider to be "good in bed." Also, I enjoy sex. A lot. I just don't...finish...unless I take the reins. Now, here is the next part. None of the men I've been in relationships with know this about me. The way I see it, I've figured out on my own that without a shadow of a doubt, I am never going to reach orgasm through sex. But I feel that most men would find this to be a serious relationship deal breaker. Like, I am some sort of broken, non-functional person whom they cannot have a full sex life with. So, obviously, I fake it. The usual reasons for not faking it don't apply to me - I'm not denying myself or the guy the chance to improve things and finally achieve the goal, because that goal is NOT achievable. So I figure it's better for all involved (or perhaps just me) to just fake it and move on. Because again, it's not like I'm not enjoying myself (I am) and it's not like I'm not capable of orgasm whatsoever (I am). But I do feel like I would basically be undatable/unmarriable if the full truth came out. So, in your estimation, am I a horrible person?

No, you are a nice person doing what you think is the right thing.   It may even BE the right thing, though my guess is it is not.  

I am no sex therapist, and I don't really know what I am talking about,  but I am going to mouth off anyway, as it were. 

First off, as you say, this isn't a Gigantic Problem.   You have a satisfying sex life, you can pleasure yourself to the right end, etc.   So, no biggie, except that, as you know, ending right with a partner is not a small added pleasure.  It is a big added pleasure. 

I totally get why you don't tell them -- it's YOUR problem, not theirs, and you correctly perceive that most good men would be upset knowing they could not get you all the way off.   


So, here's the thing:  It seems to me that if you can do it to yourself, you can have it done to you, and that probably the impediment is in your own mind.   I once had a similar but less overwhelming mental impediment, with sex.   I couldn't enjoy a certain thing.     It took a time and the right person to get me over it.   

But you don't want to burden someone with being your patient teacher, or risk having to bring them down by admitting your problem.   Understood.   If you have the nerve to do it, my advice to you is to schedule an appointment with a sex therapist doctor.   

Any other thoughts? 

We still have a minute or so left, but I really feel I need to end the chat on that last one. 

Thank you all for a spirited discussion.   We'll meet each other again in the updates. 

In This Chat
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 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2008 and 2010.

Click here for links to Gene's past chats and updates.
Recent Chats
  • Next: