Tuesdays with Moron: Chatological Humor update

Nov 10, 2015

Gene's next monthly chat is Tuesday, Nov. 24 at noon. You may submit questions here.

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. 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.

Greetings, update readers.  

I do not believe in public shaming.   I do believe that young adults go to college to learn things, and that this process will almost inevitably result in their making mistakes and misjudgments and otherwise acting badly.  I believe that sensitivity to issues of race and ethnicity is important, and nuanced, even more so when it intersects with the issue of free speech.  

I also believe that the fragile-flower, idea-intolerant society of victimhood that is being cultivated in many colleges today is really bad.   

I was going to do a poll today on what is going on at Yale.  I wrote one, but withdrew it at the last minute, because the issue is a little too complicated and nuanced for multiple choice.  But there is one thing that is totally uncomplicated.  Please watch this confrontation between a student and her dorm's Master, a professor who serves as resident advisor to the students.  The student is angry that the Master's wife wrote an email to the campus population, rather gently wondering whether the college's yearly memo on Halloween costumes (urging against culturally insensitive imagery) was perhaps a little patronizing in an institution that encourages free speech.   The email, quoted in its entirety in the middle of this story, was well reasoned, respectful, and quite mild.  

Anyway, watch this confrontation.  


If this woman were my daughter, I would be deeply humiliated.  I would feel I had failed as a father. 

It's situational in my house. I drive better in DC, my wife drives better in all other situations, and in those other situations we are often using maps, which I do better. However, over time my wife has yielded more driving to me, because she uses that time to knit.

She doesn't knit while she drives?  What a wuss.  I once found myself driving, smoking a cigar, taking notes, and talking on the phone at the same time.   I only became completely aware of this when I had to shift, and realized something had to give.

I've stopped using this for myself not because I thought it shows my husband owns me but because I don't see a point in advertising my marital status when men don't. Completely ridiculous.

Okay, now ask yourself this:

Isn't that the same thing?  Why would women have to advertise their marital status whereas men do not?  Because it is saying you are already "taken," wheres your husband is not.   He owns you and you do not own him. 

I'd like to hear others' opinions on this.

Just read this in an article I'm reading for grad school: "Condoms also feature in medical literature, first appearing in 1713 in The Symptoms, Nature, Cause, and Cure of a Gonorrhoea, by the appropriately named William Cockburn." The article is behind a paywall, but Mr. Cockburn has his own Wikipedia page ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Cockburn_(physician) ), which mentions this wonderful tome. I feel like no matter what happens in my career endeavors after today, going to grad school is one of the best decisions I've ever mdae.

This is so wonderful.  Dr. Cockburn did, indeed author a famous treatise on "gonorrhoeia," another on syphilis.  He was also an expert on diarrhea, which was called "looseness."

I enjoyed your rant about "I'd tap that." Can you comment on the phenomenon of the "incel"? Especially the angry "women are sluts" type. Why do they think that every man is owed sex by some woman?

I just learnt about this from you.   You know, it sounds like a form of mental illness.  

Apparently, that creep Elliot Rodger was the poster boy for this.


Okay, I came back to amend this answer after doing some research and decided not to shoot so wildly from the hip.  Here is a far more nuanced look at incels.   

They are not happy people, but they are not all sullen, sulking, women-hating spree-killers-in-the-making.

Only some are.


Though your rant is of course right about the terribleness of "I'd tap that" and similar constructions, the initial claim that the phrase "the next woman that has to" is ungrammatical is preposterous. There is not, and never has been, a grammatical convention that "that" cannot be used as a relative pronoun to characterize persons; the OED lists several examples including Coleridge's "We were the first that ever burst / Into that silent sea."

I would argue that poetry must be exempted from such rules.  And Pat the Perfect, whom I just consulted on this, further points out that using "it" to mean "who" is a particular Britishism, and particularly regarding children.  She also directed me to the bible, where I find this: 

Matthew 6:9 (KJV) After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed by thy name."


None of that excuses it in modern American English.

I would also like to point out that Coleridge and Poe are the two greatest practitioners of interior rhyme. 

If you do not think this is beautiful, you have no ear:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more.”



Rosaline in Love's Labors Lost: "Thou canst not hit it, hit it, hit it, Thou canst not hit it, my good man."


This is part of a deeply bawdy conversation between Rosalind and Boyet.   "Hit it," is clearly about sex, though I would argue from context that the "it" is a body part, not a term for a person.

And shortly thereafter we have this line, utter'd by Boyet:

 A mark! O, mark but that mark! A mark, says my lady!
Let the mark have a prick in't, to mete at, if it may be.


Shakespeare was such a splendid vulgarian.


My guess is Marco Rubio. He's young, Hispanic, good-looking, and shooting himself in the foot less often than the other Floridian in the race. What say you, Gene, and why do you feel as you do? I look forward to your chats every month! I have to read them when my husband's not around, so all of my cackling won't bother him. *throws virtual panties*

I have said before that, as a liberal, Rubio scares me the most because he seems the most un-Hillary.   And because he comes across as reasonable.    This credit-card thing seems tame to me.  No biggie.

But, as I've said, I am not sure he can ever break free from his stance on abortion.   It's too extreme, and he can't skin it back.  He's stuck there:  Never, under any circumstances, including rape and incest.


So a few days ago at work, a co-worker apparently had her yogurt stolen from the shared refrigerator. She said she had written her name on it. Her reaction was to throw all the other yogurts in the fridge into the trash. She seemed quite pleased with herself. Several other co-workers laughed heartily at her telling of the story. As I listened, my only thought was that she punished several people who had nothing to do with her disappearing yogurt. Even if the culprit was the owner of one of the discarded yogurts, he/she already ate one, so there's no real loss to that person. My outward reaction to her story was a look of slight bewilderment, but I didn't say anything. What would Gene have done?

I think she is a sociopath.

You are thinking I am exaggerating for comedic effect.  I am not.  I think she is a sociopath.

I don't see even a sliver of justice-logic in what she did.  It was simply petulant.   Without regard for the feelings of others, or, indeed, an apparent acknowledgement that others have feelings. 

Most likely the stealer of her yoghurt was someone who didn't have yoghurt, no?  


Ta-Nehisi Coates has a valid point about acceptance of words being used to enforce hierarchy. However, if I interpreted him as calling for no grammar or usage principles at all, would I simply be creating a straw man? I don't know what style guide the Post uses, but I'm on safe ground in assuming that your editors see adherence to a uniform style as important for clarity of meaning.

I'm not sure it's about clarity of meaning.  A newspaper polices its spelling and style (especially style, which basically is about choices where either of two options are considered correct) mostly to look consistent and professional.  If a newspaper writes "catalogue" one place and "catalog" another place, it looks like a bush league operation.

It is a sad fact that in our new era, where copy editors have been jettisoned, there are many more cases where just such a thing happens, particularly at smaller papers.

Given that position, I assume that you condemn those instances where the Post withheld a story at the request of the government because it would damage national security. Consistency, right?

No, I do not.  That is an entirely different calculus. 

I remember being told of two instances where such a decision was made; in neither case did I think it was a mistake or a cop-out.  And no, you are not going to get it here, or ever.

Flip side: Some papers knew of the Bay of Pigs operation in advance and didn't write it because JFK asked them not to, citing risk to the invaders.   JFK later told people he wished the story had broken, because it might have caused him to cancel what became a disaster.

I like tattoos. I think they can look beautiful and great, but also think they can look pretty awful, depending on the design or whatever. I have two that I got about 15 years ago, but they are hidden under my clothes. Anyway, a few months ago I saw a relative I hadn't seen in in almost 20 years. She had some tattooed makeup--eyeliner, eyebrows (think Uncle Leo's brows, but instead of a thick sharpie, a thin one), lipliner and... a beauty mark. If I had to guess when she had the ink done, based on looking at how it had faded, I'm guessing she had it done in the late 80s/early 90s. It was spectacular, and not in a good way. Now THAT is something I don't understand and I think comparable to wearing the same outfit every day.

I think we'll end with this.

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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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