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A realistic Barbie? Get real

Question: Some time ago, there was talk about Mattel making a more realistically proportioned, meaning smaller busted, Barbie. What ever became of that?

Answer: Reports in 1999 about Barbie being reduced were "media hype," a spokesman for Mattel told Q&A. He added that the company never had any intentions of altering her proportions, and all that was done at the time was to change her "face sculpting."

However, the company is planning to introduce "Jewel Girl" Barbie this August, with bigger hips, a smaller bust and a "more athletic figure to appeal to teens," he said. She will have a belly button and no seam, so she can bend and flex, which he described as "important changes."

Say it ain't so

Question: Is the word "ain't" now acceptable in the English language? I say it is, but an English teacher friend of mine insists that it's not.

Answer: Although it's heard fairly often, especially in the southern and south-central states, "ain't" is considered "non-standard." So your teacher friend is correct.

Even educated people use it in such expressions as "She ain't what she used to be," "You ain't heard nothin' yet" and "Ain't that the truth," but those are for deliberate effect or humor, and still fall into the non-standard category.

TV and "PA'

Question: I have seen the letters PA in television listings for certain programs, such as NYPD Blue. What does that mean?

Answer: It stands for Parental Advisory. Broadcasters use it before a show airs _ and it's also included in TV listings _ to inform viewers that there might be some material deemed inappropriate or offensive (meaning strong language and/or nudity) to children or even adults.

The Clinton video

Question: How can I obtain a copy of the 10-minute White House video with President Clinton spoofing himself? I've seen only bits of it shown on various TV programs.

Answer: It's available for purchase, but only as part of a video of the entire White House Correspondents' Dinner, held April 29 at the Washington Hilton. Call C-SPAN Archives (877) 662-7726 and ask for item No. 156877. The cost is $31.95, which includes shipping and handling.

Lost military records

Question: In 1972, a fire at the military personnel archives in St. Louis destroyed the military records of thousands of people. Recently I heard that some records had been found that possibly could replace those that were lost. Do you have any information?

Answer: The National Archives and Records Administration has received numerous inquiries from people who have heard that "10-million medical records" have been found. Like you, these people wondered if they were duplicates of the records that were burned on July 12, 1973, at the National Personnel Records Center.

Unfortunately, they were summaries for admissions to medical treatment facilities, and contained limited medical information. They numbered 7.8-million, not 10-million as the rumor had it.

About 16-million to 18-million official military personnel records were lost in the fire. No duplicate copies were maintained, according to the records administration, nor was a microfilm copy ever produced. And there were no indexes created before the fire. So they're considered to be lost forever.

The records involved were those from the Army, concerning personnel discharged between Nov. 1, 1912, and Jan. 1, 1960 (an estimated 80 percent were lost); and Air Force, personnel discharged between Sept. 25, 1947, and Jan. 1, 1964, with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E. (an estimated 75 percent were lost).

Contact Colin Bessonette at (404) 222-2002 or write the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, P.O. Box 4689, Atlanta, GA 30302, or e-mail: q&