1. Archive


I'm letting readers write my column today, because the mail I got after I recently wrote about atrocities perpetrated upon the English language was way funnier than anything I had to say.

From Catherine Shaer: From my days as a pediatric resident at Children's National Medical Center, I often heard "sick as hell anemia." Alas, it does correctly describe the condition.

From Richard Garrett: A guy I knew told me his brother, an assistant professor, failed to get "10-year" at the university.

From Ann Cochran: The funniest expression I have heard in recent years was when someone told me, "We have to nip that in the butt!"

From Carol Siegel: I recently sent an email from my "I'm smarter than you are" Kindle concerning a pest problem I was having on my Hawaiian-style patio, which is called a "lanai." Thankfully, I checked after Kindle got to it but before it went out. I wonder what our Homeowners Association would have thought about a snail infestation on my labia?

From Dick Cooper: I managed a website for a while that had anti-obscenity software. It would automatically change my first name to "Thingy."

From Lizabeth Smith: I worked for Social Security for years, taking many disability application forms. The one that threw me, until the lady explained her symptoms of pain in her legs, was "flea bites and blood clarks." Phlebitis. Blood clots. I also dealt with parents of children with "65 Roses."

(I looked that last one up. It's actually so common a mishearing, and so sweet and comforting to afflicted children, that the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has adopted it, officially, for use in a fundraising and research campaign. So Below the Beltway hereby certifies "65 Roses" as good English.)

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