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Words April 7

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Swine-secure: “I always thought the expression was hogtied, and that it meant ‘trussed up like a hog, ready to be shipped to market or slaughtered.’ Recently, I heard a discussion of a fence made of bois d’arc trees that is planned for the Historic Arkansas Museum’s evolving urban farmstead. The speaker said the fence would need to be ‘horse-high, hog-tight and bull-strong.’ Have I been using this expression wrong all along?” — Ellen Fennell Hogtied is the real thing (“tied with all four feet together”). Hog-tight was as new to me as to Ms. Fennell. Apparently it has a limited usage. A Web site explains it this way: “Before the invention of barbed wire in the 1880’s, many thousands of miles of hedge were constructed by planting young Osage Orange trees closely together in a line. [Osage Orange is another name for the bois d’arc tree and fruit.] The saplings were aggressively pruned to promote bushy growth. Horse-high, bull-strong and hog-tight — those were the criteria for a good hedge made with Osage Orange. Tall enough that a horse would not jump it, stout enough that a bull would not push through it, and woven so tightly that even a hog could not find its way through!” Going for broke: Politicians and journalists continue to misrepresent the status of Social Security. One way is by saying that Social Security is going broke, as in this article by Glenn Johnson of the Associated Press: “The [Social Security] trustees estimated that the program, which is about to be inundated with baby boom retirees, would go broke in 2041 … “ The New York Times got it right: “The trustees … said Social Security reserves would be depleted in 2041, one year earlier than was projected last year.” Even if the reserves are gone by 2041 — and that’s a prediction not everyone agrees with — millions of American workers and their employers will still be paying into Social Security in 2041. Social Security will still be paying out benefits to millions of retirees and disabled, though somewhat less than the scheduled benefits. That’s not broke. Or bust, the word President Bush likes to use, either. The same AP article referred to Medicare as a “New Deal” program. Wrong again, by 30 years. Medicare was established in 1965.

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