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Words Dec. 2

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You’ve gotta have hearty: “ ‘We ran a hard race and I’m disappointed that we lost, but I want to give my hardiest congratulation to Mr. Redus,’ said Gullett. ‘I hope he is who his supporters want him to be.’ ” What Ms. Gullett actually wanted to give her opponent (or said she did) was hearty congratulation — that is, “cordial, sincere.” From USA Today’s report on the dedication of the Clinton library: “The building, which has transformed the downtown area of this gentile southern capital, opens to the public today.” Well, the population is mostly gentile, but I think the word that was intended is genteel. We’re mostly that too, except for a little outbreak of gang-banging now and then. “Lead is a toxic waste. It is poisonous. It has been proven to be carcinogenic. It affects the brain, particularly in children. It affects bone growth. Once it gets in the ground, it stays there, and it leeches into water.” This is not the same kind of leech that afflicted Humphrey Bogart in “The African Queen.” Properly spelled leach, this one means “to cause water to percolate through,” leaving impurities in the water. Such an impurity is called a leachate. After seeing “Economists discuss Wal-Mart and its reliability on Chinese imports” listed in the TV log, Edward Wooten writes: “I guess that since Reliant Energy adopted ‘reliant’ to mean, I hope, ‘reliable,’ that the rules of grammar have been turned upside down, at least locally.” Along the same line, the subject of an e-mail sales pitch was “Make the opposite sex irresistibly attractive to you.” Most of us can do that without paying a penny. Turning it around is the hard part. Writing in Funny Times, Lenore Skenazy notes that AARP has banned the phrase “senior citizen” from its publications. Words like “geezer” and “codger” already were unwelcome. So, what is a good name for those who’ve reached a high level of maturity? Skenazy offers several suggestions, among them: The Keyhunters, The Gratefully Un-Dead, The Colonoscopics, The Amazing Plastic Hipsters, Cane-Raisers and Generation Specs.

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