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Words, July 2

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Gary DeJarnatt writes that he and his wife were having lunch at a local restaurant when eight U.S. Postal Service employees walked through, “each decked out in the official summer uniform, shorts with black socks. My question is, what do you call a group of U.S. postal employees? A clutch? A bag? A covey?”

A shipment, maybe. Considering how often they “go postal,” a disgruntlement might fit. Nominations are welcome.

 

The June 18 column referred to the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate, and to my own erroneous belief that Khazzoom was what Billy Batson said in order to become Captain Marvel. Stanley Johnson points out that Billy's magic word was “SHAZAM,” and that it was an acronym: “S for Solomon (wisdom), H for Hercules (super-strength), A for Atlas (boundless stamina), Z for Zeus (awesome power), A for Achilles (courage), M for Mercury (incredible speed).” For those who don't remember him, Captain Marvel possessed all those qualities. The captain was a comic book superhero, a rival to Superman until the Man of Steel turned Man of Litigation and put the competition out of business. Years later, “SHAZAM” was a favorite expression of “Gomer Pyle” on the television comedy.

In the July issue of Smithsonian, William Ecenbarger imagines a look back at Washington from the perspective of July 4, 2509, based on C-span tapes of today's Congress in action:

“The grounds surrounding the Capitol have been faithfully reproduced. There are bushes, which were beaten around, and a row of haystacks in which members of Congress used to look for needles. The driveway is paved with stones, none of which was unturned, and there are three bandwagons in front of the building upon which they frequently climbed. There are slippery slopes and level playing fields to accommodate whole new ballgames. Directly in back of the building is a lake from which the tips of icebergs protrude, and anchored there is a ship named Titanic, whose deck chairs can be rearranged …”

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