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Words March 10

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Solving the red: From remarks made by President Bush in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 4. Published in The American Prospect magazine: “Because the — all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculate, for example, is on the table; whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There’s a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those — changing those with personal accounts — the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be, or closer delivered to, what has been promised. “Does that make any sense to you? It’s kind of muddled. Look, there’s a series of things that cause the — like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate — the benefits will rise based upon inflation, as opposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those — if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.” Or was it an expleted deleted? A columnist wrote “This newspaper unknowingly ran an expletive deletive last Tuesday. Sometimes, despite the most diligent editing, it happens.” The phrase she had not quite in her grasp was expletive deleted, but she was shaky on the usage as well as the spelling. What she was upset about, it turned out, was that an expletive was undeleted. Expletive deleted became popular during the Watergate affair, when it frequently appeared in transcripts of White House tapes in place of offensive language used by President Nixon and his advisers. (“What the [expletive deleted] did Martha Mitchell tell those people?”) Editors began using “[expletive deleted]” as an alternative to dashes and asterisks. Another phrase used in the White House transcripts was characterization omitted, as in “That Liddy is a crazy [characterization omitted].” But it didn’t have the staying power of expletive deleted.

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