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CAUTION: Warning Loses Something in Translation

January 12, 1988|SHIRLEY MARLOW

--It was a well-intentioned warning, but a Japanese knife makers' words--"Caution: Blade Extremely Sharp! Keep Out of Children!"--won a top honor in the fourth annual Dunce Cap Awards for bad English. Olfa Corp. of Osaka, Japan, was one of hundreds of people or groups who were chastised by SPELL, the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature. Contest Judge Richard Lederer, a New Hampshire prep school English teacher, gave the other top award to Illinois Bell for printing in its phone book that a college staged "The Little Shop of Whores." The play is about a shop of horrors. The Mountain View, Calif.-based society cited President Reagan for "a flagrant act of slaughtering" the language for a quote in Newsweek that read: "I am wounded but not slain. Lie me down a while so I can rise and fight again."

--It was not a typical charity car wash, but then Palm Beach, Fla., is not a typical town. Motorists relaxed and sipped Moet Champagne while their Rolls-Royces and other expensive automobiles were soaped by women with manicured nails and men wearing tuxedo jackets over swimming trunks. "I don't think I've ever washed a car," mused Jerry Beebe, an organizer of the black-tie car wash to benefit the American Foundation for AIDS Research. With that inexperience in mind, some car owners who normally have their autos hand buffed paid the $25 charge to not have their cars washed. The benefit raised about $1,000.

--The University of Texas is full of birdbrains. At first officials at the Austin campus tried whistling rockets to get rid of tens of thousand of grackles, blackbirds that are smaller than crows. "The noise was never really effective," said Charles Franklin, U T vice president for business affairs. "It just moved the birds around." So now officials are pruning trees to eliminate the roosting space of the shrieking great-tailed birds. Cold water might be sprayed into trees to discourage the birds. The school can't kill the grackles because they are protected by federal migratory-bird regulations.

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