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State | CALIFORNIA DATELINE / PATT MORRISON

Words Are Half-Right, but Meanings Are Half-Wrong

June 02, 1998|PATT MORRISON

And now a word from the Honorable Chatterbox . . .

This year's celebration of Cinco de Mayo--the date in 1862 when Mexico defeated the French army at Puebla--brought congratulations from as far afield as House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich's Spanish-language press release, however, didn't bridge the language gap. It was issued from the "Hablador de la Casa," which sounds reasonable; hablar means "to talk" and casa is house. But the ways of idiom are tricky: hablador means a talkative person, a windbag. And a legislative body is not a casa--which is specifically a home, a dwelling--but a camara, from the same root as the word "bicameral."

Hence, the press release issued by the Windbag of the Home.

As then-Orange County Supervisor Gaddi Vasquez said famously of 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, he "may speak Spanish, but he doesn't speak our language."

*

Till Big Daddy takes the T-bird away The Assembly speaker circa 1963, Democrat Jesse Unruh--nicknamed Big Daddy--would guarantee a decision on the state budget by keeping members in chambers overnight, refusing to let them go home until they voted. (Democrats were permitted to leave briefly to shower and eat; Republicans were not.)

The Assembly's current speaker, Antonio Villaraigosa, learned to his chagrin last Thursday night that three Democrats went AWOL before a critical HMO reform vote, and, even worse, that someone cast "ghost" votes for them.

To prevent further escapes, Villaraigosa ordered the sergeants-at-arms to descend to the Capitol's basement garage at about 10 p.m., where they took the keys from the ignitions of the motor pool cars. Only after the Assembly adjourned, post-midnight, did the sergeants-at-arms give back the keys.

*

Party time If you thought the blanket primary that debuts today is all-inclusive, consider who's not on the ballot: Los Angeles County's more than 400 very minor parties with at least one--and sometimes only one--registered voter:

The county has three registered monarchists, five Sophists and six members of Drop Acid Not Bombs.

Playing on the party-theme parties: Toga, Pajama, Wild, New Year's, Bachelor and (with six voters) Boston Tea Party.

With two registered voters each: the Tom Bradley Party, Reagan's Party, Druids and the Libertine Party (being a solo libertine is a virtual impossibility).

With one voter each: Passive Opportunistic, Redneck, Respect for Nature, Japanese Red Army, and Sons of Basketball (gotta be the center).

And the grand old parties: L.A. still has 24 Whigs, 34 Prohibition Party members, five Bull Moose--Teddy Roosevelt's old splinter party--and one Yippie.

*

One-offs The Bay Area's transit systems have begun cracking down on cheaters holding discount passes for the disabled, including the woman whose doctor listed her disability as "caffeine addiction." . . . A Haitians for Checchi group drew more than a hundred people to a Highland Park celebration, but the group pledged that it did not cast any spells on his opponents. . . . An asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter has been renamed San Jose to honor the city, which keeps its street lights dim to help astronomers at nearby Lick Observatory. . . . A corner table at a Berkeley McDonald's is now a police "community work station," complete with telephone. . . . A man was questioned by Huntington Beach police after he was found walking the beach and taking footage of women's rear ends with a video camera concealed in a hollowed-out boombox. . . . Three more unexploded bombs, remnants of a 1973 munitions train explosion, have turned up in a rail yard near Roseville, five months after officials said they were satisfied they had found them all.

EXIT LINE

"There is some folklore about keeping bears away, like hanging mothballs on tree branches and urinating on tires. Someone even left a note on their car asking bears not to break into it."

--National Parks Service scientist David M. Graber about the rash of car break-ins in Yosemite National Park by hungry bears looking for food.

California Dateline appears every other Tuesday.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

California Voters by Party

As of May 4, the close of registration for today's primary election, 70.72% of Californians eligible to vote were actually registered to do so. Here is a breakdown by party affiliation:

*--*

Party No. of registered voters % of Total Democratic 6,830,656 46.77 Republican 5,225,743 35.78 Decline to state 1,804,318 12.35 American Independent 281,400 1.93 Reform 93,840 0.64 Green 93,393 0.64 Libertarian 76,830 0.53 Peace and Freedom 71,620 0.49 Natural Law 68,811 0.47 Miscellaneous/Non-qualified* 59,306 0.41 Total Eligible Voters** xx 20,653,410 Total Registered Voters* xx 14,605,917

*--*

* Registration filled out with no recognizable party

** U.S. citizens in California, age 18 and over, excluding prisoners and parolees.

Source: California secretary of state

Researched by TRACY THOMAS / Los Angeles Times

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