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Off-Kilter

June 15, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

Yo Quiero English: Bilingualism is a long-standing fixture in Washington, where bureaucratese and lawyer-speak are interspersed with occasional snippets of plain English. But on June 1, in a bold attempt to make government more understandable, President Clinton issued an executive memorandum requiring federal documents to be written in "plain language . . . [so they] send a clear message about what the government is doing, what it requires and what services it offers."

Two hours later, Clinton issued another proclamation. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, it began: "On March 18, 1998, the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) transmitted to the president a unanimous affirmative determination in its investigation under section 202 of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended (the "Trade Act") (19 U.S.C. 2252), with respect to imports of wheat gluten provided for in subheadings 1109.00.10 and 1109.00.90 of the . . ."

More Translators, Please: Speaking of plain English, our recent item on the longest words in the language brought letters from Zachary A. Charles and Greg Howell, who said we forgot to mention pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, a disease suffered by miners. We also ran across the world's longest acronym,NIIOMTPLABOPARMBETZHELBETRABSBOMONIMONKONOTDTEKHSTROMONT,which is a translation of the Cyrillic-alphabet abbreviation for the Laboratory for Shuttering, Reinforcement, Concrete and Ferroconcrete Operations for Compositemonolithic and Monolithic Constructions of the Department of the Technology of Building-Assembly Operations of the Scientific Research Institute of the Organization for Building, Mechanization and Technical Aid of the Academy of Building and Architecture of Russia.

Kinda makes Clinton's USITC wheat gluten proclamation sound like Sylvester Stallone in "Rambo," doesn't it?

Bumper Sticker Patrol: "Earth First! We'll strip-mine the other planets later."

Mark Your Calendars: We don't want to slam June too much, since we were born in one of its ancestors, but we do feel that you, the public, have a right to know that this is National Iced Tea Month, National Fireworks Safety Month (which apparently means July 4 is all clear for careless fireworks), National Beef Month, National Burglary Prevention Month and National Fight the Filthy Fly Month (don't ask). June also brings us National Headache Awareness Week, Brain Tumor Awareness Week (which might explain those headaches), National Bathroom Reading Week, National Hug Holiday (which, ironically, coincided with the death of Leo "Dr. Hug" Buscaglia) and National Hermit Week (no parades are planned, a spokeswoman says).

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Nude Rock Climbing Is the Cool New Fad!" (Weekly World News)

And that's not all. Wireless Flash News Service reports that a Vermont nudist named James Cunningham plans to open a private school that would be clothing-optional for students and teachers. People with slightly more modest tastes, however, might be interested in another Weekly World News article on "Fig Leaf Swimsuits for Men!" The alleged designer is also working on oak, maple and walnut leaf suits--and a three-leaf fig bikini for women.

* Roy Rivenburg's e-mail address is roy.rivenburg@latimes.com.

Contributors: Buzz Report, Chicago Sun-Times, Premiere Radio

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