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Mail-Bonding With Our Readers

November 26, 1999|ROY RIVENBURG

Going Postal: When packages for reporters arrive at the Los Angeles Times, security guards usually X-ray them (the packages, not the reporters), presumably to check for bombs but also to intercept cool product samples for top editors.

The only reason we know this is because every parcel received by our colleagues carries a stamped message, "Material has been X-rayed." Off-Kilter's mail, on the other hand, is never screened. We're not sure if management is trying to tell us something, but it's always an adventure when we make the interns open our mail.

Usually everything turns out fine. Here's a recent sampling, dedicated to the memory of interns Phil, Sally, Jesse and Raphael. Sorry, guys.

* Regarding our phobia of Barry Manilow (the man who writes the songs that make the whole world scream), Donna Gosselin of Michigan asked: "Why don't you open up your small little mind and check out some of his music?" Uh, isn't that the same line that Satan used on Lot's wife right before she turned into a pillar of salt?

* In response to our report on a bizarre campaign to eliminate the word "the" from English language--as exemplified by Staples Center, the arena whose owners believe that using the word in their building's name could jinx the Clippers--we got several letters. Jonathan Dowling theorized that the anti-"the" effort is a Communist plot. As proof, he cited the Ukraine's decision to change its official name to just "Ukraine." And Jeff Bara pointed out that many rock groups (which are probably infiltrated by Commies)--such as Eurythmics, Talking Heads and Edie Brickell and New Bohemians--also insist on no "the" in their names. The only bright spot is a band called The The. But they they broke broke up.

* We're also still getting mail about an August column on sabotaging the new Oxford English Dictionary. As you may recall, the dictionary's editors are worried about overlooking some of the slang and technical words that have arisen since their last edition. So they created an Internet site (http://www.oed.com/readers/research.htm) where people can submit words. The catch is you must prove the word has appeared in print.

Our goal is to sneak a made-up word into the dictionary, such as "braille-gating" (which means to drive so closely behind someone that you can touch their bumper), "bogusvillea" (a plastic bougainvillea) or maybe even "the."

So we asked readers to invent words that we could use in a column, thus qualifying them for submission. Numerous ideas came in, including some from Whittier College English professor Joe Price, who turned our prank into a class assignment. Among the nominees: Amy Faucher's "precrastination" (getting work done ahead of time), and R. Rozenek's "gridlost" (a traffic jam that clears up for no apparent reason). Another reader forwarded some fake words from a Washington Post contest. Our favorites were "reintarnation" (coming back to life as a hillbilly) and "giraffiti" (vandalism spray-painted very high).

Holy Coke: A Brazilian priest who was caught with 11 kilos of cocaine hidden under his cassock told police he was trafficking in the drug to save a struggling day-care center, according to Reuters.

In a related story, George W. Bush now admits he "may have experimented once or twice with trying to save a struggling day-care center."

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Holiday Shopping Can Kill You!" (Weekly World News)

Unpaid Informants: Rachel Williams. E-mail Off-Kilter at roy.rivenburg@latimes.com. The column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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