Good Journalism

Now there’s something that’s hard to define. Good journalism. I suppose it means reporting the truth without bias, or just reporting facts without opinions. That’s a great concept, but it’s probably not even possible to achieve. As an example, just look at all the different ways that the situation with Russia is being reported in the national news. Right before the last election, Russians either “interfered” in our election, or they “influenced” it (or “attempted to influence” it), or they might even have “meddled” if they were really being bad. The words that are used tend to reflect the political orientation of the news channel that I’m watching; if you don’t believe it was that serious and that Democrats are just whining, it’s only “influence.” The really bad word that I’m hearing now is that those Russians might have “tampered” with the election. Tampering tends to mean more than just sending out disinformation over the internet though; it can also mean that they tried to access our voting records or actual voting machines. My point is that it’s hard sometimes to know when the news channels are editorializing and when they’re not, but you can usually tell where they’re coming from by what words they use. We’ve come a long way from the days when John Chancellor used to do the NBC Nightly News, and his editorials were clearly labeled with the word “Commentary” on the screen. Whenever I see any clips of old television news shows, I’m always amazed by how neutral the language sounds.

The good news is that we still get a more fact-based, unbiased presentation from local news, in my opinion. They don’t have a lot of time on those shows, and they probably have to be careful not to turn off a sizeable segment of their audience, so they’re not very political. Of course, that’s not to say that all the news programs report the news in exactly the same way. As a case in point, a couple of months ago, one of the local channels reported, “The police chief in Farley resigned last night …” and showed video of the police station. The reporter did a fine job of stating the reasons why he resigned, and that was the whole story. I remember this report because I happen to live in Farley, and I like to know what’s happening in my community. That was the five o’clock news, and I half-watched the 5:30 national news and ate some supper before I changed the channel to get different local news at 6:00. Then I heard another take on this story: “The only police officer in Farley resigned last night …” and I didn’t hear the rest because I was in shock. I was living in a town with no police! And this news reporter just told every potential crook in eastern Iowa! I think I went around and locked all the doors. The report was accurate, I suppose, but do they really have to endanger the public like that? But that was a couple of months ago, and Farley now has police protection again. I feel better.

As a parting shot, here’s a report from maybe twenty years ago that I still remember. It’s about an event that happened at the gas plant in the town where I’d gone to high school. I was sitting in front of the TV watching a central Iowa local news broadcast when one of the anchors said something like, “There was an accident today at People’s Natural Gas in Ogden.” Then he started laughing, and his co-anchor lost it too. The gas plant has since changed its name.

“A Robust Cheese Blend”

“Weekday gourmet just took on a whole new meaning with Udi’s Pesto Tortellini. Tender gluten-free tortellini, creamy pesto and a robust cheese blend turn this hearty Italian classic into an indulgent anytime dish. Eat Well. Smile Often.”

I just ate this for lunch, this little frozen microwave dinner, and the only reason I ate it was because it’s hot and humid outside and I don’t want to go out to get better groceries. The box said it had a “robust cheese blend,” so maybe that’s why I’d bought it. A lot of cheese, right? But more on the food later.

This word “robust” seems like a good candidate for Word of the Year so far. Senator Al Franken mentioned it on page 196 in the latest political book that’s come out, Al Franken: Giant of the Senate (New York: Twelve/Grand Central Publishing, 2017). In the book, Senator Franken speaks out against the use of clichés in legislation and speechmaking, and this word was one that drew his ire. “No human being uses this word in casual conversation,” says Franken. “But everyone in Washington uses it all the time.” Franken himself didn’t, having forbidden its use in his office. He finally gave in though because another colleague insisted that he use it in legislation he was trying to get support for.

So what does “robust” really mean anyway? Franken offers a couple of examples: A “robust response” could be a “strong response,” or “robust funding” might mean “a lot of funding.” Generally, the word means strong or great, and it’s used quite a lot when education “professionals” (there’s another good one) talk about assessment. Standardized tests are robust if they test everything that you want, and the results are what you need so you can “drill down” (get more specific information about the students’ skills) and, theoretically, “close the loop” (use test information to make positive changes in the curriculum, which you can then test again to see if the changes did any good). The tests are strong in a non-physical sense, in other words. Robust. I get it.

The thing is, I read the statement about Udi’s Pesto Tortellini before I put it in the microwave, and I read the word “robust,” and immediately I felt like I wasn’t going to have a very good lunch. This word “robust” kind of means strong or great, but not really – it’s just advertising-speak. “Robust” is what you say when you want to sound strong but you know your product really isn’t. Microwave dinners are never really great, and standardized tests never really tell teachers like me everything I need to know. Maybe Senator Franken sensed some of this when he banned the word. Judging from his book, he sounds like he wants to be authentic in his discourse, and the word “robust” sounds fake.

Now then, about my lunch. Well, it had a “robust cheese blend” – meaning it didn’t have any real cheese taste in it that I could tell. It didn’t taste like pesto either. It didn’t taste like anything really. It was a “weekday gourmet” dish. It was gluten-free though. That’s good, right?

It’s not ninety degrees yet. Maybe I should go out and get something for supper.

Clear as Mud

I did it! I achieved the impossible! I successfully spent my entire maximum out-of-pocket health care expense for calendar year 2017! I just got about my fifth or sixth financial statement from the University of Iowa Hospital today, and they wanted me to send them a check for $2,732.13, so I did, and that brings my total up to the maximum of $3,000. The real amount for my recent adventure is closer to $30,000, but after I’d spent my deductible of $1,500, I had “coinsurance,” and it turns out, that’s good. The “co” in coinsurance means that I pay money but so does the insurance company, so we pay together in perfect harmony, and the insurance company even pays a bigger percentage than I do. It’s coinsurance! That’s like when I go to a doctor, I have a $15 copayment,” or “copay” as everybody says. It’s money that I pay, but that’s okay because the insurance company pays too, and together we make it so I can go to the doctor. If I didn’t have copays and coinsurance, I’d either be broke, dead, or living in Canada. Or Costa Rica. Or Hungary. Or Mexico. Or …

This “co” prefix sounds harmonious to me now, but its meaning was always ambiguous before – that is, before I got this attack of old age and started learning about what’s really important in life, like health networks and insurance adjustments, not to be confused with insurance payments. Naturally, that’s got me thinking about other uses of language that strike me as ambiguous. Take license plates, for example. You can buy what we used to call “vanity plates” to put your name or something else on your car’s licenses, and it’s a form of advertising. You might want everyone to know something about you, so you pay to have plates made up that say MATHDOC if you teach math or GR8SAIL if sailing is your hobby. Maybe RKY WTR1 if you canoe on rocky water (I’m guessing) or EYES UP if you’re, well, an astronomer? These are all plates from various states that I’ve taken note of recently, and it seems like the meanings are getting more ambiguous as I work through my list. I’ve seen a plate that says DING, which could be an inside joke of some sort, something that only family and friends get; other ones like this that I’ve seen are BENDA, BEAHEA, and JRBS. Either I’m not bright enough to decipher what these mean, or else the owners of these cars only want to communicate with a limited audience. But then I saw MSHRSH5, and who’s going to understand that? Or CMACHLI? These are both about as clear as mud, to quote Judge Wapner from years ago. I wonder if they’re being intentionally ambiguous? I guess I’ll have some LCPIZZA and contemplate the role of ambiguity in language a bit more.

By the way, on April 12th I had a LAPS SURG CHOLECSTC W/CHOLANGRPH for only $1,862.00! I feel like going out for a CHILIBN and celebrating.

Semantic Change

The story I heard was that back in the early 1980s, my home state of Iowa by that time had too many cars to make new license plates with just five numbers on them like they’d always done before, so the government decided to go with three letters and three numbers, much like other states had done by then. Our new governor, Terry Branstad, who’d been Governor Bob Ray’s lieutenant governor, formed a committee of upstanding citizens to make a list of three-letter words that shouldn’t be on the plates so that nobody would have to drive a car around with plates that said “SHY 946” or “FAT 713or something even worse. Everything seemed to be going great. The committee did its work, submitted the list, and the government (prisoners?) made the new plates – but in one Iowa county in particular, there was an uproar. What happened was that the committee had approved one word that they’d thought was just fine but, for reasons unknown to them, upset people. I’m pretty sure The Des Moines Register had the story: Citizens of this county were showing up to pay good money for their new plates, and they were being presented with bright, beautiful, clean Iowa license plates, maybe the highest-quality plates that Iowa had ever produced, and they said something like “GAY 268.”

It turns out that the people on the committee were all older, and they hadn’t picked up on the semantic change that had been happening with the word “gay” in the previous few years; their prototypical meaning for the word was more like “happy,” while everyone under age sixty or so thought it meant homosexuality first and happiness a distant second. This happens a lot with words. For example, if you talk about “chatting” with someone, do you think of talking face-to-face or on a computer somehow? Even mail is changing: If you “check your mail” most of us do one thing, but if you “get your mail” you might be getting something entirely different. What you mean probably depends on how old you are. Younger people have different ideas about the meanings of words and phrases, and I suppose that’s why it’s probably a good idea to have young people represented on committees – so they can throw in their two cents’ worth, the committees make better decisions, and the older folks don’t look stupid. If you expand this concept to include representation from other groups – men and women, ethnic groups, veterans and nonveterans, rich and poor, and so forth – you get into what we now call “diversity,” a term I don’t think I heard much in the early eighties. Neither, apparently, did Governor Branstad.

I’m thinking of Terry Branstad today because, just yesterday, he resigned the governorship to become the U.S. Ambassador to China. He’d served a total of 8,169 days, more time than any other governor in the history of the United States. That’s over twenty-two years and four months, broken into two time periods. So now we’ve got another lieutenant governor who’s made it to the top, Kim Reynolds, and I can’t help but wonder what’s going to get messed up. Hopefully not the license plates.

Demystifying Medical Jargon

Medical terminology can be confusing, but it isn’t that bad if you know your derivational morphemes. Huh? I mean, you need to know quite a few little bits of language that cause new words or parts of speech to be “derived” or formed. Dr. Janet A. Romich, a veterinarian, explains all of this in her article entitled “Understanding Basic Medical Terminology.” In case you missed its original 1993 publication in Veterinary Technician, you can still find it on pages 167 to 172 in the most comprehensive book on language that I’ve ever read, Language: Introductory Readings, 7th edition (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008).

The process of decoding these terms works pretty much like you’d expect. The definition of the word often starts with a suffix (itis “inflammation,” –oma “mass,” –stomy “opening,” etc.) and matches up with a root (or “stem,” we used to call them in linguistics classes, such as arthr “joint,” oste “bone,” or ot “ear”). There might be prefixes involved too, many of which are used outside of the medical profession (pre- or sub-, for instance) and others which generally aren’t (sclero– “hardening” or brady– “slow”). You slap the morphemes together, and presto, you’ve got a new word like “otitis” (inflammation of the ear) or “bradycardia” (slow heartbeat). Personally, I had “cholelithiasis” (the formation of gall stones: chole “relating to bile or the bile ducts” + lith “denoting types of stone” + ia “condition, disease” + sis “state of). I had to resort to The New Oxford American Dictionary for the first two parts of this puzzle, and Romich provided the last two bits. Fortunately, I didn’t have choledocholithiasis; I’m still working on what “docho” means, but it sure sounds fatal and I’m thanking my lucky stars that I avoided it. By the way, I’m getting this verbiage from my “Discharge Summary” that they gave me when I left the hospital. I also learned from this document that at one point I had “sepsis” (the presence in tissues of harmful bacteria and their toxins) with fever and “leukocytosis” (leuk or leuko “white” + cyt “cell” + sis or osis “denoting a process or condition” – that’s like too many white blood cells). What would I ever do without my dictionary? So now that you know exactly what I got, and got rid of, I’ll sum this up by saying that Romich does an excellent job of making medical terminology accessible to the general public. Not all medical morphemes are included in her short article, but I count 31 suffixes, 35 prefixes, and 28 roots altogether, and that should make enough words to keep you occupied with your new hobby for a while.

And now, I’ll conclude this column with a brief note for English teachers. If you’re thinking of teaching a lot of common prefixes, roots, and suffixes to your students who are learning English, here’s a piece of advice: Don’t do it. It won’t work. I tried about twenty years ago, and for every word that makes sense (“desensitize” or “predestination,” for example), they’ll make up a goofy one that should work but somehow doesn’t (they’ll megasocializeon Friday nights or “deonionize their sandwiches) or else they’ll ask about a word like “devastate” that looks like it has the prefix de- but doesn’t. So don’t press your luck. Just teach a few prefixes like pre- and post-, a few roots, a few suffixes, and let it go. It’s not worth it. Besides, if you teach too much of this, it might give you sacrodynia, and I know you don’t want a pain in the sacrum. That’s the last thing a teacher needs.

An Excellent Experience

Here’s a letter that came in the mail the other day. “Dear Mark Garton,” it says:

“Thank you for choosing University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for your care. Our goal is to deliver an excellent experience and the highest quality health care services to every patient, every time.” (I think I know what’s coming. I’ve heard this language before.)

“To do this, we depend on our patients and their families to share their experiences about what we are doing right and what we can improve upon. For this reason, we are asking you to tell us about the care you received during your recent hospital stay.” (I was right. Corporate here-comes-the survey language.)

“Please take a few minutes to answer the enclosed patient satisfaction survey and send it back in the postage-paid envelope. We value your honest feedback and will keep your answers confidential.” (Oh good. I was worried about that.)

This goes on a bit more, complete with a “Thank you for your time …” and a phone number to call if I have questions. All I need to do is to “contact the Office of The Patient Experience” at that number, and I’m sure I’ll get someone who really cares about me and who talks like a banker.

So why is this bothering me? It’s hard to pinpoint, but for starters, I didn’t “choose” this hospital – I was taken there by ambulance because that’s where the doctors were who could perform this “procedure” that I thought I was going to have but ultimately didn’t need. But I guess what strikes me is the cold, calculating, corporate quality of the language – the complete opposite of the very personal care that I received in the hospital. When I was there I was pretty sick, but I felt better mostly because I always knew my nurse, and when her shift ended she always walked into my room with the new nurse and introduced her to me and we talked a bit, and when we decided I’d have my gall bladder taken out the entire surgical team came into my room and stood around my bed and we just talked. You wouldn’t believe how good it felt when I was wheeled into surgery and I recognized every single person that I could see in there! Then I knew I wouldn’t die. The scene looked exactly like the one where Jaime Sommers was in surgery on The Six Million Dollar Man and she died, and I grew up in the 70s, so that really did flash through my mind there on the operating table. (I’d recently seen the show again, and she wasn’t dead dead. She was only TV dead. She got better and had her own series, The Bionic Woman.) I’m digressing again, but the point is that the language used in this letter is completely at odds with the entire experience I had in the hospital.

So now I’m reading the enclosure, this “Inpatient Survey,” and I’m trying to relive my hospital experience again so I can answer these questions, but I don’t want to. There are six background questions (“Patient’s first stay here..Yes No”) and then 54 questions (yes, 54!) on a five-point scale grouped into these categories: Admission, Room, Meals, Nurses, Tests and Treatments, Visitors and Family, Physician, Discharge, Personal Issues, Special Services, and Overall Assessment, with three lines for comments (“describe good or bad experience”) at the end of each category. Under “Tests and Treatments,for instance, I’ve got seven questions: “Waiting time for tests or treatments,” “Concern shown for your comfort during tests or treatments,” Explanations about what would happen during tests and treatments,” “Skill of the person who took your blood (e.g., did it quickly, with minimal pain),” “Courtesy of the person who took your blood,” “Skill of the person who started the IV (e.g., did it quickly, with minimal pain),” and “Courtesy of the person who started the IV.” Never mind that I can’t really answer some of these; I must have had at least a dozen people take my blood, and I was feverish at the time. My favorite question of the 54 is under “Room”; it reads, “Pleasantness of room décor.” There was a lovely watercolor of a sailboat by the window. I guess that’s worth at least a 3.

The survey concludes with two final questions: “Name one thing you wish were different about our hospital” and “What was the best thing about your family’s experience with our hospital?” I guess I can answer the first question anyway – how about if the Office of The Patient Experience could lighten up a bit? Otherwise, I think it’s a really good hospital.

Some Things Should Go Unsaid

I’ve got a cyst in my right kidney, and I saw the ultrasound, and it looks really big, but I’m “asymptomatic” so it’s probably okay. No worries. Probably.

That’s what I learned today when I went back to the University of Iowa Hospital (or “Hospitals” plural, as they say) for my two-week check-up after my gall bladder surgery. I passed inspection; in fact, they really weren’t that worried about me in the first place or else I wouldn’t have been talking to a medical assistant instead of the doctor. Or one of the doctors. I have several. I have more doctors than Donald Trump has golf courses. But I digress.

The lesson here is that, even though I had plenty of time to talk to the assistant – as contrasted with the maximum of five minutes that I ever get for a conversation with a doctor – sometimes it’s best not to know absolutely everything about the words they use. Like the next step in my newfound old age or whatever’s happening to me – I’m supposed to get a “colonoscopy.” Now I figured out all by myself that it probably had something to do with my colon and a scope of some sort (I’ve been to college!), but you know me, I just had to ask. I’ll leave it to all of you to google it and find out for yourselves what it really is. I don’t want to talk about it. So now I have to schedule a colonoscopy, but it turns out that my doctor (I mean, my regular one, whom I don’t like and won’t go back to) will schedule it for me. So I need to find a new doctor, so I should get a check-up and tell this new doctor about my health problems, and then this will be taken care of. Hopefully they’ll use an anaesthetic of some sort.

I’m mad at my regular doctor, by the way, not just because of him but because of his office. I went there about five years ago with an upset stomach and chest pains (!), and the nurse who grabbed my vitals listened to my complaint and then said, “Why don’t you just take a Pepcid?” In other words, she thought I was crazy to show up at a doctor’s office when my chest felt like it was about ready to explode (the cause was a big word that meant especially horrible acid reflux), and so our relationship went downhill from there. If she just hadn’t said that, I’d probably still be going there for my health care. I mean, her comment should have gone unsaid.

I remember in the hospital a couple of weeks ago a doctor asked me, “How’s your BM?” She had to ask about that because I wasn’t having any “bowel movements” (“BM,” get it?), but I was too dumb (and feverish, and in pain) to understand her. A lot of talk in this hospital is about things that normally go unsaid, and much of it involves highly specific vocabulary related to BM and related topics. You really have to know your BM-related vocabulary to have a conversation with medical personnel there, at least in the ward that I was in. I’m happy now to be out of the hospital and resuming a normal life, and I no longer have to talk about things that aren’t polite or that scare me. Like BM, and colonoscopies, and cysts. My LDL cholesterol is over 100 too. I’m sure glad I know all about this stuff now.

Looking back, I wonder if maybe the doctor was trying to be polite and not say “bowel movement” to me? Maybe she understood the value of leaving something unsaid, or at least just said with the initials. Or else maybe she slipped up and used doctor-speak with a patient. Either way, that’s given me something to think about. I think I’ll think some more about this and leave the rest of this column unsaid.

Hospital Talk

A little over a week ago, on Friday, April 8th and through early Saturday morning, I started to feel more and more pain in my abdomen. I knew this wasn’t a typical upset stomach like I’d had for years, so by about 6:00 a.m. I drove myself six miles over to the Dyersville hospital. They did some tests, transferred me over to Dubuque, did some more tests, and sent me by ambulance at “about eighty” (said the driver) to the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City. They thought they’d have to take a gall stone out of a tube that was blocking up my pancreas, but thankfully they didn’t have to do that. Instead, I got another test (an MRI, which was much harder to put up with than the ultrasounds, x-rays, CT scan or EKGs that I’d had before), and this test showed I had a really sick gall bladder full of stones. Everything ended up fine; I had the gall bladder out Wednesday and came home Thursday. Now I’m home, and other than feeling a little tired, I’m okay. In fact, I feel better than I’ve felt in months. Maybe the gall bladder’s being infected had something to do with that.

I don’t want to take up too much space with my own personal story of the hospital stay, so in this column – probably the first of several on the topic of hospital language – I’d like to review a few of the key terms and phrases that I heard. I was very much new to being a hospital patient, but I felt like everyone expected me to understand the language they used. I didn’t, so I hope this primer can help people like me get up to speed on the lingo.

A “procedure” is fairly obvious to figure out. It’s an operation of some sort. They use the word so as not to scare people, and to be frank, I was grateful for the ambiguity of the term. I didn’t really want to know that much about how they planned to get that rock unstuck. As it happened, the rock unstuck itself, or “passed” as they say. I don’t know if “passing a stone” means passing it completely out of my body or just out of a bad spot but within my body.

When they do some tests like CT scans, they use “contrasts,” which I envision as colored dye that they inject through your IV, which is the machine with the needle stuck into your arm or hand. There are apparently different types of contrasts for different tests, but as far as I know they all just pass through your body and out. Maybe some aren’t administered through an IV either. This IV is your constant companion throughout your hospital stay unless you’re lucky and don’t need one; it’s like your little brother who makes annoying noises and never goes away. The worst thing you can do in the hospital is to jerk the IV’s needle out of your arm; it took nurses four tries to get a fresh one back into mine.

I took a “prophylactic” every day. This is a shot in the shoulder which is to prevent blood clots. We don’t move around much in hospitals, so these can happen.

When nurses say, “Let me grab your vitals,” it’s not obscene. They want to take measurements of your vital signs – blood pressure, oxygen rate, and temperature. The temperature is taken with this gun they stick in your ear and it makes a loud beep when it’s done. My right ear temperature was 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit less than my left ear one night.

You need to understand that if you have pain, they’ll ask you to rate the pain on a scale of one to ten. They did this in all three hospitals that I visited last Saturday. Different people rate pain quite differently, I observed.

Everybody wants to have their surgery done “laparoscopically.” That means they make small incisions and have long instruments and a camera. When they say that your surgery will be done this way, that’s good news.

“Hydro Morphone” will kill your pain. Just five milliliters is all you need.

I want to thank my surgeon, Dr. Mcgonagill and his team, Dr. Johnson and Team A Medical, and especially all the nurses who got me through this: Hannah and Megan on the weekend, when I was really feverish, Paige for three days and Deb for two nights, Kristen the last night before surgery when I was getting worried, Jo the next night when I wasn’t, and Alexis the last day, Thursday, when I got communication straightened out so I could get home. And best of luck to Megan, the nurse’s assistant who took a long walk with me up and down the fourth floor of the hospital. Megan wants to be a nurse, and I know she’ll make it! And finally, I want to thank Suzanne for getting me home and giving me some healthy food so I wouldn’t have to go shopping right away when I got back. It’s pretty good food too. Who knew healthy food could taste like something?

The Speechwriter

As you’ve probably guessed, I like to read about language, but I read about a lot of other things too. One of my favorite topics is politics, especially if I can read about the inner circles of today’s political operatives. As it happens, one of the best books I’ve read recently is about both of these – language and politics. In The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics (2015, Simon & Schuster), Barton Swaim relates his experiences as a staffer for the governor of South Carolina a few years ago. It doesn’t hurt the story that this governor, whom he never named, is really Governor Mark Sanford, the man who at one point ran off with a woman from Argentina and was basically AWOL for a few days. Mr. Swaim started out as just another staffer, but after a while he was given the opportunity to “take a stab at” writing a draft of a speech for the governor.

The basic conflict in the book arises when the author, a freshly-minted PhD in English, has to write speeches and other correspondence “in the governor’s voice.” Early in the book, the author compiles a list of the governor’s typical words and phrases to use in his writing. Here’s the list (p. 41):

Phrases: given the fact that, toward that end, in which you operate, the level of, both … and frankly, goes well beyond, the way you live your life, in this regard (in this regard it’s worth …), in many ways, none other than, this larger (this larger notion/idea), for that reason, in large measure, as a consequence, more than anything, in my direction, nonetheless (small but nonetheless significant sign), over the weeks and months ahead

Nouns: range (a range of), host (a host of, whole host of), admiration (usu. profound admiration), pearls (of wisdom)

Adjectives, Adverbs: remarkable, incredible (working incredibly hard), inevitably, frankly, awfully, larger, disturbingly so, especially so, amazingly, considerable (very considerable), fabulous, dire

Verbs: present, impress (impressed me), admire (admire the fact that), highlight, underscore

Others: inasmuch, whereby

The author calls these terms “boring” and says most are “slightly awkward,” but he also says that they summarize the governor’s character as well as any biography ever could. He’d have the list in front of him whenever he wrote anything for the governor, and the results came out, well, boring. He got good enough at this that eventually he was writing everything from public speeches to replies to constituent letters in the governor’s voice, and it got to the point that when the governor’s affair with his mistress was made public, complete with e-mail exchanges, the author says he felt like he’d written the e-mail himself. Here are some of the governor’s words to his lover (p. 160): “You are special and unique and fabulous in a whole host of ways that are worth a much longer conversation.” “You have a level of sophistication that is so fitting with your beauty.” “In this regard it is action that goes well beyond the emotion of today.” “If you have pearls of wisdom on how we figure all this out please let me know.”

I can imagine all you women out there reading this column must be just swooning over these words. I’ve never been that great with women, so maybe I should learn to write like this. “Oh honey, more than anything, the level of your beauty impresses me inasmuch as it is both lovely and frankly gorgeous.” Okay, I’ll work on it. Just read the book. It’s hilarious.