Today's language lesson: puns, and mums

This Just In . . .

April 30, 1999|By DAN RODRICKS

A FRIEND writes: "In one block of Pennsylvania Avenue in Towson, you find the Perking Lot, Thai One On, Cluck U., and San Sushi Too. (Once there was a fashionable Washington restaurant called Sans Souci.) Given all this, don't you think they ought to rename it 'Punsylvania Avenue'?" ... There's a radio ad airing for local shopping malls that alerts us to the approach of Mother's Day by offering all sorts of ways to say "mother." You know, "Mama Mia" and the like. In an attempt to appeal to Asian shoppers, the spot includes the phrase "Mama-san." Trouble is, says a student of the language, "Mama-san" isn't what the Japanese call their mothers. (That would be okaasan.) A "Mama-san" is a woman who runs an escort service or "gentlemen's club." ... TJI contributor El Cranko-o, noting the absence of Aaron Ledesma from the Orioles dugout this season and the presence of Rich Amaral, says: "Have there ever been two ballplayers with two last names that sounded more like an ailment and its cure? 'Do you suffer from chronic Ledesma? Try new, fast-acting, extra-strength Amaral!'" ... The Sykesville Police Department has a new police dog unit, a 1-year-old golden retriever male donated by counterparts in Baltimore County. When police Chief Wallace Mitchell informed the Town Council about Deedle, the first question everyone asked: "Does he speak English?" The town's former police dog unit, a German shepherd now retired, had been trained in Europe. It only responded to commands in Czech, which all six town officers dutifully learned.

1 day for honesty, 364 for...

Today is National Honesty Day. I am not making this up. Hirsh Goldberg did. This is his baby. Baltimore writer and public relations executive, author of "The Book of Lies," Goldberg conceived National Honesty Day and the Honest Abe Awards that go with it. He announces the Abies every April 30.

To tell the truth, Goldberg doesn't actually present the Abies -- there are no Honest Abe trophies -- nor does he call on his cousin Whoopi to be host of a lavish, nationally televised National Honesty Day ceremony. (Mostly because he's not related to Whoopi. I made that part up!)

Goldberg's routine is to emerge from his Towson office each spring and read from a list of saints and sinners -- those who exhibited honesty during the past year, and those who are worth only a dishonorable mention. Let's start with the losers:

The International Olympic Committee. Thirty of its 115 members have been implicated in a bribery and extortion scandal.

President Clinton. No explanation needed.

Capt. Joseph Schweitzer, a Marine aviator involved in the deadly Italian ski gondola accident. He was the navigator of the jet that clipped the gondola cable, killing 20 people. He later admitted to burning a videotape shot during the fatal flight. He was dismissed from the military. His commander said: "A Marine officer basically lives or dies by his integrity."

The Rev. Henry Lyons, former president of the National Baptist Convention and convicted swindler.

The Honest Abe Awards go to:

Richard Walker. He's the Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement director who called attention to the growing use of the Internet for fraud and made a pledge to stop it.

Oprah Winfrey. The talk-show host refuses to pay for interviews. Says Goldberg: "She adhered to that policy by not offering any payment to or making any special hidden deals with Monica Lewinsky, though it meant the loss of a big ratings opportunity."

Mike McCurry, the former White House press secretary. "During the height of the Clinton- Lewinsky scandal," says Goldberg, "he tried to perform his duties professionally and was never accused of issuing any false or misleading statements. Leaving the Clinton White House in midterm, he was quoted as saying he 'tried to tell the truth slowly.'"

Grand Prize Winner: Bracha Graber, a New York City social worker who blew the whistle on her city and state for collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds for foster care services that were not provided. Last fall, the city and state agreed to pay back $49 million, one of the federal government's largest recoveries under the False Claims Act.

I'd like to add an Honest Abe Award for:

Jack McGlone. He was shortstop last spring for the Cardinals of the Towson Recreation Council's 6-8 age group Farm League. In a playoff game June 20, as his Dodger opponents threatened to score in the fifth inning -- runners at first and second and one out -- Jack snatched a hard-hit grounder, appeared to tag the Dodger runner coming off second base, then stepped on the bag to force out the runner from first. As everyone cheered what appeared to be a big double play, Jack yelled, "I never touched him!" He admitted missing the tag. The umpire, who did not have a clear view of the play, ordered the inning resumed with two outs.

Two weeks later, when the Orioles were in New York, Yankee third baseman Scott Brosius had a chance to display similar honesty, but blew it.

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