Cumberland Times-News

Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything

February 25, 2012

Having a dirty mind can be a definite asset

My friend Maude McDaniel says she has two readers (I don’t know if she counts me), and there is now proof that I have at least one.

A co-worker told me the other day I had written something in my latest column that he didn’t understand. He wondered if I had meant to say what I did.

That was unsettling, because I try to write in plain, but correct English. (If my mother the English teacher were here, she’d tell you to her great dismay that I tend to speak in plain American.)

He fetched a copy of the newspaper and pointed to Goldy’s Rule 72, which read “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you.”

Oops. It obviously should have read, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

I sometimes tell my co-workers that if they ever hear me calling someone a dumb (a variety of derogatory and thoroughly unprintable words or terms can be inserted here), I am speaking to myself.

Subsequently, I have added to the list another rule I have long been aware of but haven’t included until now — Goldy’s Rule 77: When you try to do too many things at once, you will do something wrong, and it will be such a simple thing that neither you nor anyone else will notice it until it is too late.

This is particularly true at newspapers. Mistakes often manage to slip through just because they look right. If it doesn’t involve a misspelling or bad grammar, it may escape all of the eyes that are cast upon it ... until it comes out in the paper, and then it will be the first thing everyone sees.

I once miscalculated the number of years that had passed since D-Day and was so informed. But then, I always have had trouble adding and subtracting (for some reason, multiplying and dividing have never been a problem).

If I’d had a calculator in high school, I would have made A’s in algebra, physics and chemistry instead of C’s and an occasional B.

On the other hand, I can make change without the aid of an electronic device and can tell time on an old-fashioned watch or clock that has a dial instead of digital numbers — things some of the products of our modern parenting and education systems cannot do.

In years past, the Times-News published a Voter’s Guide that listed all of the candidates for local, county, state and national offices.

The League of Women Voters of Allegany County submitted a list of questions to everyone who was running for office, and we printed their responses (with a word limit, of course; remember we are talking about politicians).

It was my responsibility to put the thing together and write whatever headlines were involved.

The editor and I, and members of the League of Women Voters, went over it with a comb that was so fine-toothed you could comb frog hair with it. At least 20 people read every last word in it, we made all of the corrections, and it was pronounced ready for the press.

It was only after it had been printed that several people simultaneously noticed that the section involving candidates for U.S. Senate was topped by a headline that said, “Candidates for 6th District Congressman.”

Newspaper people are notorious for having what’s called “dirty minds.” This isn’t simply because we tend to be naughty people, so much as it’s a survival mechanism.

Back in the day, I was doing the front page during the height of the Watergate debacle.

One of our top stories involved an Associated Press report in which some people speculated that special prosecutor Archibald Cox was the source of sensitive information that was being leaked to the press.

A proofreader called me over to her desk and pointed to the story.

“Goldy,” she asked, “do you really want this headline to read the way it does?”

Not exactly, I said — or words to that effect — and hurried back to my desk to help spare the newspaper and myself considerable embarrassment.

Now and then, something jumps out at us, and we editors react accordingly ... that is to say, in spectacularly colorful fashion.

And that is precisely how I reacted upon reading that one of our reporters said the subject of her story, the patron of a gym, “was exercising his biceps, triceps and forceps.”

Another senior editor and I occasionally reminisce about the time we spared the family and friends of a dear departed loved one from reading in his obituary that a “Massive Christian Burial” would be celebrated on his behalf.

Until the newspaper came under the sway of a regime that is no longer with us, and which considered such a hobby politically incorrect, we kept a scrapbook of strange things that have appeared in the paper — one of which did refer to a “Mass of Christmas Burial.”

I am the custodian of it and was reading through it recently. The best ones, sadly, I cannot repeat because of their nature (a dirty mind hadn’t been present to keep them from happening). But here are a few:

(Advertisement) Ham Hawk’s ... 99 cents per pound ... great for green beans. (Most of us knew what a chicken hawk is, but nobody ever saw a ham hawk. It would have to be a big son of a gun to make off with Porky.)

(Headline) Policeman Shoots Man With Knife.

(News story) It was arroneously reported that ... .

(Advertisement) Jiffy Cake Mixes 16 cents. Some stores charge 12 cents.

(News story) A hand-carved ivory chest set, each piece over one foot high and set with precious stones, costs $10,000. (Unanimous agreement among the male staffers that we’d love to have seen it.)

(Sports story) Finzel began at Beall High in 1935 at the time when the Depression was griping the country.

(Classified ad) Doctor’s office wants part-time aid to assist doctor with patience.

(News story) Police said the burglary occurred between 4 p.m. Dec. 25 and 11:30 a.m. Christmas.

And to all ... a good night.

(P.S.: I have provided all the information you need to re-create that five-word Watergate headline.)

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