News Quiz

No. 285: “Sir, Counterintuitive, Sir!’

Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera has announced a plan that will put more guns in American high schools. What is this program called?

Send your answer by 5 p.m. ET Sunday to

Monday’s Question (No. 284)–“Gamy”:

On Sunday, speaking on CNN’s Late Edition, White House economic adviser Gene Sperling said it reminded him of the game Twister. What?

“The nude Greco-Roman wrestling that concludes every episode of Late Edition.”–Tim Carvell

“Puff Daddy’s new board game, ‘Twizter.’ “–Alex Balk (John J. Edwards III had a similar, but “Bendy Reachy,” answer.)

“Hillary’s efforts to distinguish between sins of malice and sins of weakness.”–Daniel Radosh (similarly, Rachel Thompson, Craig Pyron, John Leary, and Sean Fitzpatrick)

” ‘Our infantile and soul-dead, hyper-consumeristic ways in a world where sunsets go unnoticed,’ said Sperling, looking up from an essay by Bill McKibben.”–Jim O’Grady

“I haven’t read the question yet, but my answer is Talk magazine.”–Greg Diamond

Click for more answers.

Randy’s Wrap-Up

“In all discussion of metaphor,” writes H. W. Fowler in Modern English Usage, “it must be borne in mind that some metaphors are living, i.e., are offered and accepted with a consciousness of their nature as substitutes for their literal equivalents, while others are dead, i.e., have been so often used that speaker and hearer have ceased to be aware that the words used are not literal.” Certainly we can consign all sports metaphors to the linguistic cemetery. And now, thanks to Gene Sperling, we can bury the metaphors of the casino–a crapshoot, a spin of the wheel, a stacked deck–replacing them with the vibrant metaphors of the rec room, i.e., Twister. One must be a little skeptical of Sperling’s personal experience with the game. Does he himself play, or has he merely observed others? (Kids? Colleagues? High-priced hookers?) But even if he lacks direct knowledge, he has chosen the perfect suburban verbal style for this administration, an excellent advance on “soccer mom.” Presumably, a living, Clintonian Einstein would declare, “I cannot believe that God plays Nintendo with the world.”

A Taxing Answer

Republican economic arguments–in particular the GOP’s defense of its proposed tax cut–remind Gene Sperling of Twister.

House and Senate Republicans passed separate $792 billion, 10-year tax-cut bills, which they hope to reconcile in conference committee before the summer recess begins at the end of this week.

President Clinton has vowed to veto any tax cut of that size, saying it favors the rich over the poor, could drive the government into deficit, and fails to provide for urgent needs including Medicare reforms, education, and debt reduction.

Metaphor Fun Extra

Can you give the literal meaning of these figures of speech, each of which appeared in a recent quotation in the New York Times?

1. A new sheriff in Dodge

2. Another large piece of plaster

3. A dangerous slope

4. A bad apple in the box

5. A bunch of ayatollahs

6. A gangster

7. A policeman

8. The girl


1. Pat Robertson, firmly in control of the non-tax-cheating Christian Coalition. Says Pat Robertson, “We have a new sheriff in Dodge, and it’s a brand new game.”

2. Judge Joyce Hens Green’s ruling that the Christian Coalition did not illegally distribute millions of voter guides meant to boost Republican candidates. Says campaign finance lawyer Robert F. Bauer, “This is certainly another large piece of plaster which is falling off the ceiling of campaign finance regulation.”

3. The new sound system for the New York City Opera that will not amplify voices. Worries traditionalist Lofti Mansourie of the San Francisco Opera, “It is a dangerous slope. … We have to fight hard not to compromise the natural sound of the voice and its natural projection.”

4. Banker John Mathewson who gives Cayman Islands money-laundering a bad name. Says banking lawyer Stephen Feldhaus, “There is a very legitimate role for places like the Caymans where people want the ability to operate in a regulatory-neutral and tax-neutral atmosphere. … Mr. Mathewson was just a bad apple in the box.”

5. Intolerant clergy who disdain sex of any kind. Says the Rev. Richard Gorman of a coalition of priests and local residents battling an incursion of hot-bed motels in their Bronx neighborhood, “We have a very active clergy, but we’re not a bunch of ayatollahs.”

6, 7, 8. China, the United States, Taiwan. Says David Chou, a promoter of U.S. statehood for Taiwan, “China is like a gangster; the United States is like a policeman. Every time the gangster tries to take the girl in his arms, she has to call the policeman to come save her. Our job is to get the girl married to the policeman. Then there is no danger, and the protection is permanent.”

Common Denominator

Eyes Wide Shut.