What–You Can Still Send a Telegram?

In these days of instant messaging, not to mention e-mail, overnight mail, and telephones, are people still sending telegrams?

Yes, just ask the prime minister of France, Lionel Jospin, who according to the New York Times sent President-elect George W. Bush a congratulatory telegram [stop] According to Western Union, who did not deliver the prime minister’s good wishes but is sending congratulatory telegrams to Bush from his fellow citizens, telegrams are still sent for major life events–promotions, graduations, marriages, births, deaths–because they have a sort of sentimental impact [stop] But sentiment is a dying commodity these days [stop] While Western Union delivered its first telegram in 1877, it is now primarily a mover of money by wire; telegrams are only a small part of its business [stop] If you receive a Western Union telegram today, don’t expect a uniformed messenger in a circular hat–the company doesn’t even have its own fleet of delivery people but contracts with local services [stop] The telegrams are still typed on yellow paper, but they are punctuated the regular way [stop] The telegraphese use of “stop” to indicate the end of a sentence was dropped decades ago.

Explainer Gets Mail …Explainer, in your item on the Electoral College you said that the candidate who gets the most popular votes in each state wins the whole Electoral College slate, except for Maine and Nebraska, which vote proportionately. But all of Maine’s four electoral votes are going to Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, and all of Nebraska’s five electoral votes are going to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. How is that?

These two states apportion their electoral votes this way: The winner of the popular vote in each congressional district gets one Electoral College vote, and the winner of the state’s popular vote gets two at-large Electoral College votes. This year Maine’s two congressional districts, as well as the state as a whole, went for Gore. Nebraska’s three congressional districts, as well as the state as a whole, went for Bush.

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Explainer thanks Wendy Carver-Herbert of Western Union.