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I have a trivial aside in Impromptus today. (There’s a first time for everything, I know.) All my life, I’ve heard and said “Champaign-Urbana.” But I recently learned that the University of Illinois is in “Urbana-Champaign.” That’s the official order. I found this confusing . . .

. . . until receiving this letter from a reader:

Jay,

I was born and raised in Champaign and graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “Champaign-Urbana” is common/correct when referring to the twin cities themselves. Champaign is about 50 percent larger.

However, I was always told that Urbana comes first when used with “University of Illinois” because the campus sits primarily in Urbana.

Interesting (?) story: Once, while taking some pictures for a photography class late at night (I was trying to capture the movements of car headlights) on the north end of campus, I was jumped and had my camera stolen. I crossed the street to a gas station to call the police, and was frustrated when the dispatcher made me be very specific about where the crime had taken place. “Just send the cops and I’ll tell them!” is what I was thinking. But I realized later that, in crossing the street, I had crossed from Urbana into Champaign. The dispatcher needed to know which police department to send!

Maybe that’s not so interesting. But it was pretty exciting at the time!

I can imagine. And it occurs to me: If the incumbent president started a line of bubbly, it could be Obama Champagne — or Champagne Obama.

Feeling grouchy about puns? Feeling Grinchy about them? Okay, just for that, take this — a fable that landed in my inbox last week:

Ivan and Olga were out for a walk in Leningrad one night. As the city name tells you, this was back in Soviet times. Ivan felt a drop of something hit his nose. “I think it’s raining,” he said to Olga.

“No,” she said, “it felt more like snow to me.” Ivan insisted it was rain. And they soon fell into a testy argument.

In due course, they saw a Party official walking toward them. “Let’s not fight,” said Ivan. “Instead, we’ll ask Comrade Rudolf whether it’s officially raining or snowing.”

So, as this man approached, Ivan called out, “Tell us, Comrade Rudolf, is it officially raining or snowing?” The man growled, “Raining, of course.”

Ivan smiled broadly, as he and Olga walked on. But Olga muttered, “It still feels like snow to me.” Whereupon Ivan said, “Rudolf the Red knows rain, dear.”

Please direct your complaints to Jack Fowler, Publisher, National Review, Inc., New York City.



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