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Lace ’Em Up Right

Great coach, and great player, John Wooden (Reuters/ Jeff Vinnick)

We have a new Jaywalking podcast out for you, here. It’s headed “Sweet Songs and Sour.” One of the sweet ones is sung by Rosemary Clooney, at the end. And I’d like to give you a memory.

Years ago, Nick Clooney ran for Congress in Kentucky. Everyone said, “He’s George Clooney’s father.” Indeed, that’s how he was always identified: “George Clooney’s father.” But Mark Steyn said, “George Clooney’s father? For heaven’s sake, he’s Rosemary Clooney’s brother!”

• Our Kevin Williamson — can I still say that? — has begun writing for The Atlantic, here. His article concludes, “. . . the United States is for the moment left with two authoritarian populist parties and no political home for classical liberalism at all.”

That’s some bad, bad news.

The other day, I wrote an article about Kevin and WFB. Here is what one of our readers, in Maryland, writes about Kevin:

I forwarded his work to so many friends and family — conservatives and liberals — over the years. I especially loved the articles that caused him so much grief. Very important to me was the one about picking up and moving, if the place where you are is desolate. He was advocating what my father did!

• In that article of mine, I wrote this:

Years ago, a man told me he had canceled his subscription to National Review after “too much untranslated French.” WFB thought you should have known, or looked it up, or learned it. Also, he was writing for other educated people. He was unblushing about this. He was unashamed of it. He was slammed for it too, although this is little remembered on the right today. (He was constantly slammed as “effete,” throughout his life.)

A reader in Texas writes, “Yes, I looked up a few words after hearing or reading him. Didn’t hurt me a bit.” Nope. Same.

• Speaking of WFB, and words: In a post yesterday, Jonah Goldberg quoted WFB on Ayn Rand:

Her exclusion from the conservative community was, I am sure, in part the result of her desiccated philosophy’s conclusive incompatibility with the conservative’s emphasis on transcendence, intellectual and moral . . .

“Desiccated” is spelled correctly, above. But when this particular piece of WFB’s came out, it was spelled incorrectly: “dessicated.” I’m sure that some editor did that to him. (Happens, vexingly.)

I’ll give you a memory — another one: Many years ago, when I was working at The Weekly Standard, one of our managing editors, Richard Starr, said that, in his experience, “desiccated” was the most frequently misspelled word — people want to do a double ess.

As 1999 became 2000, I discovered something: “Millennium” is the most misspelled word by far! Everyone and his brother was writing about the millennium, and everyone and his brother was using one “n” — even famous and experienced writers. I marveled at this, as an editor. “Millennium” was damn near universally misspelled.

You know what is also misspelled? “Misspell.” People want to use one ess.

• In an Impromptus last week, I had a little appreciation of Zell Miller, the feisty, rather conservative Democrat from Georgia who has just died. A reader writes to say that he will always remember Miller for the word “spitballs.” I know what he means.

Delivering the keynote address at the 2004 Republican convention — Miller was supporting President George W. Bush over the Democratic nominee, John Kerry — Miller recited a long list of weapons systems that Kerry had opposed, in a long Senate career. Miller concluded, “This is the man who wants to be the commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?”

• In an Impromptus this week, I had an item about sports and the fundamentals. For instance, the NFL coach Chuck Noll would teach his All-America guards how to assume a stance properly. Jack Nicklaus would go back to his boyhood teacher and say, “Now, how do I hold the club again? How do I stand?”

Several readers wrote to recall John Wooden, the great college basketball coach — who would insist that his players put on their socks and tie up their shoes the right way. This was important, he felt — he knew — to their performance.

By the way, I’ve referred to Wooden as a great coach — but I know a man, of some years, who says, “People talk about what a great coach he was, and it’s true. But, before that, he was one of the best basketball players in America.”

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