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I Made A Bumper Sticker

Last political post until Thursday, I promise.

I came up with what I thought was a great idea for a nerdy bumpersticker. I even made a copy and put it on my car. Alas, I appear to have been too clever for my own good: when I showed it to my focus group, most confessed to not getting it.

Oh well, I still think it's funny. Here's the image -- if you have label paper for your printer and a secret desire to be inscrutable, you can print one out and slap it on your Honda.

Update: Okay, everyone is writing me to say they don't get the sticker. Here's a hint: the red squiggle is what editors and proofreaders use to indicate "remove this letter." I probably should have mentioned that this was "grammar nerdy," not "tech nerdy."

Update: Reader Patrick Kent envisions the conservative's rebuttal.

Posted on October 11, 2004 to Politics


I don't get the bumper sticker. :(

Posted by: Anonymous on October 12, 2004 4:17 PM

I'm guessing no W in the White House right?

Of course the Clinton's already used that joke when they stole all the W keys on the White House computers so that joke is SO 1999.

Posted by: Duane on October 12, 2004 4:18 PM

My first thought went to the Hite report and what the hell did that have to do with anything. After rubbing 2 neurons together for far too long, finally the little light went on...

Posted by: Shaggy on October 12, 2004 4:19 PM

OK, I'm a former copy editor, I totally get what the little squiggly mark means, and I STILL don't understand the bumper sticker. Who is Hite? Why should he have a house?

Posted by: Carny Asada on October 12, 2004 4:19 PM

Just wanted to thank you for the bumper sticker... I'm an editor by trade, and I printed it off and placed it prominently in my workstation. My fellow grammar-geek coworkers are lovin' it.

Posted by: Amy on October 12, 2004 4:19 PM

I wonder if one's response to the bumper sticker says something about one's linguistic thought patterns.
The natural reading for me is as an edited text, so that it says "hite house". Which left me right there with the baffled majority. But then I thought about it for a while, and read it "take the W out of 'white house'" instead. And here in the comments, we've got two people very familiar with copy-editing shorthand, one of whom was lost and the other of whom immediately printed it out. Could it be that one treats editing marks as shorthand edits, while the other treats them as instructions for making edits? Could that point to a deeper dichotomy between language as text and language as instructions for thinking?

Probably not.

Posted by: Klaas on October 12, 2004 4:20 PM

It took me a minute, but I eventually got it. The conservative rebuttal however has me scratching my head.

I'd suggest that you be careful about putting this on your car though. Its just begging to have people rear end you when they are distracted by trying to figure out what the hell it means =)

Posted by: HDC on October 12, 2004 4:39 PM

"stet" means "leave it as it was, don't make the correction indicated by the little line through the W". I personally agree with the original, not the rebuttal.

Posted by: thatgrrrl on October 12, 2004 5:09 PM

That's OK, Matthew. I got it. It's good. Don't let the literalists get you down.

Posted by: Dave on October 12, 2004 6:44 PM

For what it's worth, I got it right away. Then again, I was the proofreader for my college newspaper. :)

Posted by: Larisa on October 12, 2004 10:15 PM

So, I got the bumper sticker just before I looked at the hint (I proofread a lot, though) and it reminded me of the time I went to a costume party where the theme was "water" and I made a t-shirt that said "hijklmno" and only one person got it. I thought it was clever.

Posted by: Leslie on October 13, 2004 1:05 AM

Get it? "H" to "O" as in H20 ...

Posted by: Leslie on October 13, 2004 1:13 AM

I'm one that read it as edited text - "who/what is 'hite?'" - maybe it's too early in the morning for me, but I had to go to the comments to figure it out. Good idea though- very nerdy!

Posted by: Ginger on October 13, 2004 4:48 AM

The Hite House had me scratching my head too.

And "H" to "O?" Now my head just hurts.

Posted by: turbulent priest on October 13, 2004 5:44 AM

I saw this on FilePile!

Posted by: mike on October 13, 2004 7:09 AM

Thanks for getting it thatgrrrl... and for the record, I also agree with the original. But how often does one get the chance to use "stet" or any copy editing nerdiness in any sort of humorous way?

Posted by: Patrick Kent on October 13, 2004 8:08 AM

It took about ten seconds for me to get it, then I liked it, then I laughed out loud at the "rebuttal." Data for you, Mr. Baldwin.

Posted by: Sumana on October 13, 2004 8:25 AM

OK, now I get it. And it's actually kind of funny. Yes, I tend to read it as edited text, not as instructions for editing.

But I got "H to O" immediately.

Posted by: Carny Asada on October 13, 2004 11:02 AM

Note that "H to O" also precurses "P."

Posted by: Jerry Kindall on October 13, 2004 11:29 AM

It took me a long time to figure it out. I, like many others, read it as "Hite House" and figured it was a relatively obscure reference that I simply did not understand.

Posted by: Daniel on October 13, 2004 7:44 PM

I'm glad to read these comments since I also read it as "Hite House." I even went a step further and thought maybe you just wanted to take out the first half of the W, leaving Vhite House. That didn't make sense either.

Posted by: Lunasea on October 13, 2004 8:56 PM

My first thought was that it had something to do with the Hite Report on Female Sexuality by Shere Hite (circa 1976) which made no sense at all, given that the combined libidos of the two guys running couldn't warm up a can of beans. I was too young to understand the significance of the book, but remembered that it made a stir.

For no real good reason, except to waste more of your time, Here is the blurb from Amazon: (You know you're going to read it, because there's sex involved):

Featuring a new foreword by the author, this is the classic feminist analysis of sex that galvanized a cultural revolution. Originally published in 1976, The Hite Report revealed the most intimate sexual feelings of 3,000 women: what they like and don't like; how orgasm really feels, with and without intercourse; how it feels to not have an orgasm during sex; the importance of clitoral stimulation and masturbation; and the greatest pleasures and frustrations of their sexual lives. The most shocking revelation was that orgasm is simply and easily achieved with the right stimulation, and that sex is a cultural institution - not just a biological one. Hite explains in her introduction that while society has in theory made great strides with regard to female sexuality since the book's first edition, the dissatisfactions with their sex lives some women voice today are reminiscent of the issues raised in the 1970s..

Posted by: FritaMita on October 13, 2004 9:32 PM

I'm pretty disappointed, because up until this point it's been fun to try and decide which side you're on. And now I know. And it ruins the blogreading for the next 20 days. :(

Posted by: Nameless on October 13, 2004 9:58 PM

I hate to say it, but I am a grammar nerd who fell into the baffled minority. Or maybe it was a majority I fell into, which would also explain my crowd surfing dreams.

Anyway, the first thing I thought of was also the Hite Report, and while I have no doubt that Laura hasn't had a good 'O' since she got married, I just didn't think that the thrust of the joke was deep enough to make me burst with laughter.

So the first thing I did was Google "Hite". And the first site that came up was:

>J & D HITE Saxophone Mouthpieces

With the recent "Is Bush Wired" controversy, I thought this was at least *mildly* funny. Bush is, after all, little more than a mouthpiece -- but not for Clinton, even though he played the sax. Those guys don't have anything in common; remember poor Laura.

Had I Googled "Hite House", the joke would have been obvious. It's a shame I'm too lazy to do more than one search on a topic.

Thanks for letting me in on the punchline, guys. And the conservatives' rebuttal is funny, even if you don't get the original joke.

Posted by: levendis on October 14, 2004 12:45 AM

I'm with the other proofreaders, I kept seeing "Hite House" until finally your meaning clicked. I second the smart talk from Klaas about the " deeper dichotomy between language" thingee. Yeah, that.

Posted by: Ginevra on October 14, 2004 4:35 AM

I'm an editor and I don't get it. Hite house? Does the fact that it's pink mean something--breast cancer fundraising?

Posted by: beloml on October 14, 2004 8:22 AM

This is why there is so little humor directed at copy editors.

Posted by: Carny Asada on October 14, 2004 11:39 AM

THANK YOU! Really clever, and much appreciated. Very funny.

Posted by: RedBetty on October 14, 2004 1:16 PM

Okay, I must be a "mongo-nerd" because when the page loaded and I saw the image, I laughed out loud--took me about a nano second.

Woman Who Carries Red Pencil

Posted by: ebu on October 14, 2004 1:35 PM

The number of editors in your audience is plain scary.

typed very carefully

Posted by: just-married on October 15, 2004 12:37 PM

I just went back and read this article again and caught something I hadn't noticed before. Matthew, you're using a focus group on us! I think you must be involved in a conspiracy to pander to our humorous interests. We want a yeti that will lead us to laughter, not pander to what some poll-driven, market researching bastard says we want to laugh at! Stand firm in your beliefs of what is and is not funny! "Defective" yeti, indeed!

Posted by: Dave on October 16, 2004 4:06 AM

Count me among the many who said, "Hite House? What's that?" I had to read the comments before I got the joke.

It's not only editors who use proofreading marks - I use them all the time when marking up stuff that my secretary has typed for me.

Posted by: Elizabeth on October 19, 2004 8:25 AM