In response to your Oct. 3 editorial, "GIs as postdisaster police? Think again": I think you are partly right and partly wrong. The US needs an entity that can efficiently respond to disasters and terrorist attacks within US borders. And absolutely, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps are the wrong organizations for this job, partly because they are already spread too thin and are having a recruiting crisis, and partly because they are trained for war, not to handle peacetime disasters. However, I don't think the Coast Guard falls in the same category. This branch of the military is already primarily a law enforcement organization, and it has installations all over the US, though primarily in its coastal waters. With a very small redefinition of its mandate and a slightly larger budget I think the Coast Guard could step into this gap efficiently and quickly. We don't need to reinvent the wheel.
Regarding the Sept. 29 article, "Product placement pushes into print": The New Yorker magazine, in OK'ing their Target-department-store-sponsored issue, forgot what they learned the hard way in 1936. Alexander Woollcott, who wrote their "Shouts & Murmurs" Dept., ended that year with a testimonial that was a thinly veiled advertisement for a brand of whiskey. E.B. White, under the guise of Eustace Tilley, chided Woollcott for selling his good name for commercial gain. In a letter to Woollcott, White argued, "If your public approval of a trademarked product, and your influence can be bought at a price, then carrying the thing through to an extreme, it is fair for General Motors to try to buy the good will of, say, the Secretary of State, and it is fair for the Secretary to consider selling it."
John Morton, former columnist for the American Journalism Review, is right. "You need to know what's for sale and what isn't." Esquire Magazine had the same quandary, in 1976, when they considered a Xerox sponsorship for a Harrison E. Salisbury article. White argued then that the controlled press would not be far behind. Today's media conglomerates muddy the waters further. When editorial content and advertising become indistinguishable, honesty and credibility are compromised, and a magazine risks its greatest asset: its readers.
Granddaughter of E.B. White
I understand Mr. Shaffer's concern in his Sept. 23 Opinion column, "Excusify me, but is 'refugeed' a verb?", because newspapers have an interest in broadcasting a particular language standard to their readers. However, I do not agree with two of his observations of English morphology (word change). First, the English language is equipped to create verbs from nouns. These are called denominal verbs. If a girl put butter on her bread, we say, "she buttered her bread." Although it is novel to use the word "refugee" as a denominal verb, it is possible in the English lexicon. Second, just because a word is nonstandard does not mean that it breaks linguistic rules. In India, one can "prepone" a meeting by rescheduling it before the original time. In the US, we only postpone meetings. Why can't people meet before official planning by "preplanning"? Mr. Shaffer shouldn't be concerned about English morphology going amok. A word that obeys English morphology may gain a foothold in the lexicon if the public uses it and newspapers promote it; if a new word dies, then perhaps newspapers can have their just desserts by creating an obituary for it.
MA, Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).
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