James J. Kilpatrick

In the galaxy of syndicated columnists, the Post's George F. Will ranks with Ursa Major. He even looks like a Great Bear, but -- beware of mixed allusions -- he sometimes nods like good old Homer. A few weeks ago he slipped away from politics long enough to write a change-of-pace piece about Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind." It was the novel's 70th birthday.

As it appeared in newspapers almost everywhere, Will's column for June 24 began: "Confined to her bed in Atlanta by a broken ankle and arthritis, her husband gave her a stack of blank paper and said, 'Write a book.'"

The sun had barely crept above the eastern rim before my computer shuddered with e-mails from across the continent. Typically, Gary Nelson in Medford, Ore., and Jan Beaujon in Charleston, S.C., expressed their incredulity. Why was Ms. Mitchell's husband confined to her bed? And why had the famous columnist dwelled upon their conjugal relations? After all, they had wed a long time ago.

A postscript must be added. When the column appeared in Will's home paper on June 25 it began, chastely, "Confined to her bed in Atlanta ... she was given a stack of blank paper by her husband ..." Everybody should have a copy editor like Will's copy editor at the Post.

(Readers are invited to send dated citations of usage to Mr. Kilpatrick in care of this newspaper. His e-mail address is kilpatjj@aol.com.)


James J. Kilpatrick

James J. Kilpatrick has been reporter, editor, columnist, commentator, and briefly an adjunct professor of journalism.

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