Dean's Den

What the New York Times said about me in 1985

I used to write for PC Magazine, whose editors invariably throw out whatever title you put on your article and replace it with one of their own gems, presumably to achieve a more balanced and stylistically consistent table of contents. I eventually got into the habit of putting silly titles on my articles just to tease them, things like "What is the Title of this Article?" (They never noticed the difference.)

When I wrote a comparison of word processors, I decided to play with the name of the most famous one and came up with the palindrome "Rats Drown in WORDSTAR." When I went up to the magazine's editorial offices to turn in my article I showed the palindrome to James Langdell, editor of the PC Communiqués column and something of a humorist. He cracked up at the silliness of it all, and to my surprise he even mentioned it a few weeks later in his column:

MicroPro's Rodent Processor

      The only thing more difficult to explain than inventing a palindrome is inventing a plausible explanation for it. Regular PC contributor Dean Hannotte came up with an elegant, PC-related sentence that reads the same forwards and backwards. Since it's not the sort of thing you'd find occasion to say more days of the week, I'll suggest a way to justify Hannotte's polished gem into a conversation:
      "I'm sure you've heard of debugging software. But did you know that a popular program can dispose of larger pests? Yes, it's true . . .

Wait, that's not all. A few days after James' column appeared I was teaching a class in UNIX at NYU -- their first ever, ahem. At the break one of my students raised his hand and said, "Mr. Hannotte, what did you think of your mention in the New York Times today?" After they revived me, he showed me the Peripherals computer column by Peter Lewis from the Science Times section:

Self-Control and WordStar

      During one of those interminable waits at the terminal, Dean Hannotte, a writer, discovered the following palindrome:
      Rats drown in Wordstar.
      Anyone who has spent time with this popular word-processing program has probably felt the same way . . . .

Isn't it amusing to observe how Mr. Lewis left no stone unturned in tracking down and verifying the facts of the incident he reported? His retelling, in fact, is a complete fabrication! So the next time you hear the phrase, "All the news that's fit to print," you'll have a better idea of exactly what they're talking about.

But the really funny thing is that if I'm remembered for nothing else during my lifetime, 20,000 years from now people will be able to look up "Dean Hannotte" in the New York Times Database and see "palindrome, discoverer." Ah, immortality . . . .

P.S. I guess it was bound to happen with the way the media recycles everything, but in March 2000 Bill Maher quoted "Rats drown in Wordstar" on "Politcally Incorrect". This worthless monstrosity had stuck to the inside of that poor man's head for 15 years!


Dean's Den

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[D:\dh\web\DHD\3\HTP\NYTimes.htp (80 lines) 2007-11-19 08:42 Dean Hannotte]