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Years ago, a legislator complained to me about the headline on an article concerning his activities: “Doe flays Roe.”

He didn't think his constructive criticism of a fellow lawmaker constituted a “flaying.” I explained to him that headline writers use a special vocabulary, heavy on short, emphatic verbs, and that this can combine with the writers' own excitability to produce a kind of trite overstatement. He nodded.

The Onion understands. The satirical on-line newspaper paid tribute to headline jargon the other day: “Clinton Blasts Obama for Slamming Edwards Jab.”

Words matter, even the little ones. A fair-sized controversy developed recently over a state law whose meaning changed drastically when an intended “not” was inadvertently omitted. Carroll Hyatt has found a similar error on a plaque at the Little Rock Nine sculpture on the Capitol grounds. The plaque says:

“With the help of stalwart parents, other family members and those in the community who shared their vision, this group of young people came to understand the reality of their time, but chose to believe in a reality yet to come. It was, in part, this focus that allowed them to suffer the indignities heaped upon them by those who firmly believed in the laws of equality.”

Hyatt writes, “I would think that equality should be inequality, or believed should be disbelieved.” Me too.

Secretary of State Charlie Daniels has jurisdiction over the Capitol grounds. Informed of the error, the secretary of state's office said that the wording on the plaque was “approved and authored by the Little Rock Nine themselves.”

They should know who heaped on them and who didn't. Still, I think this must be a mistake, and needs correction.

Concerning Peggy Lee fastball (Sept. 13), William Jay Sims says the phrase was turned by pitcher Tim McGraw.

Meanwhile, the presidential race is warming up on the Republican side too:

“Huck Raps McCain, Seeks Rudy Probe.”

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