The initiative wisely invites debate about whether the drinking age should be lowered instead of calling outright for legislative change. Let's be scientific about this. It's one thing to say alcohol abuse and drunk driving are terrible, but it's another thing to figure out the causal connection to the legal drinking age. There's nothing wrong with responsible, moderate drinking. What's the best way to encourage young people who are inclined to drink to do it the right way? I doubt that prohibition is best, and I'm enough of a libertarian to want to resolve doubts in favor of freedom. But sure, let's debate. I'd like to see the evidence analyzed.Hey, I was a lot more moderate 3 years ago! I wonder what happened. Has Meade infused me with right-wingitude? On that topic, just this morning, by chance, I ran into an old George S. Kaufman joke, which I don't remember ever seeing before: "One man's Mede is another man's Persian." Does that even work as a joke anymore? You need to know the saying "One man's meat is another man's poison." I don' think a joke writer today could assume the background knowledge.
Let me tell you the story of how I arrived at that George S. Kaufman joke. This is another way to pass the time we can't spend reading the WSJ op-ed, since we don't have a subscription. Meade was just quoting the diary of Samuel Pepys: "I was with my main in her cunny." I said it was a shame we don't still use that word "cunny." We do say "cunt" and "cunnilingus," it was observed, and that led to a search for the etymology of "cunt." Is it related to "cunnilingus"? The answer is no, I learned, along with some detail about Latin- and Germanic- derived English words that begin with the letter "c" and how they trace back to Indo-European. (Words that were "c" in Latin will begin with "h" in German if they come from the same Indo-European word. And English words that come from German words that begin with "k" will begin with "g" in Latin if they have the same Indo-European source.)
I ended up reading this Wikipedia article on Latin profanity:
Cunnus was the basic Latin word for the vulva.... Cunnus has a distinguished Indo-European lineage. It is cognate with Persian kun "anus" and kos "vulva"....Kos?! Has anyone told The Daily Kos? Did Markos Moulitsas deliberately chose the second syllable of his first name as his blog name because of the Persian meaning? He got that nickname in the Army, where perhaps jokes that require knowledge of Persian are understood. I Googled "'daily kos' vulva persian," and the first thing that came up, a link to Daily Kos, didn't answer my question, but had that line "One man's Mede is another man's Persian." I Googled the line and got to a 1961 Time Magazine article about George S. Kaufman titled "One Man's Mede":
Kaufman's quirks—he despised airplanes, wore stiff collars well into the 20th century, fueled himself with sickening fudge that he made himself—never interrupted his enormous output of hit plays...Fueled himself with sickening fudge... Why does that amuse me so much? Is it the humor magic of 3? 1. Despised airplanes, 2. Wore stiff collars, and 3. Fueled himself with sickening fudge. 3 related-unrelated things. All 3 are precise details about George S. Kaufman, but 1 is something he hated, 2 is something he wore, and 3 is something he ate. Comment/blog meme of the day: Write 3 things about yourself (or someone else) that follow that pattern of 3 related-unrelated things and seem equally amusing. Make very specific details, and have one thing hated, one thing worn, and one thing eaten.
Oh, good lord, where am I going with this? Well, the next thing that happened was, I decided to write this post. I couldn't get into the Wall Street Journal, so I Googled "althouse drinking age federalism" to find my old post on the subject to get things started. The search also turned up a law review article I published in 2001, which had this:
There are some policies that do not work unless they are adopted by all... [W]ithout a national drinking age of twenty-one, a state that chose a lower drinking age than its neighbors would tempt younger drinkers to drive across state borders, creating hazards beyond its borders....Hey, I was a lot more moderate 10 years ago!
ADDED: My son John, who apparently subscribes to the Wall Street Journal, has a post this morning with a fair amount of text from the aforementioned op-ed. AND: John emails to say he doesn't subscribe, he just has a method to get to the full text. (Commenters to my post explain the method.)