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On The Light Side

June 15, 1988

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. (AP) _ Michael Dukakis may be leading George Bush in the presidential polls, but when it comes to handwriting, the race is a draw.

That’s the conclusion of the National Coalition to Stamp Out Chicken Scratching, organized as a publicity stunt for Scripto Corp., a national pen manufacturer based in this Los Angeles suburb.

A coalition expert analyzed the penmanship of the various candidates in both parties and concluded Tuesday that Dukakis led the legibility race among the Democrats and that Bush’s John Hancock was the clearest in the GOP pack.

The group declined to endorse either Bush or Dukakis in the write-in contest, said publicist Bette Dragoun, pleading non-partisanship.

″We believe the next president should have respect for rule Number 1 in basic fundamental interpersonal communication - handwriting should be legible,″ said Charles Lehman, a Portland, Ore., writing expert who signed on as executive director of the coalition.

In true non-partisan fashion, the coalition voted a split ticket when it came to naming the sloppiest scrawlers in the presidential race.

Illinois Sen. Paul Simon’s scribble was dubbed worst among the Democrats. The most impenetrable hieroglyphics in the GOP were those of Rep. Jack Kemp of New York, who dropped out early, presumably because he saw the handwriting on the wall.


WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) - When Ralph Shewell, a high school history teacher, challenged his class to resurrect a 1920s slang expression, the typical reaction was, ″Banana Oil 3/8″

So to speak, anyway. In the 1920s, the term ″banana oil″ was as common an expression of disbelief as its contemporary counterparts, ″No way 3/8″ or ″Get out of here 3/8″ Shewell said.

Shewell offered his Westminster High School class extra credits if they could coax someone in the national news media into using the phrase before June 14.

On Tuesday, the day of the deadline, one effort bore fruit when a letter from sophomore Nicky Naylor appeared in a column by syndicated columnist Ann Landers.

In her published letter, the student wrote, ″If everyone who reads your column uses the expression, I’m sure that by the end of the school year (June 15) something might happen. ... Maybe this letter will prove that one unknown teenager can make something happen.″

″Dear Unknown Teenager,″ Landers replied. ″Today is June 14. It would be a miracle if a national news commentator said ‘banana oil,’ but maybe one of your local disc jockeys will read this, say those immortal words on the air, and you can persuade your teacher to count it. Please let us know what happens.″

Shewell said he may count the appearance of ″banana oil″ in the column for the extra credit. He said he came up with the challenge while his class was studying the fads of the 1920s, ″just to motivate them to get interested in the times.″

Ms. Naylor, 16, said she sent her letter to Landers because the columns ″go everywhere.″

″I was gonna write to Dan Rather,″ Ms. Naylor added, but ″I kind of figured I wouldn’t hear anything about that at all.″

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