[Ads-l] A post to a Security Agency "alumni" site

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 6 21:35:40 UTC 2015

The writer gives his years of service as 1960-63, overlapping my own
1959-62. He uses *both* "Land of the Round Doorknobs" *and* "... the Big
PX," at a time when we black GI's were using only "The World" for the
"United States."

In an earlier discussion of this general topic, someone expressed surprise
that a round doorknob could have any value, vis-a-vis the more-useful door
handle, in response to an anecdote of mine of a round, faceted-glass,
American doorknob being sold for five bucks - forty bucks in today's
money, using the Consumer Price Index. Then, I made no response. Now, I
say, "Bring back the draft!"

The writer also uses "spook" with reference to a person involved in

He explicates the difference between learning a language to use for purpose
p as against learning it for purpose q.

A classmate once compared the Australian system of education to the
American one as the difference between depth and breadth. She reckoned that
her ANU baccalaureate was easily the equal of an American master's degree.
Nevertheless, she often found herself lost, whenever the professors made
remarks similar to the one that ends the excerpted comment.

[BTW, what *had* the Royal Navy said to Turing?]

When I first returned to the "Land of the Round Doorknobs" and the "Land of
the Big PX,” I hooked up with some old [ham-radio] buddies and was feeling
pretty confident that I could copy code with the best of them. It was quite
the opposite. It took a couple of tries to figure it out.  We were copying
plain-text English, whereas all my spook experience was in copying coded
groups.  They could “guess” at letters that they couldn’t quite pull out,
whereas I kept getting distracted by trying to read what the sender was

We found a practice tape of coded groups where [my buddies] fell apart
after a line or two at 15 words per minute, whereas I was copying it while
reading a novel and wearing my headphones around my neck.
One of them asked why anyone would want to copy that sort of gibberish (a
very astute question) and I was reminded of what the Royal Navy had said to
Alan Turing.
All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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