If you wrote your grandmother in Columbus recently, she may be shocked by two words inadvertently stamped on the envelope at the city's main post office last weekend.

Ed Johnston, director of marketing and communications for the post office, said Monday the words "You Bitch" were printed on some 12,000 envelopes Saturday night when a technician failed to clear the words from a computer screen following a test.Johnson said only envelopes 51/4 inches or taller were printed with the words and only a few were caught before they were loaded onto trucks for delivery. The office handled about 5 million pieces of mail Saturday, he said.

"The technician thought he had taken the message out," Johnson said. "Much to his horror, these words were printed. Unfortunately, it's a bad choice of words. It was most unfortunate and most regrettable. We certainly don't mean to offend anyone."

The technician, whom postal officials declined to identify, had been called to work on a problem with one of six printers and used "You Bitch" as a test following repair work.

After several successful tests, the technician was to have replaced the message with the city, state, ZIP code and date to show that the mail was received in Columbus. He failed to do so before he was called away to another job.

The information usually appears just below the stamp and postmark. A number included with the data shows which machine accepted the mail. The post office began putting the information on letters a year ago.

Johnson declined to speculate on what disciplinary action, if any, the technician faces.

Postal officials sent a memo to every post office in the nation warning of the misprint so workers could explain to any customers who might inquire about the message.