It suddenly occurred to me the other day, while contemplating my impending withdrawal from the public prints, that my "Danger, Toxic Material!" file was still a-bulge with fascinating - and little-known - information that I had not had an opportunity to pass along - and the hourglass is rapidly emptying.

To be perfectly candid, "file" is not the appropriate word to describe the item being explored here. It's actually a smudged and dog-eared "Danger, Toxic Material!" manila folder into which I periodically stuff items of interest (to me, at least), much in the manner of a squirrel hiding nuts in an effort to fend off future hunger pangs.I squirrel away the stuff in the folder to fend off future shortages of column ideas, and because such shortages won't be a matter of personal concern much longer, I see no reason not to share some of the vintage stuff with you this very day.

Having spent a portion of my career writing headlines for a living (hey, it beats working), I have what many might consider an unhealthy obsession with them, collecting samples of those that didn't mean precisely what the writer intended. A few particular favorites:

Man on way to Italy

to see family killed

Cemetery to benefit

from shooting Sunday

Michigan man dies,

baked for queen

Mother of 12 kills

husband in self-defense

And then there was a delightful 1983 New York Times story, describing how to tell the difference between Democrats and Republicans, that is as appropriate today as it was then. Among the differences:

-Democrats give their worn-out clothes to those less fortunate. Republicans wear theirs.

-Republicans have governesses for their children. Democrats have grandmothers.

-Republicans raise dahlias, Dalmatians and eyebrows. Democrats raise Airedales, kids and taxes.

-Republicans tend to keep their shades drawn, although there is seldom any reason they should. Democrats ought to but don't.

And these gems, from a group of well-intentioned but futile efforts at mastering the English language, collected from around the world and published in an Air France bulletin:

-Sign inside a tailor shop in Hong Kong: "Ladies may have a fit upstairs."

-Two signs on display at a shop on the island of Majorca: "English well talking" and "Here speeching American."

The toxic danger file also contains an Associated Press story out of Stockholm about a taxi driver there being convicted for billing a female passenger the equivalent of $8,300 for a series of sexual encounters. He had presented the woman with a written bill for his services, which included a 25 percent sales tax.

The crime for which he was convicted? Overcharging the woman.

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Another particular favorite of mine is a story from the Indianapolis Star (as reported in "The Lower Case," a collection of minor newspaper boo-boos distributed by the Columbia Journalism Review) about a performance by a local jazz trio. The list of songs the trio played included "Modern Leaves," "Scrapple from the Apple" and the unforgettable "The Girl With Emphysema."

Last, but certainly not least, is this quote from Gerald W. Johnson, described by The Associated Press as an American journalist (now deceased):

"What makes a leader - intelligence, integrity, imagination, skill: in brief, statecraft? Not at all. It is the fact that the man has a following."

Which, to me at least, explains the Ross Perot phenomenon.

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