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RELAX - SAYING `TALLER THAN ME' IS OK

Sir: Regarding your response to Lorena G., you are dead wrong! Would you say "She is taller than me am"? Never mind parts of speech! Just because we hear news commentators and even politicians and others use that expression does not make it correct!

- Elinor G.Answer: Bless your outraged heart, you're the one who's wrong. Of course I wouldn't say "She is taller than me am," but the question was whether one could say "She is taller than me," and the answer is yes. I hate to offend you by mentioning parts of speech, but there's no way around it. Than can be either a conjunction, which you apparently think is all it can be, or a preposition. I could quote Shakespeare or Faulkner, but perhaps you include them in the "others" you deplore. Instead, let me quote an excellent dictionary: "You can use than either as a conjunction or as a preposition." I'm afraid that won't convince you, but then you're angrier than me.

Sir: The initials a.m. and p.m. represent the words ante meridiem and post meridiem - before noon and after noon respectively. This brings up an interesting question. Could midnight be considered either 12 a.m. or 12 p.m. or both, since it is 12 hours before noon and 12 hours after noon?

- Bob K.

Answer: That's a novel thought and I suppose you're right, though as you know you should describe midnight either as 12 midnight or, simply, midnight. But wouldn't it be simpler to wait a minute till it's 12:01 a.m.? Life is complicated enough already.

Sir: I heard a commercial about some breakfast food, and the announcer said it was best enjoyed "with a whipped plate of butter." Don't you think that is curious?

- Merle T.

Answer: Probably. Other things being equal, we shouldn't go around whipping plates. Better to enjoy a plate of whipped butter. Isn't it?

Sir: You said horses are often mentioned in explaining why "long in the tooth" means getting older. It just isn't so. Their gums may recede, but their teeth overall become shorter as they grow older - due, probably, to their grinding action when eating grain and hay. The standard method of judging a horse's age, when no written records are available, is to examine his teeth. The shorter the teeth, the older the horse.

- Tom M.

Answer: Horses really are mentioned, but you are clearly the authority on this subject and I bow to your knowledge. My own knowledge of the critters is limited to the time I was thrown by one.

Sir: Economics and economical are the only two words that begin with "eco" and are pronounced with a short "e" and double "c." The rest are pronounced with a long "e" and single "c." What happened?

- Joe L.

Answer: I have no idea. That's one reason I wouldn't touch questions of pronunciation with a 10-foot pole.

NOBLE HOPE of the Week, expressed by Big George:

"In connection with a recent NCAA investigation, a sportscaster said they are investigating the coach of a major university for `not exercising lack of control.' Well, I should hope so!"