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Sir, no man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.– Samuel Johnson

A Modest Proposal

The past few years have been very exciting for all of us here at the palatial (but tasteful) Word Detective World Headquarters. TWD (as we call it, among other things) has been featured by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, The Jerusalem Post, USA Today, CBS Radio, BBC Radio, The Washington Post, numerous less prominent but no doubt worthwhile newspapers and magazines, several Pentagon press briefings and one mysterious transmission traced to the vicinity of the Crab Nebula.

TWD’s “circulation” on the web has also skyrocketed. We are visited, on average, by about 10,000 readers per week, and we receive about 100 questions every week.

Heady times hereabouts. Naturally, what with all the accolades and awards rolling in, we popped down to Woolworths and bought the cats new rhinestone collars and then had the oil changed in the Backmobile (so-called because you pray it gets you back from where you’ve gone in it).

(OK, I’m lying, Woolworths went belly-up ages ago, and if you tried to put collars on those cats you’d get a bite that wouldn’t heal ’til sometime next year, but the part about the car is true.)

So anyway, then we sat back and waited for the big bucks to roll in.

We’re still waiting.

It turns out (maybe y’all already knew this, but it came as a nasty shock to me) that it is perfectly possible to get semi-famous in the USA and not get rich. Not even a little. Not even pay-the-mortgage-on-time rich, or go-on-a-vacation-nowhere-near-where-your-relatives-live rich.

This turns out to hold true even after you’ve written four books and had them excerpted in places like the Washington Post, Reader’s Digest and the Harvard Business Review. Even after the New York Times and the BBC list you as a “valuable internet resource.” Even after more than 2,000 other websites, many of them at major universities, link to yours.

So, after much thought and a brief pause to adjust my scruples, I have hit upon what I feel is a plausible plan for my financial salvation.

First, add your name to the bottom of this letter and mail 50 copies to your friends.

Hahaha. Just kidding. That’s far too mild.

I have decided that what really would help around here is a class system. What TWD-land really needs is a privileged class, a group of readers who get something that the other readers don’t, something they can dangle above the heads of less fortunate readers, something they can hoard and count and admire all by themselves on cold winter nights when the wind moans and the wolves howl and the un-special readers come scratching at the door begging for just a scrap of the special thing it is that they don’t have.

Wow. It’s like Hemingway goes to Siberia, right? Gives you goose bumps, doesn’t it?

So here’s the deal: subscribe to TWD-By-E-Mail and I will send you, every two weeks, the unedited, unexpurgated, undiluted version of TWD, just as the newspapers get it, complete with snazzy datelines and obscure computerese headers, all via genuine internet email. The primary advantage here is that you get the columns somewhere between three weeks and two months earlier than you could otherwise read them on my web page.

I promise not to sell your e-mail address, by the way.

I could probably jazz up this plan by cutting back on the number of columns that I post for free on the web and offering them only to paying subscribers (as several websites do), but I really don’t want to do that. Subscribers will get the column a few weeks early, but if you’re the patient type, you will still see them all on the web eventually.

So why subscribe? Well, it would be a nice thing to do. It would, among other things, help feed the 97 cats and two dogs we seem to have acquired when they appeared at our door fleeing coyotes. And, truth be told, my income has declined precipitously since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a while back. Among other things, my backup career as a pole dancer is completely shot. So reader contributions have come to constitute a large share of my (cough) financial portfolio.

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