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Astronaut Diaper Love “V,” Cont’d.

In responding to yesterday’s post about the astronaut love triangle (or, more appropriately, “love V,” as one wise commenter put it), you all offered a number of compelling explanations for the story’s explosion. I must say, however, that I was surprised to read that so many people think of astronauts as larger-than-life heroes, only because I thought that image was long, long, long outdated. Anybody remember The Right Stuff? (I mean the book, not the movie.) If astronauts were “Spam in a can” forty years ago, what does that make the modern version?

FWIW, I wish that Tom Wolfe still wrote non-fiction books like The Right Stuff. He was a great non-fiction writer who then wrote one very good novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, and continues now to write novels that are far less good. Sigh.

Anyway … it’s always bugged me that a phrase from The Right Stuff entered our national lexicon, but with an error. People love to say that they are “pushing the envelope,” but if I recall correctly, the actual phrase from The Right Stuff is “pushing the outside of the envelope” — i.e., pushing hard against the very limits of the context you’re working within. “Pushing the envelope” sounds like you’re doing office work; “pushing the outside of the envelope” means you’re trying to break a barrier. So, in honor of Tom Wolfe and the first astronauts, can we all stop pushing all the envelopes?

Like many people who work with words, I get irked when I hear a perverted idiom — “for all intensive purposes,” e.g., as against “for all intents and purposes.” But sometimes even a proper idiom isn’t so proper. As someone mentioned to me the other day, the phrase “have your cake and eat it too” would actually be much better as “eat your cake and have it too.” I tend to agree.