Date: Thu, 7 Aug 1997 11:14:22 -0500


Subject: Vonnegut and "culprit zero" (was: "")

The larger context of Duane Campbell's quotation of Kurt Vonnegut as quoted in the New York

Times --

"How can I know whether I'm being kidded or not, or lied to?" he

asked, from his home on eastern Long Island, N.Y., where he

somewhat defiantly does not surf the Net or get e-mail. "I don't

know what the point is except is how gullible people are on the


-- brings in another interesting usage.

Recently a column by a Chicago Tribune columnist (beginning "Wear sunblock") was spread all

over the 'Net as Kurt

Vonnegut's commencement address to MIT, much to the surprise of both the columnist and Mr.

Vonnegut, who has

never given an address at MIT. (I've unfortunately lost the mailings, and am trying to recover

them for proper

citation.) That is what he must be referring to in the above quotation. The columnist wrote a

followup column, in one

paragraph of which she described her vain attempt to trace the hoax back to the original poster,

whom she labeled

"culprit zero" without discussion.

To me, that term was an obvious allusion to "Patient Zero", the hypothesized (and, I think,

eventually identified?)

vector who first broadcast AIDS in the European and American gay communities. (If I am

misremembering anything

critical about this theory I am sure I will be corrected.)

Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist : mark[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 965-5200

320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02160, USA :

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