Dear Smiley: An email from L.P. Bordelon informed me that on March 3, 1975, when he was principal of H.L. Bourgeois High School in Houma, Muhammad Ali visited the school.

L.P. and the assistant principal “went a few rounds” with Ali, to the delight of the students.

My reply to L.P. was that an unnamed informant told me that Ali used his famous “rope a dope” maneuver against him and, because L.P. met all qualifications related to that term, it worked to perfection.

I also reminded him that Ali named a couple of his championship fights “The Thrilla in Manila” and “The Rumble in the Jungle.”

I suggested that his encounter with Ali will, in boxing lore, always be remembered by his students as “The Coma in Houma.”



For the defense

Dear Smiley: As a licensed CCP (Crotchety Contrarian Professor), I feel it is my duty to offer some thoughts in defense of “No problem” (rather than “You’re welcome”) as a suitable reply to “Thank you.”

“Welcome” is literally an expression of pleasure at someone’s arrival or presence: that’s why it’s on the doormat!

“Therefore, its use as an acknowledgement of a “Thank you” could be paraphrased in this example: “Pass the salt, please...” “Sure, here...” “Thank you...” “I’m glad you’re here...” “Huh?”

I appreciate that the alternate “No problem” does smack of the backwards-baseball-cap set (akin to a 20-something wait-person addressing a gathering of the Daughters of the American Revolution Steering Committee as “Guys”) but nevertheless does in my opinion appropriately articulate a sincere, humble response to “Thank you” that at least makes a LITTLE sense!

It also comes a lot closer to the corresponding French (“du rien”) and Spanish (“de nada”) expressions; “It’s nothing.”

You’re welcome...



Educational experience

Dear Smiley: I too faced the “no problem” issue.

We enjoyed a great meal and impeccable service at a fine restaurant.

The young man waiting on our table was informative concerning the offerings, attentive to the details of our order, correctly delivered our meal, and was attentive to any additional needs we may have had during the meal.

Each time he took some action to serve us, I told him, “Thank you.”

His response was, “No problem.”

At the end of the meal, as my guests were walking out, I approached the waiter, thanked him for his service, and asked if I may ask a question.

I asked him if serving us had been a problem, would he have favored us with his service?

I explained my point and offered that an appropriate response should have been, “You are welcome” or “My pleasure.”

With a smile he thanked me for my comment, and said that he will be attentive to his responses in the future.


River Ridge

Remembering Alex

Dear Smiley: If the TV sports reporters can get the name of our baseball stadium right, the young men who play there today should also be able to do so.

“Alex” Box was born Simeon A. Box in Quitman, Mississippi, in 1920, and played outstanding baseball for LSU prior to World War II. He played right field and batted cleanup. A full and moving biography of him can be found at

His nickname was not pronounced “Alex” (like Mr. Trebek). His family and friends called him “Elic.” That’s also the correct pronunciation for the baseball stadium named in his honor.

Alex Box was a graduate of LSU’s “Ole War Skule.” As a young officer in World War II, he laid mine fields and set up roadblocks. He and four of his fellow soldiers were killed instantly when a mine accidentally discharged. He is buried in Carthage, Tunisia.


Baton Rouge

It’s a puzzlement

Dear Smiley: A couple of things have been puzzling me lately.

For instance, why is non-hyphenated hyphenated?

If you’re a writer who procrastinates too much and doesn’t get enough writing done, can you get a job as an underwriter?

If nothing happens by accident, does that mean that whenever something happens, it must be deliberate?


Denham Springs

Dear Glenn: The answers to your questions are, in order: It just is. No. Maybe.

Horse sense

Dear Smiley: Why are we infested with horse flies, if we don’t own a horse? Should we buy one?



Dear Faye: Well, it would give the flies a place to go...

Write Smiley at He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.