Going ballistic: The danger of hastily truncated words

Ad with the title "Concel Weapons Class"

This ad conjured up a vivid image in my mind:

A motley collection of citizens squishes awkwardly into child-size desks in a brightly lit classroom. All of them fidget with handguns.

The teacher, a weathered cowboy with a droopy mustache, a weathered leather hat pulled low, and a grimy oilcloth duster dangling at his ankles, saunters in front of a chalkboard, spinning the well-oiled cylinder of an antique Colt 45.

“You never know …,” he says, his raspy voice trailing off. “You never know when someone might walk in that door.”

A chubby man in a pinstriped suit taps the butt of his Glock on the desktop as he looks over his shoulder at the closed door. A young woman in tight baby-blue sweater glowers at the door as she tugs at the hem of her too-short skirt with one hand and puts a death grip on her .38 LadySmith with the other. A dozen wide-eyed men around her – in running shoes, work boots, tasseled loafers and Doc Martens – ignore the pistols on their desktops as they crane their necks, their eyes glued to the hem and the hand on the young woman’s skirt. A reedy man in the back row, a red plaid cap with earflaps pulled tight over his balding head, snaps a wad of gum in his mouth as his eyes shift between the door and the cowboy.

The cowboy holds up his arms and turns toward the crowd.

“Did you hear it?” he drawls. “Get ready.”

Heads swivel toward the door. Outside, footsteps grow louder.

A knock. The turn of a knob.

“Conceal!” the cowboy shouts.

Handguns disappear into pockets, shoulder holsters, purses, boots and waistbands.

The door squeaks.

A short, pudgy woman with gray hair; thin, round spectacles, and a red sweatshirt needlepointed with “NRA Forever!” on the back, pops her head into the room.

“I’m so sorry,” she says. “Can you tell me where I can find the quilting class?”

Silence greets her.

After a few seconds, the cowboy shakes his head and scowls as he faces the class.

“Unacceptable,” he growls. “Absolutely unacceptable. I see butts sticking out of pockets, barrels poking out of coats. And for crying out loud, Harold. How many times have I told you that you can’t conceal that revolver in your earflaps. That wouldn’t fool a third grader at a church picnic.”

The man with the earflaps pulls his pistol timidly from beneath his cap.

“Millie, we’re going to give this another go,” the cowboy says.

“Shall do, Roderick,” the woman in the red sweatshirt says, closing the door behind her.

The cowboy looks at the crowd disgustedly as pistols come back out.

“Let’s try again, people,” he says. “Remember, this is a ‘conceal weapons class.’ This time, let’s try to conceal. OK?”

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