One of the things that keep us going around here is the flick of humor administered by spirited readers. Like a party to a federal consent agreement, we do not intend the recognition of such readers to mean that we have ever been wrong in any way, shape, or form -- only that we won't do it again.

Sometimes, indeed, the jest perceptively notes a rare instance of editorial sagacity. More often we have to take it as a compliment in the sense that only your best friends will kid you.

Like the reader who keeps throwing our own pages back at us with scribblings in the margin:

In an article on Carter and Reagan during the campaign there is a circle around the quotation "Neither man will have a substantial enough mandate to branch out very far" accompanied by a handwritten "Ho! Ho! Ho!"

In a discussion of Reagan there is a line under "Is the one-time California movie idol up to the world's most awesome job?" with the notation: "It could be worse -- what if the had been a reporter?"

And, turning to this very editorial page, our newsprint graffiti expert picks out the headline "The Anderson difference" and scrawls "7 percent." Another headline, "A world without SALT," is accompanied by "Get used to it!"

Not even Le Pelley's scrupulously objective cartoons are immune, but words can't convey the results without reproducing the drawings in question. Fortunately we have a self-portrait of the cartoonist, caught while opening his mail, which captures the pleasure of all of us when readers make us say "Touche!"

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