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The Word That Shall Not Be Spoken 

We love this letter. And this writer. Take it away, Glenda Alexander: "I usually enjoy your crossword puzzles. However, in the most recent one, I found the clue 'old womanish.' That startled me, as I'm an old woman. I have been on Medicare for over a year, and I am female. So, an adjective that describes me and my kind in a few letters ...

"Last Monday, I hiked in the mountains, almost ten miles, according to my Fitbit, and 13,330 feet worth of changes in altitude. Of course, half of those changes were up and half were down, and they alternated a good bit on a trail through undeveloped land. My brother, who is younger than me by a year, went with me. I suppose he is an old man, but he kept up. Our baby sister, who is not yet 'old' but could be considered mature, came along. They kept track of our GPS coordinates and the position of a cabin we were hunting on their smartphones, while I looked at an actual paper map and an analog compass and kept my flip phone in my pocket.

"So, an adjective to describe me—strong? Fit? Persistent? Analog—which I believe has the Latin root meaning 'old' embedded in it? Nope—don't fit the puzzle.

"Just a day before the hike, we had a four-generation family get-together. I suppose some of us are old women. There's my sister-in-law, who recently retired from a long career in civil service, which she powered through with a lifelong visual impairment. So, what's the word—resilient, adaptable, intelligent, dedicated? The one great-grandchild was in the arms of my other sister-in-law, who has raised two children and is now raising a grandchild and looking after her elderly father. Responsible, dependable, tough? Nurturing?

"A couple of days later, we visited our aunts, both widows in their eighties who live alone. They are independent and capable. One of them nursed both her husband and her daughter through terminal illnesses. Now she babysits her great-grandchild and keeps an eye on her ailing son. Enduring, energetic, experienced, faithful? None of the above, apparently.

"I gave up and Googled crossword clues for 'old womanish.' I found the word, which I shall not repeat, as I will not repeat a word that I find insensitive or bigoted. I will say that the synonyms were doddering, weak, feeble, etc. The authors of the puzzle, Linda and Charles Preston, are invited to kiss my old womanish behind, if they can keep up with me or my kind long enough to manage it."

For the record, the crossword puzzle comes to us from the Tribune Content Agency.

Meanwhile, writer Constance Keptic takes exception to an entry in last week's Backtalk, in which commenter Baron Gil suggested that our citizenship be revoked for advising undocumented immigrants on how to avoid immigration authorities: "Do you suppose Mr. Gil understands the concept of civil disobedience? Do you suppose he knows about the First Amendment? Do you suppose he is aware that when he advocates one's citizenship be revoked for exercising one's First Amendment rights, he is advocating that the government commit an unconstitutional offense?

"Mr. Gil states it is a 'darn shame that some people are so liberal that they have lost their common sense.' In light of his representations described above, I suppose Mr. Gil must be a liberal. Of course he has his First Amendment rights as well. I am not advocating he be punished. It must be punishment enough just to live with the cognitive dissonance in his own head."

Want to see your name in bold? Email us at backtalk@indyweek.com, comment on our Facebook page or indyweek.com, or hit us up on Twitter: @indyweek.

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