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The Straight Dope

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I've climbed the highest mountains, searched the darkest depths of the public library and even asked my mother. Still I come up with a blank. So here's my question: have you ever looked at your zipper? I mean really looked? On 90 percent of them there are the letters YKK. Please tell me what YKK means so I can again know inner peace. --Ken Green, Chicago

It means Yoshida Kogyo Kabushikikaisha. However, this leaves us about a foot shy of filling up the column, so here's a little bonus info: YKK translated means Yoshida Industries Limited. Tadao Yoshida is the Japanese tycoon who founded the company in 1934 and built it into "the foremost manufacturer of closures [zippers, mostly] in the world." It's unfortunate that YKK is not better known, but we must face the fact that a zipper is not the ideal billboard--the only time you get close enough to read the lettering, typically your mind is on other things.

Your idea of a zipper factory might be a couple guys named Izzy and Mort (or the equivalent in Japanese) in some crummy loft in the garment district. Little do you know--this is a mighty industry here. We're talking 54 plants and 114 sales offices in 40 countries with a total of 25,000 employees. (Hey, everybody needs zippers.) We're talking mammoth production lines, giant automatic weaving machines, and barrel oscillation plating equipment (I don't know what it is either, but it looks impressive in the pictures). We're talking heavy-duty R & D, as dedicated YKK scientists strive to perfect the zippers of tomorrow. Also the aluminum building materials of tomorrow, YKK having diversified thereinto a while back.

Tadao Yoshida's genius was to understand the poetry of zipper manufacture. (No kidding--the guy even does calligraphy.) The company's charmingly loopy brochures explain that the YKK philosophy is "the Cycle of Goodness." Says here, "the concept means that no one prospers unless he renders profit or benefit to others. . . . The people of YKK have dedicated themselves to manufacturing perfection--delivering goods and services that benefit their customers and society as well as their company and their own personal lives. . . . [They are dedicated] to the continued enhancement of everyday life for citizens throughout the U.S.A." OK, they're just zippers, but Yoshida's idea is they might as well be great zippers. One more reason why the Japanese are kicking Occidental butt in the fields of commerce.

OFF BASE AGAIN

I enjoy reading your column every week, but I must take exception to your recent answer about baseball [July 6]. (Rene C. of Chicago wanted to know how seven batters from the same team could step up to the plate in the same inning without scoring.) As an ardent baseball fan, I know that there is a way that does not require using substitute batters, as you suggested.

Here's the solution: bases are loaded (three batters). Two outs (two more batters). The sixth batter hits a grand slam home run, but fails to touch first base. The umpire throws a new ball to the pitcher, and the seventh batter steps up to the plate. The pitcher successfully appeals that the home run hitter failed to touch first base. The umpire signals the third out, and no runs count. (Had the batter failed to touch second, third, or home, one or more runs would have counted.)

Note: The defensive team cannot appeal the missed first base until the ball is put into play, which is done by the pitcher stepping up on the pitching rubber while holding the ball (when the seventh batter steps up to the plate). So they couldn't appeal until the seventh batter got up; hence, the number of batters in the conundrum (seven instead of six). --Kirk Miller, Richardson, Texas; similarly from E.W.W., Madison, Wisconsin

The great thing about reality, Kirk, is that there's more than one right answer. (Which is not to say there's an unlimited number of right answers. This ain't the freaking Esalen Institute, you know.) Thanks for broadening our horizons.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.

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