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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: "Dorothy in Long Beach, Calif." asked you to stop referring to repetition as a "broken record," and added, "You'll never hear anything from a broken record because it is broken." She said, "Please say well-worn or scratchy instead," and asked you to sign her letter, "A Retired Public School Music Teacher."

You thanked her for writing and said you'd try to change your tune. Abby, I'm a collector of old phonograph records, and I wonder if either one of you knows the origin of "a broken record."

It goes back to the days before tapes and CDs replaced old-fashioned phonograph records, which were made of shellac or plastic and easily broken or damaged. Those records rotated at 78, 45 or 33 1/3 revolutions per minute. Some, especially the hard shellac ones, would crack or break -- sometimes on only one side of the surface.

When the needle hit the damaged spot, it would jump backward into a preceding groove, and replay until it hit the same spot again and jumped backward again, etc. In other words, it caused pure monotonous repetition of the same words and music.

A well-worn or scratchy record does not connote the same thing a broken record does. -- ROLAND GUERIN, HARVEY, LA.

DEAR ROLAND: Thanks for your supportive letter. Now I'm sorry I didn't respond to "Retired Music Teacher," "You're mistaken, you're mistaken, you're mistaken."

You're not the only reader who commented on that letter. Others also want to go on record:

DEAR ABBY: The somewhat caustic note from "Dorothy in Long Beach, Calif.," regarding a "broken record," speaks more of her intolerance and rigid thinking than of the facts.

As you know, a broken record in our generation meant that a groove in the record was "broken," and each revolution caused a duplicate sound over and over (so go ahead and use that idiom if you please).

I frequently use figures of speech from my past that cause my children's and grandchildren's eyes to glaze over as they wonder what in the world I mean; e.g. "Cheese it -- the cops!" or "You're not just whistlin' Dixie."

They do not need to adopt them, but neither do they have a right to chastise me for doing so. -- ROBERT E. SMITH, LITTLETON, COLO.

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to Kiki's mom, who gave her 2-year-old daughter the car keys, which the child promptly inserted into an electric socket.

The mother admonished herself for being "stupid" for having given her daughter the keys, but not for leaving the sockets exposed!

All electrical outlets should be covered with outlet protectors.

This was your chance to educate people as to the danger of leaving electrical outlets exposed. You blew it, Abby. -- ANN FOSS, EDEN PRAIRIE, MINN.

DEAR ANN: You're right. Parents of small children should visit their local hardware store to learn the options available for childproofing the electrical outlets in their home.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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