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ASSOQ and ASSQ and atoms

Why in the world shouldn't ASSOC and ASSQ ignore atoms in the alist?
It's clearly useful, much more useful than getting an error, because
it makes those functions usable in situations where they would now be
worthless.  In fact people have functions called ASSQ-CAREFULLY, etc.,
on the Lisp machine which do precisely this.  Who would be screwed by
extending the functionality of ASSOC and ASSQ in this way?