Elden Carnahan of Laurel, Md. — the man who had the idea back in 1993 to keep records of how much ink he was getting in The Style Invitational, and then to keep records of how much ink everyone was getting in The Style Invitational, and then to cold-call or send letters to some of these other people and ask if they’d like to get together for breakfast — continues to keep records for every single week of the Invite’s existence, recently adding to his several Loser Stats tables, now at nrars.org,, and recently enhanced by my very favorite Invite tool, the Master Contest List, which not only lists every contest, date and winner, but now has links to virtually all 1027 of them. There’s even a word search function, so you can track down the precise phrasing of that brilliant entry you wrote in 2001.
But Elden hasn’t been quite as consistent in entering the Invitational. While there’s never been a year in these past 20 in which he hasn’t gotten ink, it was in the 1990s that he was really blotting it up, scoring with as many as 70 entries in a year. Then, alas, the worker for an agency that’s been in the news a lot lately started getting distracted by the Wrong Crowd, like people from his church who travel to the South every year to rebuild homes for the poor and flood-ravaged. And Elden’s ink harvest dwindled to as few as four a year.
Lately, though, Elden has been in touch a lot more with the Empress lately, not only with entries — I see that he has 9 inks since mid-March — but also with contest ideas. And just maybe that has to do with the fact that Elden almostalmostalmost at the 500-ink portal of the Style Invitational Hall of Fame. And the history buff’s clearly terrific suggestion for a First Congress twist on our biennial-plus “joint legislation” for Week 1028 gives him Point 499.
Oops, how am I going to talk him up when he finally hits 500? Well, I guess there’s the anecdote about the Flushies picnic with the locked bathrooms ...
For those not familiar with the joint legislation contests: It’s entirely about wordplay; you don’t have to know anything about the actual members of Congress. You just string the names together to make them sound like a word, phrase or sentence, and then come up with a fitting and funny description of a law that partnership could sponsor. While the bills in this week’s examples combine two or three names, we’ve sometimes had long strings. The trick is that when I say “make them sound like a word, phrase or sentence,” I don’t mean to add “even if only in your own personal brain”: As someone who has read literally at least 10,000 of these entries, I inevitably receive numerous strings of names that don’t form anything sounding remotely like what their authors intend; in the last contest, for example, “Yoho-Vela-Williams” was supposed to be read as “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
The obvious solution: Ask someone else to read your entries, without any prompting from you, and tell you what they say. If you think your trusted companion is just being, um, distracted (Bob Staake didn’t get “Few-Moore-Coles”), get a second opinion in the same way from someone who you think might be more Invitationally attuned. Still, as the Bob examples show, there are times when the most straightforward combinations don’t register, and I’ve occasionally run a version of the results containing translations. Here’s the untranslated set of results of Week 1005, the last time we did this contest.