Gonna write a long analysis that drains all the humor from a joke, she said Conversationally

June 19

Really, I’m not worried that we won’t get huge numbers of incredibly clever AND original one-line Tom Swifties from this week’s contest, enough to fill something more than 20 column inches of the newspaper in that li’l light-face type. Not that I’m confident we will, though of course I’ll be tickled if we do. But even if we don’t, things will be fine: I know because I just started to look at the song parodies from Week 1074 — and I already see so many good ones that I know I can supplement the Swifties with one or more of them.

Thanks to Elden Carnahan’s nifty Master Contest list -- which contains a link to every Style Invitational contest -- I see that in Week 44, The Czar never spelled out what a Tom Swifty was (or Swiftly, as he insisted on calling it, with the original though now superseded moniker). He just gave four “-ly” examples — “I am an innocent man,” Bob Packwood said touchingly; “Thank you, Dr. Kevorkian,” the new patient said breathlessly; “I still love my wife,” John Bobbitt said gushingly; and “I’m sorry, we do not accept walk-in clientele,” Duke Zeibert sniffed unreservedly — and asked: “Write us a Tom Swiftly or two, updated for the ’90s. Each must include a reference to a famous person or institution.”

Back then, there was no Internet thing, no social-media thing, in which the specifics of the contest would be debated by confessed lawyers, as the Week 1076 double-dactyl contest continues to be on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook.

The response to Week 44 was huge and duplicative and recycled, as the Czar reported along with the results three weeks later (the turnaround time increased to four weeks starting in 2000):
“A huge response this week, more than 5,000 entries, of which nearly 32 were publishable. The unusable fit into three categories:
“1. The unfunny (Rush Limbaugh estimated conservatively; Howard said sternly)
“2. The clever but obvious: (John Bobbitt said detachedly; Jack Kent Cooke said dismissively; Les Aspin said defensively; Michael Jackson said fondly) and
“3. Ideas shamelessly recycled from the 1960s (”I am coming down from my cell now,” Mike Tyson said condescendingly; “I miss my sweetie,” said Donald Duck lackadaisically.)
“A note to the two dozen individuals who wrote self-righteously to inform us that the joke form is a “Swifty” and not a “Swiftly”: Wrong. The Tom Swiftly is an exercise in adverbial excess that parodies the adolescently overwritten Tom Swift adventure novels. It carries the adverbial ending. Just because something gains legitimacy through common misuse does not make it correct. If you disagree, we could care less.”

He then ran 27 entries, all in the “-ly” form, filling out the available space with three large-type valentine poems as examples for the next contest, with giant hearts in the background. (PDF of the page.)

Note that for this week, I specifically noted that the Swifty may be a verb as well as an adverb.

The form’s name, by the way, salutes the formulaic writing style of the Tom Swift series of children's novels, starting in 1910, by “Victor Appleton,” the pen name of the amazing Edward Stratemeyer, whose company also created the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, employing other ghostwriters as well. My son was a passionate reader of the last series, especially the early volumes, which was why at 7 years old, in A.D. 1996, he’d exclaim, “Say, that’s grand!”

Get instant results with just one click!

You might have noticed that Washington Post stories online — including the Invitational and Conversational — have begun to appear on the screen in a new format. The headlines are all in a bold sans-serif type, and the body type is larger, in a narrower column, with more space between the lines. It’s far more readable than the earlier look; here’s Week 927 in the old and the new versions.

But there’s a drawback as well: It requires a lot of scrolling to get through a long article. And that means that if the new contest gets a long introduction, the results are really buried. (Conversely, if we ran the results first, the new contest would be similarly hidden.)

So, thanks to the initiative of IT guy Kurt Gardner, we’ve added a link up top near the introduction by which you can skip down to the results. The point of this, of course, isn’t to encourage you to ignore the new contest — it’s so we — and you — will be able to share the results without needing to tell people to scroll past the new contest. The link you click on to skip down the page is actually to a separate Web address, or URL, that you can use online or in an e-mail when you’re announcing your achievement in inkage, or just want to share all that funny stuff. Kurt and I are working in real time to see how and where the links will appear, so it might need some tweaking over the next few Invites.

No withdrawal: The results of Week 1073

I love the bank heads. I can’t wait until a somewhat decent period has elapsed before I can run another headline contest; this one was just six months since the previous installment. But always, I find myself laughing out loud repeatedly when reading the entries. For the second time, entrants were allowed to use other publications as well as The Post as headline sources, though I think most of the entries were still drawn from The World’s Most Fantabulous Paper Because Who Else Would Run This Contest. In fact, lots of entries came from the print version of the paper.

Today’s winner — the sixth by Mike Gips, for 159 inks in all — is reminiscent of a famed headline that seems, alas, to be apocryphal; “You Can Put Pickles Up Yourself” is said to have appeared in the food section of The Post many years ago, although no one can find it. It’s also conveniently missing from the mid-evening edition of the Baltimore Evening Sun, where it also was alleged to have run.

The rockin’-pickle, headline, however, definitely appeared in the May 28 food section of The Post. I wonder if the news will spread that The Post ran this headline with the Clinton bank head.

Second-place winner Kevin Dopart wins both the Best Timing award, given yesterday’s news about the Redskins’ loss of federal trademark recognition, and the Made You Think prize — the extra second or two that makes you figure out “Hoskins” makes the payoff that much more gratifying. Kevin has so much Invite ink that, if we were to share his statistics, we’d use exponents, if only The Post’s online software were able to print them. Okay, he has 9-squared “above-the-fold” inks alone.

As a Marylander who’s going to be voting next Tuesday, I had to crack up at Bird Waring’s zinger about the race for lieutenant governor (during the debate, the candidates focused entirely on the candidates for governor, since even they realize nobody cares about them). Bird blots up his 126th blot of ink, while it’s Number.... gaaahhh ... 928 for Brendan Beary, whose yeah-right interpretation of the Putin headline beat out several others with the same idea.

Loser Brunch this Sunday!

We so far have only a cozy table’s worth of diners for this month’s Loser Brunch, even though my coffee cup will be right there for the poisoning: It’s at Chadwicks in Old Town Alexandria, right at the waterfront. Sunday at 11 a.m. RSVP ASAP at the brunch link at nrars.org.

Hidlines*: The unprintables of Week 1073

Nothing really shocking, but just too graphic for The Post, I’m sure. The one about the Obamas wouldn't have been objectionable had it not been about specific people, especially the president and first lady.

How “tightness” vs “looseness” explains the U.S. political map
Republicans remain full of crap; Democrats spread theirs around (Jon Gearhart)

Singer’s Significant Meats launches pop-up in Bethesda
Bethesda Apologizes to Beyonce for Inappropriate Erection (Jon Gearhart)

Redskins are all in and feeling good
But enough about their sex lives, fans plead (Steve Honley)

Shinseki’s quick exit is unusual for Obama
Michelle smiles and nods in agreement (Roger Dalrymple)

(*“Hidlines” was suggested by Jeff Contompasis)

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