For some reason, the Czar of The Style Invitational called this week’s challenge “air quotes” when he first ran it, in Week 336 (February 2000). He described the contest thus: “Choose any word and emphasize a single part of it, as though you were saying the word out loud with ‘air quotes’ around the key part. Then redefine the word, as in the examples above.”
But even some of his “examples above” wouldn’t have worked out loud. They included “Ex‘clam’ation--The phlegmy sound one makes when startled while drinking liquid” and, more significantly, “Mans‘laugh’ter--Accidentally killing someone by giving him a noogie.” (Results of the contest are here; it’s a text file and won’t count toward The Post’s paywall limit; in the Conversational, I’ll do that as often as possible by using the PDFs and text files linked to from Elden Carnahan’s Master Contest List),
But that didn’t prevent the misnomer from being used again the next year, in Week 405, when I judged the contest while I was playing “Auxiliary Czar” for about three months while the Czar was on leave to write a screenplay for a movie that never got made. And once again, an example, “the‘rapist’ — a very bad psycholanalyst”-- wouldn’t have worked out loud. (I used the passive voice to impose blame because I don’t know if it was I who wrote the introduction, or if the Czar had done it before he left, or if it was “Uberczar” Tom Shroder, who, if I recall correctly, chose or at least had significant input into which entries placed “above the fold” each week from a list I showed him.) Results here.
Finally, in Week 826 (2009), I just called it “words inside words” and left it at that. (Results here.)
Anyway, that of course doesn’t affect this week’s contest; we’re just not using the term “air quotes.” I remember judging the 2001 contest in a hotel room while on a trip with my parents to some family function, and how one or both of said parents just couldn’t get the jokes I’d share with them. Fortunately, they were not permitted to enter The Style Invitational.
I will probably be sharing some of the classic entries on Facebook on the Style Invitational Ink of the Day page, in short lists of five or six entries as well as individually as meme graphics; I’ve found that a neologism plus a short description, such as this one, works really well in this format. And down the road, I’d figure that I’ll be showcasing some gems from Week 1031 as well.
You’re free to use one of the inking words from the three previous contests, but only if your definition uses a significantly different approach. If you’re a veteran and never got ink with your earlier entry, feel free to try again; all of the previous contests took place before there was a 25-entry limit, and so it’s quite possible that much inkworthy humor wuz robbed.
I was more apprehensive than usual when I posted the Week 1027 contest, suggested by recent Hall of Fame inductee Stephen Dudzik, to name pairs of building features — besides men’s and ladies’ rooms, which we used already back in Week 145, how many such pairs were there to work with?
On top of that, I soon started to hear protests of “I have no ideas” and “this is impossible” from even ink-stained veterans.
Bah. I found myself with plenty of good entries, and lots of creative — but I think valid — ideas for what to pair up (and what the heck, triple up), even for the long list I had room for in a week when each entry took up only a couple of lines. It was good, though, that I specifically invited contestants to think up more names for men’s and ladies’ rooms, since those ended up supplying a large plurality of the inking entries.
I especially liked Phil Frankenfeld’s clever and timely twist on the bathroom genre. This gives Phil a whopping seven first-place finishes among his 125 ink blots since he started way back in Week 188. And I’m looking forward to stabbing Jeff Contmpasis — JefCon, as he’s often called by the Style Invitational Devotees, with that weird “scalp massager” he’ll be getting for second place, his 27th runner-up prize amid his more than 300 inks. And mugs or bags will be going out to two fairly recent and very welcome additions to the Loser Community, Danielle Nowlin and Nandini Lal. Danielle has been mopping up the ink week after week, but we hadn’t heard from Nandini in a while; we’re happy to have her back.
I’ve been saluting Elden Carnahan in this space over the previous two weeks; I finally had space to do so in the Invite (im)proper, on the occasion of last week’s 500th blot of ink for him, his ticket into the Style Invitational Hall of Fame. Elden has been doing more work than ever in the service of the Loser Community with his website at nrars.org; just today he showed me his New & Imporved Master Contest List that he’s working on; the current version is already an essential resource to anyone who really wants to go for the ink in the Invitational, and a fascinating read for your more warped fans. And there’s the searchable word list, and the brunch link, and the “Cantinkerous” list, and of course the comprehensive lists of stats of everyone who’s ever gotten ink — almost 5,000 people.
It’ll be a while before another we induct another Loser into the Hall. It’s most likely going to be Beverley Sharp, who’s sso darn good at so many forms of humor that she ends up getting ink almost every week. Beverley got her 400th ink last week and already is up to 403, passing the once again retired David Genser for the No. 10 spot all-time. But that should still give us at least close to a year to wipe Elden’s muddy footprints off the Hall of Fame threshold.
However, a couple of other Major Milestones are nigh upon us: We’ll soon be dusting off the royal scepter and drawing back the curtain to the Inner Sanctum -- Kevin Dopart has 963 inks as of this week -- and, any week now, even the Inner Inner Sanctum of 1,500 inks, currently inhabited only by Russell Beland: Chris Doyle — who for years has been in second place all-time to the pretty much retired Dr. B — has 1,497.
Russell has 1,523 inks, but he got his 1,500th more than a year ago. For a while, Russ was so far ahead in the standings that I truly thought the Invitational wouldn’t live long enough for anyone to pass him. But unless Chris suddenly gives up the pastime that he’s been indulging in for virtually every week, from locations all over the world, since the year 2000 -- or unless Russ is suddenly motivated by hearing those Doylean footsteps -- we’ll soon see a new name atop Elden’s stat sheets.
Not surprisingly, we had some crude pairings for the building features:
Bathrooms at the National Portrait Gallery’s Hall of Presidents: Johnsons and Bushes (Brendan Beary)
Door signs at a swing club: Entrance: In. Exit: Out: Playroom: In & Out. (Dixon Wragg)
A Hollywood studio’s vacuum and carpet cleaner: Jenna Jameson and Ellen DeGeneres (Rob Huffman)
Amnesty International’s utility fixtures: Electricity: Sing Sing; Water: Gitmo; Gas: Auschwitz (Kevin Dopart) [Kevin!]
Emergency and outpatient entrances at a hospital: Sonny and Cher. (Kevin Dopart)
Urinals and toilets at T. Rowe Price: Liquid assets and back-end loads. (Mike Gips)
Public restrooms at The Clink Prison Museum: Balls and Janes. (Chris Doyle)