Style Conversational Week 1032/1028: Talk about your hidden messages!

August 1, 2013

Fresh off his induction into the Style Invitational Hall of Fame (entrance fee: 500 blots of ink), Elden Carnahan e-mailed me with his suggestion for zany discoveries of secret messages and other symbolism in various sites, signs, etc., and I jumped at it immediately, knowing that the Greater Loser Community is replete with (a) lots of good humor writers and (b) lots of crazy people.

Not that I want to take time away from your perusal of the FORTY-TWO inking pieces of “joint legislation,” but you really should take two minutes to watch this video of the truly amazing Glenn Beck revealing to his audience, an organization called Christians United for Israel, the secret Star of David in the Great Seal of the United States.

At least he didn’t follow “take out a dollar out of your pocket” with “and give it to me.”

I’ll be happy to see a wide variety of source material with this contest, since it’s important not to tell readers the same joke 20 times over. I gave a maximum length of 75 words, but really, it’s perfectly fine to send something much shorter than that; I like to intersperse shorter entries amid the longer ones. Obviously, good, funny writing is important; don’t just jot down some ideas and expect that I’ll write it for you.

Congrefs and confusion: The results of Week 1028

Ahh, it takes so long to judge a Style Invitational “joint legislation” contest, but heck, it’s still a lot of fun. I loved the idea — also from the lately prolific Mr. Carnahan — of using the First U.S. Congress (1789-91) as a way to link it to Independence Day; the contest was posted July 3.

The immediate questions that popped up — would I require that the names’ actual pronunciation be used, and how much research would this require? — turned out not to be a major issue. On the Style Invitational Devotees page I offered a few pronunciations that I could find by Googling phrases like “boudinot congress pronounced” or by looking the guy up in Wikipedia. But I added that I would be more flexible than usual on pronunciations, especially for the more obscure names. It’s not quite the same as mispronouncing the name of a current member of Congress. But it did conveniently turn out that Rep. Elias Boudinot of New Jersey went with “boodi-not,” according to Wikipedia. Sevier County, Tenn., is named for Rep. John Sevier and is pronounced “severe,” so we figured that he likely pronounced it that way as well. (And if not, too bad.)

As I did with the results of Week 1005, the last time we did the joint legislation contest, I’ve run a parallel set of results online, with a translation or explanation accompanying each entry that was at all challenging. Personally, I don’t think the entries I gave ink to are very hard to get. But I concede that it’s much easier for me to read these combinations than for Joe Invite Reader on the Street — because I have read, literally, tens of thousands of these things. I shared only my first four choices with my predecessor, the Czar of the Style Invitational — who , in his time, judged thousands of these bills himself — and he replied, “Boy, these are not easy,” and didn’t figure out “heart leaking” (and hence the Trayvon Martin allusion) in the fourth-place entry. So that made it an easy decision to run the answers.

But the ones I ran are models of limpid clarity compared with many of the entries I received. Some so thoroughly stumped me that I posted them on the Style Invitational Devotees page and asked for help. Amazingly, the combined forces of Loserdom did figure them out:

One was the “Stone-Coles-Hiester bill to prevent overcharging for parchment and quill pens.” This was, after much discussion and the writer’s confirmation, determined to mean “Stone cold shyster.,” as in the 18th-century parallel to today’s overbilling lawyers. The thing is, no matter how fast you say “Coles-Hiester,” you don’t elide the two words into a “sh” sound; the most it would be is “zeister.”

One that I did get, but only with some clues left by its proud author, Randy Lee: “The Read-White-Floyd Education Act to get teachers to leave those kids alone who refuse to mix their paints.” That’s “read” as in the past tense of “read,” i.e., a homonym of “red.” Mix red and white and you get pink. The rock group Pink Floyd’s song “Another Brick in the Wall” contains the line “Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone.” Ingenious! But just too much work in a list with 41 other entries. (Both the Royal Consort and the Czar did get this one, though the Czar described its humor as "straining harder than Elvis.”)

Then there was “The Bourne-Bland-Johnson Sufferers’ Compensation Act to allow importation of speedy, expensive Prussian carriages.” The Devotees did nail this one, so to speak: It was making an 18th-century equivalent to a modern man’s “compensation” of buying a German sports car, a Mercedes or Porsche or BMW. Nice idea, brought down by “bland” not really meaning small or weak.

Then there were entries that were fortunately decoded by their writers so that I didn’t have to waste time figuring them out — like Giles-Langdon, intended to mean “gal’s laying down,” and Coles-Lawrence, meaning “coleslaw rents.” The latter one points to another thing: you can’t make a pronunciation stretch AND produce a phrase that’s not natural English. Coleslaw rents?

Finally, I had NO idea about this one: “The Goodhue-Vining-Langdon-Gilman Act to authorize that Lawrence Welk introduce the new national anthem.” Two minutes later, Loser Neal Starkman had figured it out: It was supposed to say “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.” I mean!! Frank Osen — who gets ink this week with something else (as does Randy Lee) — acknowledged ownership and retorted to his critics: “I think you’re all just jealous of someone who clearly does a spot-on Lawrence Welk impression.”

I think all the inking entries — which all made it into our now-expanded space in the print paper — are far easier than any of the above. Note: There were many entries that had similar ideas; I counted 113 entries using the name Huger, and dozens of Huger-Johnson. I chose one. I used two for “Schureman-Sheman” to mean “sure, man, sure, man” because the “bills “ were totally different. So unless your entry is basically identical to one of the inking entries (or of course if I accidentally credited the wrong person for your exact words) , sorry.

It’s not just the first Inkin’ Memorial for Doug Hamilton, an astronomy professor at the University of Maryland; it’s the first “above-the-fold” ink of any kind, and his seventh Invitational ink total (plus two honorable mentions this week) since he debuted in Week 1007. The three runners-up also happened to have burst into Loserland with impressive rookie years: Nan Reiner and Craig Dykstra won the bizarrely coveted Rookie of the Year plaque, in Year 19 and Year 17, respectively (we’re now in Year 21); and Mark Raffman is still officially in his rookie year and already has 56 blots of ink.

The 42 inking entries this week are credited to 35 individual Losers (boy, am I burning through these magnets), including a whopping six First Offenders (ditto, FirStink air “fresheners”). If you weren’t one of those 35, it’s because I don’t like your attitude.
With Malitz toward ... Laurie Brink’s Huger-Lee-Izard bill about an arms race to prevent Godzilla attacks was the favorite of Sunday Style Editor David Malitz.

Too inside but worth noting was one from First Offender Dawn Kral: “The Read-Page-Moore Act, requiring the Style Invitational to hire better proofreaders”: Dawn was alluding to my typo in the print edition of Week 1028 in which I identified the first U.S. Congress as taking place “1789-81 “

Killed before reaching committee: This week’s unprintables

If you have any sensitivities to anything, please stop reading now. These are so not for you.

Arbitrary, maybe, but it’s the deal: We can use “johnson”; we can’t use “dick.”

Several along the line of the next two:
The Huger-Brown-Johnson Measure to settle this debate once and for all (Andy Promisel)
The Huger-White-Johnson Act to promote racial equality. (Dixon Wragg)

Foster-Huger-Johnson Act to encourage even bigger pricks to run for Congress. (Robert Schechter)

The Sedgwick Sevier Thatcher Clymer Vining bill to ensure Kyra gets her monthly waxing job for her unusually heavy growth. (Daniel Helming)

The Clymer-Dickinson-Parker Act to Endow Publication of Pamphlets to Assist Abashed Fathers in Explaining The Birds and The Bees to Their Sons (Nan Reiner)

Jackson-Scott-Dickinson: prohibits parents from letting their young children sleep over at the homes of rock stars. (Rob Wolf)

The Johnson-Parker-Page Bill for to provided employment for young men and enjoyment for older men. (Edmund Conti)

Moore Grayson Johnson bill to promote the acceptance of manscaping for males over 50. (Rick Haynes)

The Tucker-Dickinson Act to discourage indecent exposure among the younger delegates. (Frank Osen) or to provide guidance to aspiring drag queens (Laurie Brink)

The Strong-King-Wadsworth-Moore Bill to encourage royal donations to sperm banks. (Stephen Dudzik)

The Lee-Few-King-Lee Incest Prohibition Act (Ira Allen)

The Madison-Scott-Huger-Johnson Resolution to note that a politician’s diminutive stature is not predictive of other attributes (Mark Raffman)

The Brown-Gale bill to celebrate the German word “Scheisse-Sturmenniederschlag.” (Chris Doyle)

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