Welcome to Loserland, everyone: not just the handful of inveterate degenerates who make the Style Invitational a continual week-long obsession, but also those sadly misguided souls who’ve just learned about the Invite by reading some of this weekend’s 20th-anniversary retrospective, and foolhardily kept clicking on links.
Actually, it’s the latter group for whom we put together this week’s “package,” as it’s called in newspapers. Sunday Style section editor Lynn Medford felt strongly that this decade-in-review was our best chance ever to reach the multitudes of “word people” our there, even in the Washington area, who weren’t aware of the Invitational at all, or who thought it was a once-a-year contest in in which you change a word by one letter. So if that’s you, stick around; if you’re one of the regulars, we know you’ll stick around, just to look for your name.
(Bob Staake for The Washington Post) - Never make a professional artist mad at you: The first cover version.
This weekend’s retrospective marks the third milestone that the Invite has reached in the past year. We had ourselves a little gloat last May in Week 974, when we racked up more contests than our “inspiration” (i.e., robbery victim), the New York Magazine Competition. Then in December, we logged our 1,000th contest, marking it with our classic change-a-letter neologism challenge (yes, we do do it about once a year, actually) .
But this week’s package is by far the biggest to-do The Post has made about the Invitational since the similar, even more massive greatest-hits album issued in March 2003. And this time, we’re focusing more on the Invite as a phenomenon, as well as sharing dozens of our favorte entries from the past decade (we figured we’d stick with “only” the past 515 contests). I’m especially delighted with the feature story about the Losers by Style section reporter David Montgomery, who not only delved into the stats and the Facebook page, and talked to at least a dozen Losers, but actually took a whole half of his Sunday to go and sit at a table with them (evidence is here; David is sitting next to the yellow-Loser-shirted Stephen Dudzik).
You might have noticed that I don’t decree the entries included this week as the best of the past decade. For one thing, just about anything of considerable length had to be sacrificed: The two song parodies I included, for example, are terrific and still timely, but they also happen to be fairly short. Entries that ran for whole paragraphs or several stanzas — or even if they were for contests that took a lot of room to describe — didn’t make the list. Also, a lot of the top entries were very topical, playing very quickly off headlines of the day; that’s part of what made them so great at the time. But obviously, they wouldn’t be the best choices now that their subject has become a historical footnote (for some it’s more like a toenailnote).
Many of today’s entries won the Inker or its successor, the Inkin’ Memorial. Most of the others (at least) were runners-up. There might, however, be the stray honorable mention: When I reviewed each contest, I tried to look only at the top winners, but sometimes my eye caught some other hilarious entry that made me laugh out loud. (There was a LOT of laughing out loud during this task.) I never noted which entry had won what.