The Style Conversational
The Style Conversational
Loser-friendly discussion with The Empress of The Style Invitational

Week 1005: Enacting up with our joint-legislation contest, and OMG are there lots of abbreviations


By the E, Pat Myers

Hello, everyone. We’re still digging out a little bit here at Mount Vermin after last Saturday’s Loser Post-Holiday party, “digging out” consisting mainly of eating leftover desserts for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past four days. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was getting into by essentially issuing an open invitation to the public to come to my house: I sent out an e-mail with my home address and phone number to almost 1,900 people on the Style Invitational mailing list, which is pretty much everyone who’s entered the contest in recent months.

But I figured: What’s there to steal or break, anyway, besides the bottle of Vietnamese elixir with a preserved cobra coiled up inside?

But as I’d figured, all 65 or so people who took the trouble to drive out to the wilderness of southern Prince George’s County, Md. (well, it’s just seven miles from the D.C. line, but it might as well be Suburban Mars for many guests), turned out to be genial and well behaved, at least by Loser standards. As a potluck, it got a bit crowded in the dining room at times, and not everyone fit (or tried to fit) into the back room for the musical performances, but I think that most of us got to meet new people and reconnect with fellow Losers. The several heretofore total strangers were delighted to Meet the Parentheses and match up faces with the names they’d been seeing in the Invite for years.

(The cobra wine is fine.)

The music (or “music”) portion of the evening — preserved forever on the YouTube links in this paragraph — featured a one-night-only reunion of the Dueling Loser Band — veteran Losers Dave Zarrow and Greg Arnold — who offered a gut-wrenching parody called “Losers@washpost.com,” set to Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309,” among other songs; Howard Walderman’s take on ”My Way,” about entering the Invitational every week; and Nan Reiner’s show-stopping rendition of her recently inking parody of Paula Broadwell singing “I Enjoy Being a Girl.”

The night is further documented with more videos and lots of photos, all tagged with IDs, on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook. I am the one wearing both a glittering tiara and red felt reindeer antlers.

Several people scratched at the last minute with a bout of the flu. ’Sokay, though: They can come instead to this month’s Loser Brunch, which will be on Sunday, Jan. 27, at 10 a.m. at Mango Mike’s in suburban Alexandria. It’s a buffet featuring entertainment by a Trinidadian steel-drummer. RSVP to Elden Carnahan here so we can get at least a rough count. See you there.

SAY WHAT YOU WILL, WE’RE NOT A LAWLESS SOCIETY: THE WEEK 1005 JOINT-LEGISLATION CONTEST

Our (usually) biennial game of combining congressmen’s names to produce a bill is eagerly anticipated by some Losers, dreaded by others. As you’ll see from this year’s list, the 98 new members of the House and Senate include some highly promising names for this contest — I predict an enormous number of entries.

While this week’s examples are short and straightforward, we also end up giving ink to long strings of names that form a lengthy phrase or sentence. And sometimes they’re hard to figure out. Obviously, if I published an entry, / I / figured it out somehow, but I understand that I might be better at getting such entries after reading 2,000 of these strings at a time. So in 2011, for the results of Week 903, I ran two versions: one without explanations and one with an answer key. This link goes to the figure-it-yourself version; inside that one is the link to the version with the answers.

Important advice for this contest: What sounds perfectly clear in your own head might be entirely incomprehensible to the rest of the world. (That’s what they tell me on the street corner outside the Metro station, anyway.) For example, I noted last time that someone had submitted ”“Roby-Pearce-Pompeo-Paul” to be read as “Rob Peter to pay Paul.” This is no good. So what you need to do, before offering your work up to The Rest of the World, is to show your entries to another person and ask him to read them, preferably out loud. If the response is “Whaaaa?” I’m afraid you have your answer.

Should you tell ME the translation along with your entry? I’m torn: If I’m tipped off as to what the bill is supposed to be saying, I won't know if I could have gotten it without help. But I also don’t want to track down a bunch of people to ask them what on earth they were trying to say. The best thing, I guess, would be if you put the translation on a separate line below that I could cover up while looking at the entry. It would be easy for me to say, “If I don’t get it, it’s no good anyway,” but I know that’s not always true: I’m pretty sure that at first I failed to get the eventual Inker-winner in 2004: the Poe-John-Dunn-Barrow-Nickles-Fortenberry-Breaux Bill for regulation of funeral costs. (Angela Murphy-Walters, Accokeek, Md.) But I asked someone else, and then I loved it: The translation: “John done borrowed nickels for to bury bro.”

The pronunciations of the names: They have to be at least close. “Beatty” is pronounced “Baity”; it can’t rhyme with “meaty.” “Vela” is roughly “vella.” “Pocan” is PO-CAN; “pokin’ “ will be all right, but “pecan” won’t. “Sinema” is just like the movie theater. “Titus” can be “tightest” or “tied us” but not “tight-ass.” There’s not really a case like “Boehner” this year, in which it was so tempting to use “boner” but, alas, that wasn’t even close to how he pronounces it. If there are other names you’re not sure of, go to YouTube.com and search on “[name] for Congress”; chances are you’ll find a campaign commercial with the candidate saying his own name, or at least a local newscast of a debate. By the way, I do link in this week’s Invitational to The Post’s handy-dandy page of the newbies, complete with photos — it’s an excitingly diverse yearbook. And for once, nobody is named Johnson. (Whuh-oh, there’s a Peters.)

If a name is listed twice, you may use it twice in the bill.

I will tell you now that there will be many, many duplicated name combinations among the entries. I hope, however, that instead of their all canceling one another out, some entries will have particularly creative bills attached to them. If not, I’ll probably list the funniest of the too frequent, with no individual credits.

FWIW, THE RESULTS OF WEEK 1001

I guess I’ll announce them on Twitter — for once, I can easily fit an entry in the space provided AND say “Style Invitational.” Plenty of cute texting/tweeting shortcuts this week. In answer to a question posted after I put the contest up four weeks ago, I said that, while it wasn’t what I had in mind for Week 1001, I’d also take funny “spelling out” of a certain abbreviation or full name. But except for the few I used in this week’s results — a comical misinterpretation of STFU, for instance — the entries I got along that line didn’t end up thrilling me; maybe they just didn’t match up well with the original idea. It’s just hard to predict until I get the whole set of entries.

As opposed to last week’s results, which lacked a single First Offender among the more than 50 entries published, this week’s Losing entries come from a happy mix of veterans and newbies, with not just two First Offenders, but also several people blotting up just their second or third splashes of ink.

That includes Inkin’ Memorial winner Dayna Fellows of Washington’s Maryland suburbs, whose only previous Invite ink was an honorable mention for the Week 967 portmanteau phrases (“Mister Happy Meal: It’s never as filling as they make it out to be”). So in true Loserly fashion, she still hasn’t managed to win a magnet — just the FirStink for her first ink, and the grand-prize Bobble-link. It’s okay, Dayna — keep trying! And it’s just the third time around for second-place Arden Levine of Brooklyn, who also appeared here in Weeks 939 and 994.

On the other hand, a Cup Punneth Over mug or Grossery Bag will be headed out to Doug Frank of the Houston area. Doug burst into Loserland seven or eight years ago with a rookie year of 24 inks, but then decided to de-obsess for several years before joining in enthusiastically on the Devotees page. And now I hope he’ll be back regularly (but still not obsessively) with the Invite as well. (And one day we’re going to meet Doug in person.)

It’s been a similar but a little steadier ink trail for Bird Waring of the New York area; Bird’s first two Invite years, about a decade ago, were his two biggest. Then, according to Elden Carnahan’s Loser stats (where all these numbers come from), he’d get two or six or seven inks each year after that. But Bird’s taken wing this Loser year, with 16 blots including a first place and this one, with another couple of months to go, for a grand total of 103 so far.

This week’s HAW from Lynn Medford, editor of The Post’s Sunday Style section: The abbreviation of “NOe” for “no biggie,” by Brad Alexander of the Invite’s Western Australia Expat Bureau.

SHAKING ALL ABOUT: THE HOKEY POKEY SONNET GOES VIRAL ONCE AGAIN

Remember how a few weeks ago how that graphic of “bad analogies by high school students” — actually a list of Invitational winners from 1995 — circulated wildly over Facebook and other sites after being posted by the wildly popular ex-“Star Trek” funny-stuff-circulator George Takei? And he never set the record straight despite numerous efforts to get hold of him?

We had a much happier experience last week when our Jeff Brechlin’s famous Inker-winner from 2003, the Hokey Pokey in the form of a (truncated) Elizabethan sonnet, was shared by the Facebook arm of Grammarly.com, a vendor of proofreading software (the previous paragraph was rated “poor” by the grammarlybot). It also was posted without credit to Grammarly’s more than 500,000 Facebook followers — including several Style Invitational Devotees, who told me about it. (It has since been shared more than 64,000 times.)

Grumpy again after the Takei business, I sent off a message to Grammarly, explaining the sonnet’s provenance and offering a link to the current Invite. But within hours, Kim Joki of Grammarly got back to me, thanking me for the information — and adding the link.

Soon after that, we suddenly got a bunch of applications to the Devotees page — normally we get three or four over a weekend, but this past weekend we got 15. And sure enough, most of them seem to be from people who just learned about the Invite from Grammarly. One, Ed Bokhour, noted, “So glad to have found the Invitational! I swear I didn’t even know about it until last night. Where have I been all my life?”

Meanwhile — and this might be a coincidence — I got a deluge of new entrants for the Invite contests of Weeks 1002 and especially 1003, the repurposing of an ad slogan. I think I’ve added 75 new names to the e-mail list this week.

This is all wonderful news to me as we start off a new year, with a new editor of The Post (whom I haven't met yet). New people who’ve made it to the bottom of this missive, welcome!

 
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