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

Week 917: Wryku; and the ‘Bringing up the rear’ neologisms from Week 913

Good afternoon, everyone; I hope you’ve had plenty of chocolate bunnies, matzah brei, chocolate matzah, matzah bunnies, etc., and can now refocus your hunger on the quest for Style Invitational ink. This week we revisit a contest we first did two years ago, in Week 823; I’d call it Haikus on the News were I not assured of receiving a slew of letters from readers telling me how illiterate I was to use “haikus,” rather than “haiku,” as the plural — on top of the ones telling me what an ignoramus I was to call any old 5-7-5 construction a haiku.when there are actually a host of other distinguishing characteristics, and 5-7-5 doesn’t really refer to syllables, and some aren’t that many syllables etc. etc. etc.

Anyway, we’ll use the plain ol’ American-schoolkid meaning, and of course we’re looking for humorous or at least dryly witty observations on current events. No, you can’t violate the 5-7-5 rule, because that’s really the only structure of the contest. Could the haiku even rhyme? Go for it. Can you break a word over two lines? No. On the other hand, I’ll have to make the occasional call about how many syllables are in a given word (e.g., can you pronounce “fire” as ”fah-yer”?), and I’m likely to be flexible to allow for oddball (non-Philadelphian) pronunciations.

For years, I’d resisted doing a haiku contest (and I believe that my predecessor, the Czar, did as well), basically because the genre didn’t seem likely to allow someone to be really clever, as rhyming poems or songs do. But Week 823 turned out to be a great success, with two dozen haiku running in the print paper plus another couple dozen in a Web-only supplement. And given that Mark Sanford and Michael Jackson haven’t monopolized the news lately, we should have lots of fresh material. Normally when we do a contest for poems about news events, I discourage people from writing about people’s deaths, since it makes more sense to save them for the obit-poems contest after the first of the year. But since we hardly ever use haiku in that contest — they just don’t tend to work well when set among rhyming poems — feel free to use obits as topics here.

As I said in the directions, you may add a title to your three lines. And if the poem is about a very specific news event that readers might not understand from the haiku itself, we could include an introductory line. But it’s a plus if your haiku doesn’t require an external explanation.


I was pretty sure that Week 913’s “Bring Up the Rear” contest would be more challenging than its progenitor, Week 904’s “Move On Back.” I’d considered broadening it to allow moving a word’s final two letters to the beginning, rather than just the last letter. But naah, we had more than enough entries (lots, once again, from new people) -- and only most of them used plurals ending in -s, essentially turning the contest into “add S in front of an existing word.” While I did give ink to the best of these — including the Inker winner — I generally preferred words that weren’t just plurals. And once again, just about all, if not all, of the neologisms related somehow to the original word, usually in ingenious ways. And as I’d predicted, I used more actual words as inking “neologisms” than I did last time.

As I note in the column, the most frequently submitted entry was “Aliby” — I got more than two dozen, all of which pretty much canceled one another out, not to mention that we’d already run the converse of this trick in the Week 904 results, in which you moved the first letter of a word to the end: “Libia: A universally disbelieved denial of guilt for an act of terror.” (David Garratt) I found it fascinating that the various definitions of “Aliby” were just about evenly split between ones condemning Gaddafi (e.g., “The story the legendary Igaddaf tells for why he attacked his own countrymen,” Catherine Benedetto) and those condemning the United States and/or NATO (“When a president uses an ‘international coalition’ as a reason for military action” (Heather Hancock).

Second most frequent: “Morgas.” Nothing printable among them was stellar. (Keep reading for the Unprintables.)

It’s the second win — but possibly the first Inker — for Kyle Bonney of Fairfax, Va., who’s been accumulating his 13 blots of ink since way back in Week 266 (the Inkers didn’t come into being until I ascended the throne in Week 536). Kyle had figured his play on “nipples” wouldn’t be printable, but even the Taste Police didn’t object to the idea that babies like using them. The Graceland View-Master will soon clutter the home of Brendan Beary, whose two-name rear-ender was a tour de force of finding a perfect parallel with the original without ever spelling it out.

The very enthusiastic newcomer John McCooey gets his fifth ink — and first “above the fold” — since his debut in Week 903, while the no-longer-a-newcomer Craig Dykstra (debut ink in Week 792) takes home Inks 217, 218 and 219, including his 19th above the fold.

SIX First Offenders this week — I had to make a run to Auto Zone and clean out the rack of Royal Pine Little Trees. I don’t know how to account for this sudden surge of new people (and also an increased number of entries); my guess is that it might be the move back to the Sunday paper. Whatever the cause, I’m thrilled to see all the new names. We had a bunch last week, too.


All obsessive Losers regularly monitor the voluminous Style Invitational statistics kept, back to Week 1, by Almost In the Invite Hall of Fame Loser Elden Carnahan. For years, there’s the list of everyone who’s gotten ink in the current Loser year (only a few weeks old), as well as one that tracks each Loser’s ink accumulation year, and another tallies “ink type” (first place, honorable mentions, contest ideas, etc.) over the Loser’s career. (There’s a separate list for the thousands (probably) of people who each have one blot of ink.)

But this week, Elden has outdone himself by light-years: In addition to a year-by-year tally of each person’s ink (we’re talking about more than 4,000 people here!), Elden has created a “Loser arcs” list that shows people’s rank in the stats at the end of each year.
Noteworthy lines:
-- Chuck Smith, probably still the name the most people associate with the Invitational, was No. 1 in Years 1, 2, and 3, went no lower than 7th for 12 straight years, and still remains among the top two dozen.
— Russell Beland, the highest-scoring Loser ever, finished in 9th place in Year 2 (1994) and went on to place in the top five for 13 of the next 15 years.
— After a momentary dabble in Week 2 (147th place), Chris Doyle joined the Loser Community in Week 7 (22nd place) and since then (10 full years) has never placed lower than fourth in the final standings.
— And then there’s Kevin Dopart, who finished ninth in his rookie year, Year 12. Since then? 1. 1. 1. 1.

And Elden has just posted the list I’m personally interested in the most: a master list of every Invitational contest since Week 1, with its headline, description, and winning entrant.
We adore Elden.


Okay, we know from the little dribbles of information seeping out over the past Fridays that (a) the next Loser brunch will be on Sunday, May 22; and (b) that it will be somewhere in Northern Virginia, likely not out in yonder sticks. But now I can tell you that ... well, that it will be “as early as possible,” says Elden, since I have to be in Forestville, Md., which is not very near Northern Virginia, by about 2:30 that day to sing in a choral concert. So we’re shooting for the morning. Where exactly? Tune in next week.


Lots of unprintable humor this week, both bawdy and potty:

Killed from the paper, probably because it was the last straw of the scatological jokes: Ocaca: It does NOT taste like chocolate! (Barry Koch)

But heck, instead we might have had:
Spermanent: Hairstyle shown in “There’s Something About Mary.” (Tony Phelps)
Thar-Lo: A brand of comfortable, durable knee pads. (Tom Witte, playing on Thor-Lo athletic socks)
Phooku: Speed dating (I think this Loser didn’t want his name printed; he can claim ownership if he desires)
Alabi: “I did not have sex with that woman.” (Marty Bernstein)
Klic: Oral sex club (Fred Souk)

Meanwhile, this perfectly proper, and very clever, entry didn’t ink because not one of the ten people I polled knew what the word meant:
Eaubad: The smell of cheap cologne in the morning. (Ann Martin). An aubade, by the way, is a song or poem about or played at dawn, as opposed to a serenade (evening).
That’s okay, in Week 912 I spared you the “pair-a-phrase” entry “Opisthenar Hen: A bird in the hand,” from Malcolm Fleschner. It refers to the back of the hand. By the way, Malcolm has a humor column about the royal nuptials; it’s very funny and doesn’t use “opisthenar” more than once or twice. (Best line: “Back then, the young Diana embodied the storybook fantasy of every little girl who dreamed of marrying a real-live prince nearly twice her age who’s already in love with another woman and is being pressured into the marriage by his domineering mother.”)

— The Empress of The Style Invitational, Pat Myers

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