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

Week 919: Good luck with 13; and the Week 915 cartoon captions

By Pat Myers, the E

And a lucky Friday the 13th to you. This weekend’s Invitational contest is especially appropriate for online readers, since the print-paper partisans won’t see the contest till a day or two after the day this contest is pegged to (to slip in yet one more bit of irritating newsroom jargon). Of course, it’s a contrived and tenuous connection, but Invite readers, Losers, and maybe even book publishers sure love their neologism contests. and I’ll fall for just about any excuse to run one.

And even though one of last week’s winning horse names had 19 characters rather than the maximum 18, the answer is “no — duhhhh: No, I will not bend that rule that in this contest you MUST begin with a word or multi-word term or name containing exactly 13 letters. Spaces and punctuation do not count this time around, though they do for the horses. Also note that I didn’t say that the word has to be a new one: It can be an interesting definition for an existing one as well. Note that the terms in the examples have 14 and 12 letters, because they have been subtracted from and added to .


Judging the cartoon captions — a contest we do around three times a year — is never stressful for me, because I know I’ll always get lots of funny stuff from a variety of perspectives. (My only real fear is that the cartoons won’t be clear enough on the printed page if the colors don’t go out of register; i.e., that the four plates each with one color align perfectly, and not cause the blurriness that sometimes occurs; this is why we’ve gone from five cartoons to the four we now use: so that small details -- for example, the lack of feet on Cartoon C’s woman referred to in Rob Cohen’s entry — are more likely to be clear in print.)

And once again, the Losers offered up far funnier captions than anything you’ll see in The New Yorker’s cartoon caption contest (except, of course, the ones that the Losers have won — Jay Shuck has won twice, and I think someone else has won more recently; feel free to post links here).

It’s a First Offender who takes the Inker this week: While naturally many Losers noted the similarity in Cartoon A to a dog scooting on the floor to drain its anal glands — though I’m not sure that Bob, who has no dog, actually had that in mind — Jack Hingel of Fairfax, Va., made the joke most elegantly. Jack’s two other entries also were pretty good (though they didn’t get ink), so I’m hoping we see lots more of his name.
And it’s an almost-newbie to win the Pick Your Nose paper cups: Mark Asquino’s only previous ink was for Week 900. The T-shirt/mug wins (speak up with your choices, guys), though, go to two Invite Fixtures, who both happen to be PhD economists, not that there’s too much wrong with that: Art Grinath, who’ll forever change the way you look at Bob Staake’s cartoon noses, gets Ink No. 316, and his 57th “above the fold”; and Russell Beland closes ever more ominously on the big 1,500.

As usual with cartoon contests, many of the inking entries were the best of several or many submitted with the same general idea: In addition to the anal-gland allusion for Cartoon A, a number of people said the guy was playing air piano or air jockey; I went with Gary Crockett’s air rowing because the strain on the man’s face made the most sense. (But First Offender Steven Seymour had a unique idea with the black hole.) Likewise, there were lots of references to cathouses and hamster habitats in Cartoon B, and many entries about “The Biggest Loser” for Cartoon D. I saw several entries referring to the woman in Cartoon C as a cyclops, but they might have all been sent by Lawrence McGuire.

This week’s “Haw” fave of Down-Home Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford was the sex-on-the-slide entry by Ken Schwartz; the deposed Czar of The Style Invitational also laughed out loud at that one, giving the lie to the accusation that he laughs only at poop jokes.

And this week’s Scarlet Letter: Cartoon A: After years in a coma, Richard Gere’s gerbil wakes up. (Jeff Brechlin)


After dribbling out little hints of where and when this month’s Loser Brunch will be, we can finally announce the complete news (since it’s finally been arranged): Please join me and whatever Losers can get themselves to Arlington at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 22, at the yummy-sounding brunch buffet at The Front Page, in the office building at 4201 Wilson Blvd., a block from the Ballston station on Metro’s Orange Line. Please RSVP to Loser Grand Pooh-Bah Elden Carnahan as soon as you can. Once again: New people, don’t expect any dazzling repartee at 10 o’clock in the morning; it’s just a way to break bread, forks, etc., with your fellow Losers. Thanks again to Elden for finding a place we could go early, since I’ll be singing in a community chorus concert that afternoon.


If you look back at the comments in last week’s Conversational, you’ll see a list of ahem-type comments politely (thanks for that!) noting “little” things like: One of the inking horse names for Week 914 had 19 characters; one was an inadvertently misspelled word; and two of them referred to a parent with the wrong name. (And thank you to Jeff Hazle for contacting me personally to note that the Week 918 contest deadline was given as May 9 rather than May 16; that merited a correction on Page A2.) For Week 918, please run together the letters as AliasInWonderland, to make the legal limit; you can use either Supreme Leader or the actual Supreme Ruler; and Incredible Alex as well as the actual Elite Alex. (This is what comes from copying out what people sent, rather than going back to check the original list.)

The closely spaced (or kerned, for you type people) sans serif typeface we use may kept people from appreciating Roger Hammons’s breeding of Pants on Fire with Moon on Fire: His foal was Third Degree BUM, not “Burn”; in lowercase letters in this font, they look almost identical.

Matt Monitto asked if there had ever been a Double Crown winner — someone who won the Inkers for both the foals and the grandfoals in the same year. Not yet, but there have been some close calls since the first grandfoals contest in 2006: In 2009, Jonathan Paul was first in the foals and second in the grandfoals. And the 2006 Inker-winners, Mark Eckenwiler (foals) and Pam Sweeney (grandfoals), won again in 2007, in opposite contests — a Daily Double of sorts. Pam, by the way, has won one or the other of these contests FOUR times since she started just eight years ago. (I didn’t have time to do it this week, but I’m considering posting a retrospective list of all the winners and runners-up of all the horse names contests since their debut in 1995.)

I’ve also had a suggestion that we go to a full Triple Crown with a third horse-names contest, though I’m not sure the suggester’s idea was the best, I’m not averse to the idea in itself. Except for breeding grandfoals, which I don’t want to do, I’ll happily welcome suggestions for an Invitational Belmont Stakes.


I just put in an order for 1,000 new honorable-mention magnets: 500 of the “Sunday Drivel” version we showed last week, and 500 of the other, which I’ll show here next week if we once again have no room in the paper. After hearing that there were quality problems with our last set — curling and even peeling, with the “Putting the Rude in Erudition” and “Mirth Certificate” — I’m working with a new vendor and am hoping for the best. I’ll start sending them out when I run out of the current ones, probably in about two weeks, which is when they should be arriving. The art is classic Bob Staake — classic “new” Bob Staake, that is. For a fascinating sample of the old Bob Staake, take a look at this spoof commercial he did in 1993 for “Ren and Stimpy” — Bob says he’s embarrassed about it now, but I like it a lot.

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