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

Week 922: Bring out your parody hats for a ‘Banner’ week; and reviewing the ‘grandfoals’

Hello, everyone:
I did a little test on Thursday and it does seem as if this week, we WILL have a place at the bottom of this column where you can leave comments. Last week’s Conversational remains a mystery, although it ended up prompting a lively revival of an almost moribund Facebook page (more on that below).

As longtime Invitational readers know, I am a sucker for song parodies. Running a parody contest once a year or so was one of my plans for the Invite when I took over at the end of 2003. And sure enough, that next July, Week 565, I asked for song parodies that could substitute for our national anthem, but set to any other well-known tune (I quickly found the date and week number of that contest — as well as its winner, Chris Doyle — by consulting Loser Elden Carnahan’s new super-incredible magnum opus, the Master Contest List, which I now expect you to read every night before bedtime. An easy address for reaching it and Elden’s other stats is .) The results of this contest were nothing short of classic, introducing Post readers to the world-class songwriting talent of, among others, Chris, Barbara Sarshik, Brendan Beary, Eric Murphy and Seth Brown. Don’t stop now, because you’ll never get around to reading the rest of this post, but later take a look here.,

Anyway, Week 922 is the flip side of that contest: This time you use the melody of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and write about anything. My hunch — though I could well be proved wrong — is that the most effective parodies will be on a theme of patriotism or politics. But they don’t have to be. If you want to kick off your July 4 backyard softball game by singing an ode to toilet cleanser or brown marmorated stink bugs or whatever, you will probably be able to print out a useful song sheet a few days beforehand.

Requiring all the parodies to be set to a single famous song does prevent one recurring problem in parody contests: If you don’t know the song, it’s no fun to read the lyrics. I’m gong out on a limb here and will assume that everyone knows the tune to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” This was not the case when we had our last single-song contest, for new lyrics for the folk song “Shenandoah,” which in 2006 was replacing the minstrel ditty “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” as Virginia’s state song. That was one reason those results were still-good-but-not-classic; the other was that they all had to be about Virginia. This time, neither of those obstacles exists. And you will deliver.

(You will still want to look back — later! — at these results of Week 649 — if only to hear several of the “Shenandoah” parodies recorded by Professor David Schildkret’s very fine, superbly blended choir at Arizona State University, in a comically inappropriate style that is all about a perfectly pure tone and not at all about the very funny words. David, who’s now my Facebook friend and is currently on a trip to conduct choirs in Venezuela, suggested this week’s contest but has not offered up his choir this time around.


I fret over lots of things Invitational, but I never worry that we won’t have enough good horse names, even in the more challenging “grandfoals” round. And of course I ended up with another long list of worthily named horseflesh, most of them containing some sort of pun.

As I’ve noted before, I tend to apply a slightly different standard with the grandfoals than with the initial set of foals. Because so many of the inking names you’re working with in the second contest are wordplays that reference another word, and/or combine two separate elements from the first set of “parents,” I don’t demand that every last element in both parents’ names be reflected in the grandfoal name, as long as said name is really funny.

Instead, the names I found myself enjoying the most were usually ones that were funny in themselves — most often, they were puns on other words and phrases. And if that pun omitted an element in one or both parents’ names, so be it. For example, the third-place entry, “Alito Night Music x Poetry and Bros = Sam Iamb,” referenced the “Alito” but not the “Night Music,” and the “Poetry” but not the “Bros.” But it made me laugh. Bing! T-shirt or mug for Laurie Brink.

Also, I sometimes didn’t mind if the name referred to the original words that the parent’s name played on, rather than the name itself. For instance, I loved Jonathan Hardis’s “This Is Spiral Tap x Sinai = Goes to a Levin,” even though it’s a play on “This Is Spinal Tap” and has nothing to do with spirals, as far as I could figure out.

I judged this contest the same way I did Week 914: by searching through a master list of all the entries, one parent name at a time, and pulling out worthy foals onto a “short list” of what ended up at 218 names, perhaps about 5 percent of the total. (Because my Word automatic numberer wouldn’t work where it didn’t sense paragraph marks, I never got a good count of this week’s entries.) There are many fine and funny names that didn’t make the final cut, but I do believe that the 60 or so entries I ran are (or are more than) the maximum number that a sane person can look at without getting very tired of the whole exercise.

After I made my picks, I went back and looked up who’d written all these great entries on my short list. And I found that even though a 25-entry limit does limit the playing field a bit against the Losers who otherwise would churn out usable entries by the hundreds, some contestants’ names showed up over and over and over anyway — led by Chris Doyle, who had 14 of his 25 names make the semifinal field. Also supplying impressive bench depth, to mix sports metaphors: Jonathan Paul and Laurie Brink, with 12 names each; Beverley Sharp and Andrew Hoenig with 11; Pam Sweeney and Kevin Dopart with 10; Trevor Kerr and Jonathan Hardis with 8; Nan Reiner, J.D. Berry and Ellen Raphaeli with 7; Russell Beland and Amanda Yanovitch with 6.

And it was from that group that all four of the top entries happened to come. Pam Sweeney, whose long horse-name-ink streak was broken last month by a barren Week 914, comes back for yet another equine victory. Now that I can search through Elden’s Master List, I’ve only now discovered that Pam, astonishingly, has won the Inker in FOUR grandfoals contests plus one foals contest — so five of her eight Inkers have been for horse names.

Chris Doyle — who has won an obscene 42 first prizes (no, not 42 obscene first prizes) but has never won for the horses — gets his equally obscene 162nd “above-the-fold” ink. However, I’m afraid that Chris will not be receiving this week’s second-prize bullhorn. That’s because, in a burst of discombobulated energy, I got my weeks messed up and mailed the bullhorn on Tuesday to LAST week’s second-place Loser, Brad Alexander, instead of the Fighting Grandpa windup toys he was supposed to get. And since I’m not going to make Brad return the bullhorn from Western Australia — he can give us a call with it — Chris will get the Grandpas instead.

Laurie Brink, who enters only a few contests but is amazingly successful when she does, gets her 17th ink (and 18th, 19th and 20th!) and fourth above the fold. And similarly selective (these days) entrant Jonathan Paul, who has three horse-name grand prizes among his 23 in all, reaches Ink No. 359 with his three this week.

No, Gene Weingarten didn’t enter the grandfoal contest. In a weird coincidence that I swear was not coordinated, Gene’s first ink last weekend appeared the same day as his Washington Post Magazine column in which he talked about how he, as one pretty funny humor writer, could likely be bested in any given line he wrote — and then invited people to try. He then ran the results in his online chat this past Tuesday ... and ended up giving props to nine people, including Invite Losers Michael Reinemer, Howard Walderman, Jeff Contompasis and Barry Koch.


Amid all the entries for foals from My Colonoscopy, I think this one was singularly unprintable. It’s from Joe Wolf of Alexandria:
Astrology x My Colonoscopy = Cancer in Uranus


Not surprisingly, the failure of last week’s Conversational thread to take most reader comments was the last straw for some frustrated Losers, given that the Conversational’s never been very easy to use anyway. But fortunately, they had another place they could go to ask the Empress questions publicly, as well as banter with one another: a Facebook group called Style Invitational Devotees.

I’d set up the group years ago, just after I joined Facebook, but the group never got off the ground, and was basically rendered obsolete by the start of the Conversational. Then a while back, Loser Randy Lee asked if he could post results and other material on that page, and I gave him administrator status, since I couldn’t deal with running yet one more “platform.” So he’d sometimes post the Invite results, tagging the Losers who were on Facebook.

But it’s only been in the last week that the Devotees page has really taken off — there have been dozens of posts, including lively back-and-forth ribbing in several simultaneous discussions, in the past few days. I’m convinced, I’m sorry to say, that people find it much easier to have a discussion on this Facebook page than it is to have it on this Post one.

I really encourage you all to join this page if you’d like to talk with other Losers (or see what they and I have to say). Even if you don’t like Facebook, you can get an account and use it for nothing but this page. To sign up, join and then type “Style Invitational Devotees” in the search bar, and click “Join this group.” Then you can join right in. One thing you’ll want to do is to change your account settings so that you’re not deluged with e-mails every time someone posts something: On that Devotees page, at the top, click on “Edit settings” and make sure it’s NOT checked off at “Also send an email to: [your e-mail address].”
And once you’re signed up, you might as well add me as a “friend” — just type Pat Myers The Washington Post in the search bar, and click on “Add as friend.”


The big puzzle-solving extravaganza The Post Hunt is this Sunday and I believe that Losers are looking to form teams as we speak. Meanwhile, the triumvurate of Hunt founders Gene Weingarten, Dave Barry and Tom Shroder will be online for an hour starting at noon Eastern time today, June 3, to tell about this year’s plans and to take questions and say really funny things off the top of their heads. Here’s the link to the chat.

Feel free to post comments or questions below by clicking on the link to this week’s thread that appears below this note -- you need to register with, but it’s free and you can be anonymous (though once you out yourself as the particular Loser behind Studmuffin 8, then of course we’re free to remember who you are. Also, if your pseudonym is, say, an anagram of your name, we’re not going to consider that a secret). To see all the comments, be sure to click on “All Posts” rather than “Top Posts” on the bar above where the comments start. Almost all the posts are Top -- it’s a little bit of Lake Wobegon here at The Style Conversational -- but for some reason the automated “bot” will occasionally deem one otherwise.

As always,
The E, Pat Myers

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