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

Week 930: Are you going to complain stupidly about the stupid-complaint contest? And don’t add ‘in bed.’

By the E, Pat Myers

Good morning, everyone.

First off, I want to pass along a little rescheduling news: The Losers’ annual Flushies awards “banquet” has just been postponed from Sept. 10 to Saturday, Oct. 1. It will still be in Elden Carnahan’s back yard in Laurel, Md., close to I-95 (there will be a tenty thing, so it’s rain or shine). Given that the September date was a postponement from the usual May, we understand if you might be uttering little ‘yeah, right’ guttural noises. But we’re hoping for an especially good turnout this year, with the picnic setting and so many new Losers who might like to Meet the Parentheses. More details as I hear about them.

We owe this week’s contest, Week 930, to Proto-Loser Elden Carnahan, who a while back suggested a contest in which you would complain idiotically about something in that week’s Invitational. That angle seemed a bit restrictive, not to mention self-centered — and it’s not as if I don’t already get plenty of idiotic complaints about the Invite (“my colleague has a master’s degree and HE thinks I should have won”). But I do think there should be plenty of stuff to misunderstand in a couple of weeks’ worth of Posts, either in the print paper or online.

While I often peruse the archive of old contests (Elden’s own index is now online) so that I can squeeze some more utility out of some successful ones, this might be the first time I chose to repeat a contest that, the first time around, was a total bomb. But! It turns out that Week CLX (February 2003) was published the weekend of a big snowstorm in Washington, and a large part of the circulation area didn’t get papers delivered. And so the Czar ended up running just the top winners, and used the rest of the space for the previous week’s results (which sounds to me as if just maybe there’d been a scheduling issue he needed to solve). Here they are:

--Second Runner-Up: Your repeated references to “President Bush” are highly offensive to those who regard Al Gore as the legitimate winner of the election. (John Holder, Rock Hill, S.C.)
--First Runner-Up: We’re in a war on terrorism and you print a convenient map of the Washington area right there on Page A14. Why not just put up a “Welcome Terrorists!” sign? (Dave Zarrow, Herndon)
--And the winner of a copy of “The Great American Parade,” described in The Washington Post as “the worst novel ever written in the English language”: I was deeply offended that the Czar chose to conduct this week’s contest at the expense of oversensitive people; haven’t we suffered enough for our condition? (Cecil Clark, Arlington)

The Czar conceded that the above entries were “pretty good”; I think they’re very good. And I also think that our current squad of Losers will find plenty to gripe about.

Speaking of using The Post for productive purposes: Here’s someone who really knows how to spin the news he sees in the paper.


As predicted either here by at least one Loser, either on the Conversational or on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook, most of the inking fortune cookie messages this week refer to something about the cookies or fortunes themselves, or of eating at a Chinese restaurant, or even about China, rather than being just a funny general aphorism. I saw some very good entries of the latter kind, but I think they’ll be better in some future contest — you just know that something will be appropriate for them eventually.

It’s the first Inker for Ward Kay, to add to his six other “above-the-fold” inks out of just 24 blots in all. Last week Ward got no ink for any of his “remeanings,” but his young daughter Allie won a magnet; no doubt that the public-policy professor and successful playwright now will do the nyah-nyah on Allie big time with his fortune cookie message that may well be really out there inside some little yellowish pyramid of organic imitation Styrofoam.

And it’s the first big-deal ink (though a stinky prize) out of nine for newbie Amanda Yanovitch, who wins the bottle of Loo-Pourri bathroom pre-freshener for second place. Amanda’s pranky idea made me laugh out loud. And a shirt or mug goes to Drew Knoblauch for his play on the normally tired idea of adding “in bed” to your fortune cookie line, and to Larry Yungk for his musing on the new place of China in the world (though actually, fortune cookies don’t tend to be made in China; they actually seem to have been first made in America — by Japanese chefs).
Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford says that Larry’s joke was her favorite this week, though she also admits not getting Kevin Dopart’s “All your debt are belong to us.” (She was reading a print-paper page proof, though, and didn’t have the benefit of the online version’s link to an explanation of the decade-old Internet meme.)

I wasn’t surprised that we got a lot of new entrants this week — it was the kind of contest for which it’s not too hard to think up something. Though a lot of the something involved “This cookie will self destruct in 3-2-1,” or “Vote Dukakis,” “Gov. Clinton” etc., or “Good fortune void if cookie is broken.”

And as promised, I did squeeze in some more honorable-mention “remeanings” from Week 925, a contest that generated so many good answers that I probably ran more than any sane person would want to read. For those not in the sane group, I said on Facebook that I’d put up a list of my early cut of 300-plus redefinitions (though not with entrants’ names, since I hadn’t looked them up yet at that point of the judging). I’ll get my notes together within a few days and post the list on the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook page.


The Facebook group Style Invitational Devotees is closing in on 200 members, with lots of banter and discussions (some more enlightening than others) all day long. As long as you click on “Edit Settings” after you sign up, and uncheck the box that says “Also send me an e-mail,” you won’t be deluged with e-mails.

Some people reported trouble finding the group on Facebook; this link should put you through to the page: Hope to see you over there.

Meanwhile, of course, you can weigh in with conmments right on this Conversational page. If you differ with the Empress’s choices, state your own favorite(s) in a post here in the comments field. Just don’t be nasty in criticism of any entries that didn’t thrill you. To leave a comment, click on the link to this week’s column at the bottom of the page, and then there will be a place for you to leave comments. While I check the Facebook page constantly, I also check in on the Conversational comments every day or two.

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