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

Week 938 — you can write Learly now; and how IS a toilet brush like Misty of Chincoteague?

Hello, everyone, and a happy new year to those whose calendars indicate that we’re coming up on the month of Tishri and the year 5772. In this week’s contest, your challenge is to take the first two lines of an Edward Lear limerick from the 1800s and finish it yourself, naturally transforming the droll but rather pointless bit of “nonsense verse” into a lean five-line machine of incisive modern humor — or at least into something approaching funny.

As you’ll see in the collection of Lear’s 115 limericks that we link to from the Invitational, Lear was funny with the rhymes (“Smyrna”/”burn her”; “law”/”bore”), not so much with the joke-telling. For one thing, the last line of the limerick was almost the same as the first line, which means there’s not going to be a punch line at the end of the poem. Here’s one from the first page of the Edward Lear Home Page, which I expect will be surprising its webmaster this week with a sudden spike in page views:

There was an Old Man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a Bee;
When they said, ‘Does it buzz?’
He replied, ‘Yes, it does!’
‘It’s a regular brute of a Bee!’

For our purposes, our regular limerick standards for rhyme and meter are in effect. It’s not necessary to preserve the weird capitalization and punctuation in Lear’s own lines, but you may not change the words themselves.

This week’s contest is a wee bit like one we did last year in Week 887, when I supplied a list of six lines, one of which you were asked to use as Line 3 or 4 of a limerick of your choice. As our limerick contests always do, that week featured an abundance of clever, funny and varied solutions. So with a choice of 115 possibilities, I’m expecting lots of different approaches. This time, however, the new 25-entry limit is in force — something that, if our Week 931 contest was any indication, might cramp the style of perhaps two or three anapesterers.


The Loser-contributed list of things to compare and contrast produced, at first and as usual, some griping about how difficult and uninspiring this set of nouns was (the Empress had solicited them from the Style Invitational Devotees on Facebook, and used no more than one list item from any given person). And then, just as typically, E was sent a huge pile of entries, many of them clever and, yes, inspired.

As often happens in such contests, a number of Losers submitted the same general idea of a certain comparison. In these cases I either chose the best-worded of those entries or, if they were almost identical or of equal quality, I gave double or, in one case, triple credit.

Among the four “above-the-fold” winners, two were from Big-Ink Losers: Chris Doyle and Roy Ashley have almost 1,600 blots between them. But it’s the first Inker, and just the fourth (and fifth) ink, for newbie Rob Huffman, who’s been entering the Invite for just a couple of months. And thought shirt- or mug-winner Colette Zanin got her first Invite ink all the way back in Week 376, she’s been very discriminating since then in playing; her last appearance, according to the Loser Stats, was in Week 527. (If any of these winners would like to pick up the prize at the Flushies picnic next Saturday, I’d be delighted to hand it over and not risk the tribulations of the Postal Service.)

Colette’s entry was also the favorite this week of Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford, who gave it her traditional declaration of “Haw!”


Pretty true this week. Late this week, the Empress was advised that Those With Better Taste had ruled that the word “crap” was generally unsuitable in the print paper. The news of this ruling prompted Loser Bruce Alter to post this limerick on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook:

The lead editorial chap
Gave one little word a bad rap.
“For the words ‘damn,’ ‘hell,’ ‘ass,’
I might give you a pass.
But ‘crap,’ I’m afraid, you must scrap.”

But the E was also bombarded with a big pile of entries that she wouldn’t run even in the online Invite. Here’s a sampling:

— Precious bodily fluids and the 25-entry limit: Both resulted when your mama went out with the Green Bay Packers. (Dixon Wragg)
— “Fried butter on a stick” may lead to angina, while “precious bodily fluids” may lead to vagina. (Jonathan Hardis)
-- Precious bodily fluids and a Twitter hashtag: Teenage boys see a lot of both while sitting in front of their computers. (David Genser)
— Precious bodily fluids and the 25-entry limit: Both of them will continue to result in the Empress getting a few bad gags. (David Genser)
— Three clothespins can hold up a clean sheet. A toilet brush can clean up a sheethole. (Chris Doyle)
— A toilet brush differs from precious bodily fluids because the former whitens a bowl, but the latter whitens a hole. (Tom Witte … who else?)

And the Scarlet Letter goes to: Precious bodily fluids and a Google+ invitation: The withholding of either one lets you know he’s just not that into you. (Judy Blanchard)


Organizers Elden Carnahan, Pie Snelson and Dave Prevar report that they’ve gotten 40 affirmative RSVPs so far for next Saturday’s (Oct. 1) Flushies awards picnic at the lakefront Granville Gude Park in Laurel, Md. If you got the invitation I e-mailed on Sept. 16 to the Invite mailing list, then you have the instructions for where to mail your $25-per-person check ASAP. (Or at least contact Elden and do the stack-of-Bibles thing that you’ll be there and will pay at the park.) The organizers really need to get a good count so they’ll know how much food — barbecue, etc., catered by Famous Dave’s — to get.

If you don’t have an invitation, contact me posthaste at myerspat [at] gmail [dot] com and I’ll give you the information. The RSVP list I saw last night includes Longtime Losers and former Losers who’ve made it to practically all 15 of the previous bashes, but also newbies who’ve never been to a Loser event. I can’t wait to set up my portable nylon throne in the Gude Park open-air pavilion on Oct. 1.

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