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

Week 940: Mess with our deads ... heads! heads! And mon doo — all those foreign-phrase neologisms

By The E, Pat Myers

Good morning, everyone, and to those who are writing “5772” on their checks, I wish a gentle fast tonight and tomorrow, and a huge pig-out (sorry, brisket-out) before sundown today.

I’m just about thawed out now from last Saturday’s Flushies, the annual awards “banquet” sponsored by the Loser Community itself. All the juicy details are below, under the dish about this week’s contest and results.


A recent thread on the Style Invitational Devotees page began with a tally of recent poetry contests — too many for some Losers, it seems — and progressed into suggestions for alternatives, including something much like this week’s contest. This week we reoffer a variation on our perennial “Mess With Our Heads” bank-headline contest: It’s a variation on two perennial contests, actually: one for writing a bank head, or subtitle, that changes the point of the original headline; and one in which you change a word by one letter. We last did this contest in February 2009 (here are the results; scroll down past the new contest that week), and we did something very similar back in Week 118. The latter’s winning entries include a lot of headlines from ads, such as “What’s a Cookout Without Heiny Beans” (Bonnie Speary) and the winner, “Bulge Boy Jeans” (Elden Carnahan).

Note that this week’s examples, as well as a few inking entries from Week 804, spell out what word from the original has been changed. This isn’t ideal: It’s definitely funnier when a reader can understand without being told which word has been changed. But if I think the joke will still hold and it’s likely a reader can’t guess the original, I’ll put it in brackets after the end of the whole entry. If you think there’s any chance I won’t know the original, please include it yourself; I’ll make the call about whether we need it. (Links to the original story, or the page number in the print paper, are always helpful to me.)

Okay, what counts as a headline? For the purposes of this contest, any heading that’s sitting atop a block of text, AND the one-line ‘refer’ headlines that serve as links to other stories from the home page online and other pages. You may even use a bank head as your main headline. You may NOT use photo captions, something we allowed in Week 118.


Mon dieu, something about this contest made people want to enter it. And I’m immensely relieved that the 25-entr y-per-person limit was in effect: I received 349 e-mails, including entries from at least 70 people who had never entered before, as far as I could tell. (And it wasn’t a class doing an assignment; they were from all over.)

And there were hundreds of funny, clever entries; we bring you the best 50 or so. Some of the terms were used in several entries; in that case I chose the one with the best, funniest wording.
This was one of the most highbrow contests we’ve had in quite a while — it’s kind of the flip side of the Yo Mama jokes. The jokes in this contest are far more effective if the reader is familiar with the original foreign term that the neologism plays on (this pretty much ruled out the entries based on Urdu and Afrikaans expressions). And while a number of the originals are very familiar — pushing the line on what you’d call “foreign” (such as “alter ego,” “hors d’oeuvres” and “alma mater”), there are probably a fair number of Invite readers to whom “Dominus vobiscum,” “reductio ad absurdum” and “cherchez la femme” are not common expressions.

To provide as low-key assistance as possible (so as not to ruin the joke by explaining it), I’ve linked online to various definitions or explanations of the terms. The links all worked when I checked them, but I admit that I haven’t rechecked all 50-plus of them.

My initial reluctance about running this contest was that it would be hard to rule on what counted as a foreign word. But to me, that turned out not to be a problem: If it was still spelled and roughly pronounced as it was in the original language, it counted. I was much more interested in how clever and funny the entry was. (I did reject some phrases that included English words I couldn’t figure out how to omit, such as “grand mall seizure.”)

One of this week’s five First Offenders wins the Inker as well as a FirStink for his first ink: That’s Gregory Deye, who I hope keeps on entering. Googling (rather than actual reporting) indicates that Gregory is a doctor rather than the philosophy graduate he ribs in his winning entry. But I hope we’ll see him on the Devotees page or here on the Conversational, and he can tell us himself.

On the other end of the timeline, second-place Loser Jim Reagan first got ink in Week ... 3. But between Years 14 and 17, nada. Now Jim is entering a lot and starting to sweep up the inks again. The other two Losers “above the fold” are new to the Invite, but both are making big waves: Barrie Collins of Ontario got his first ink in Week 912 and already is up to 12 blots, including three for this contest, more than anyone else. And Robert Schechter, who became a fixture on the Devotees page even before his first entry was published only five weeks ago, earns Inks No. 6 and 7, and his second entry above the fold.

I’m waiting to hear from Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford about which entry prompted her biggest North Carolina “HAW”: I’ll let you know.
Lots of funny entries this week that I didn’t even try getting into the paper. If you’re offended by crude language, please skip this section and read about the Flushies instead:

Temp us, fug it – If the Kelly Girls had read “The Naked and the Dead” (Jim Deutsch)

Wang-froid: ED, Alaskan-style (Stephen Dudzik)

Apparatdik: The DMV guy who rejects your paperwork because a number was in Box 8 instead of Box 8A. (Gregory Dunn)

Ferme la bush: No more sex! (Gene Hartis)

Veni, vidi, vice: I came, I saw, the three of us shared a cigarette afterward. (Pam Sweeney; compare this with the “Veni, Veni, Veni” that I dared use as a Web-only entry)

Pro boner: A freebie from a gigolo. (Jason Russo)

En pissant. Taking place during urination. “I would have answered the telephone, but it rang while I was in the bathroom en pissant.” (Robert Schechter)

Whore d’oeuvres: Fluffers. (Roy Ashley)

Mea gulpa: Monica’s confession. (Steve Fahey)

Bone jour: What greets 14-year-old boys in the morning. (Theresa Kowal)

Penissimo: A tiny member. (Tom Witte)

Coq au vain: A man excessively proud of his manhood. (Theresa Kowal)

Cull de sack: What the nearsighted mohel did on his last job ever. (Dion Black)

Quim pro quo: The agreement a prostitute makes with her client. (Tom Witte)

And for the Scarlet Letter: Prix fixer: Dick Cheney’s surgeon. (Doug Frank)

*”Offshore drolling” was a revised-title entry by Tom Witte that didn’t get ink but deserved to run somewhere.


It’s the Losers who’ve made the Flushies happen for 16 straight years, and it was the Losers who made it plenty of fun despite various attempts by the fates not to let them. This year’s shindig — held outdoors for the first time — was was delayed twice, from May and then September, and it was moved from a backyard to a nearby park when the rental tent proved too costly. And so while 50 degrees, wind and rain were perhaps not the ideal combination for a picnic, several dozen determinedly cheery Losers and their Brownie-pointed auxiliaries huddled under the pavilion roof in Granville Gude Park in Laurel and managed to have a rollicking time.

The undisputed highlight of the afternoon (not counting Dudley Thompson’s stripping to the waist to donate this T-shirt as a prize) was Nan Reiner (backed by Mae Scanlan on piano and Dave Prevar on more cowbell) serenading Loser of the Year Jeff Contompasis with the terrific parody she wrote for and ALL about him. It’s set to the song “That’s Entertainment” and you can see it here.

I was happy to meet several Losers who’d never been to a Loser event, among them Theresa Kowal; Both-Inking Couple Kathye Hamilton and Jason Russo, complete with Cute Baby Loser Vivian; and Sheila Randall, who’d just gotten her first blot of ink the previous weekend. None of them visibly shrank in revulsion, although that might have been because they were too cold to actually move.

The other big awards:
-- Gary Crockett, Rookie of the Year with 52 inks.
— Most ‘Imporved’: Craig Dykstra, who outdid his Loser of the Year total last year from 99 to 121.
— Least Imporved: Larry Yungk, who sensibly had to wash his hair that day.
— Most Cantinkerous, the person who’s gotten the most ink but no Inker: Kyle Hendrickson with 73 inks lifetime.
There were also various rolls of toilet paper awarded to those who’d reached the 50- or 100-ink milestone (or, for Kevin Dopart, 700). One classy operation, these Flushies. Numerous photos of the occasion, including of the purple-lipped Empress in a yellow foam tiara, bedeck the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook — if you haven’t joined yet, this alone is reason to finally sign up. Thanks again to organizers Elden Carnahan, Pie Snelson and Dave Prevar, as well as those who took and posted photos.

Those of you who didn’t make it to the Flushies ought to come to one of the future Loser events: Sunday brunches are scheduled for Nov. 20 (Gaithersburg, Md.) and Dec. 18 (Springfield, Va.), and the annual Loser Holiday Party is tentatively set for Jan. 7 (I don’t know if someone has volunteered his house yet). And I guarantee that all of these gatherings will be indoors, complete with bathroom facilities.

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