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

Week 943: Our laughs in Jeopardy; and the box office returns of Week 939

By The E, Pat Myers

I’m heading out to the airport this morning for a weekend in balmy Minneapolis — actually, it shouldn’t be any worse than in cold-snapped D.C. — so I’ll put a check on the usual verbosity this week. (By the way, after 9:30 a.m. on Friday, I’m likely to be much less reachable than usual until Sunday evening, so please hold your griping until then — in fact, please hold it really, really tight, until little gripelets start to ooze out from the sides of your hands. Then we can deal with the remaining shreds of pulp.)

As this week's column notes, Ask Backwards has been perhaps the most frequent and most reliable contest the Style Invitational has run, starting just a few months after the Invite’s debut and recurring as often as three times in a year. I was surprised to discover that I’d run it only seven times in eight years (now eight times), including the Week 722 “Let’s Play Nopardy,” in which all the answers were Googlenopes — phrases that resulted in just one Google search result — that had been submitted in an earlier Invite contest.

Why are the Ask Backwards contests always so successful? First, the Loserly mind is admirably flexible and creative — Invite contestants have repeatedly come up with approaches to a particular word or phrase that occur to no one else (though often the entry is preceded by “I’m sure that dozens of people have sent this one, but what the heck...”). And more important, there are TWELVE categories here — even if some totally bomb, we still have several others to fall back on.

Not so much this week, but I’ve sometimes used contest ideas as Ask Backward items — ideas that I didn’t think would work for a whole page of results, but might yield four or five good ones. I did “Best mnemonic for the eight planets,” for instance, in 2006. Twenty-five of those would have just been tedious, but it worked well to run five good ones:

What is “Memorably visible equipment malfunction: Janet showed us nipple”? (Wilson Varga)

What is “Meretricious Variegated Etruscan Mystagogues Jurisprudently Soliloquized Unequivocal Neologisms”? (What could be more catchy!) -- William F. Buckley (Steve Fahey)

What is certainly not Moogy Voogy Eoogy Moogy Joogy Soogy Uoogy Noogy? (Seth Brown)

What’s a lot easier to remember than the best mnemonic for the 535 members of Congress? (Brendan Beary)

What is “Many Virginians e-mailed mediocre jokes saying ‘Ur-anus,’ no”? (Greg Johnson)

Actually, I was considering using some of the non-inking mash-movie titles as Jeopardy categories — ones with funny titles but a bit lacking in the description — but decided not to. For now.


My boss, Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford, is very efficient when it comes to e-mail: She just writes the whole note in the subject line, saving you the step of opening the file. (Of course, until you learn it, you end up opening a blank file.) And on Thursday, right in the subject line, I saw: “Hilarious SI this week! I laughed loudest at Leggo My Eggo. Loved ’em all, tho.”

Actually, while I easily filled up the page of Week 939 with inking movie mashups (and added 10 or so for the Web version), during the judging I’d find myself crossing off several pages of printouts at a time without finding an entry that made me laugh. Part of it, I think, came from my explicit instruction that the mashed movie did not have to be an actual portmanteau — that is, the two movies did not have to share a particular word in their titles (the first example I used, “Please Don’t Eat Miss Daisy,” wasn’t a portmanteau, for instance).

Unfortunately, that instruction seemed to encourage people to basically slap one movie title next to another one, like “Godzilla and Juliet,” and give a description in which, say, Godzilla declares his love for Juliet. Of course, most of the entries did have some sort of joke, but having at least some form of connecting element between the two titles helped the humor a lot; I ended up using only four or five unlinked titles (though one, Jim Lubell’s “Taxi Driver With the Wind,” was a runner-up).

Given the number of movies in existence, I was surprised at how often the same two movies were combined in an entry: There were five for “The Lion King’s Speech,” and “The Sixth Sense and Sensibility” was offered up 11 times, along with “Stop Making Sense and Sensibility.”

It’s the first Inker and just the ninth blot of ink for Kathye Hamilton of Northern Virginia. Kathye actually made her Invite debut way back in 2002 with one honorable mention, but she didn’t reappear until this past June. Kathye’s husband, Jason Russo, has also accrued several inks of late — and they both showed up along with baby Vivian despite the nasty weather at the Flushies picnic four weeks ago. That was one agreeable baby. (And yes, it was Kathye’s own idea to put that extra E at the end of her name; she just enjoys spelling it out to people on the phone, I guess.)

Trevor Kerr of Virginia’s Tidewater area gets the “More Chinglish” book, and Jim Lubell of Southern Maryland gets his second mug or shirt (he also has an Inker) with his 15th ink.

Among the funny titles whose descriptions didn’t quite live up to them (some of these were submitted in several entries): Avatarzan; Wag the Dogma; Se7en Up; The Curious Yellow Submarine; Boratatouille; Snow White and the Seven Samurai; Apocalypstick; The Grapes of Wrath of Khan; Gandhi With the Wind; Ishtar Trek; The Blind Sideways.


I was delighted but a little bit surprised that Edmund Conti’s “The Aristocratatouilles” — with its description of chefs who “do something with eggplant” — brought no editorial objection even though I put it in the print-paper Invite as well as online. It’s a joke that a lot of people won’t get, anyway, since “The Aristocrats” is sort of a cult documentary: It’s all about an almost nonsensical joke about a family vaudeville act, and whose punch line is “The Aristocrats.” This joke has been told by generations of comedians — many are interviewed for the film — who basically try to outdo one another by coming up with horribly graphic, vile sexual and violent acts performed by the family act. “And what is this act called?” “The Aristocrats.” Anyway, that one’s in print (the entry didn’t say “with AN eggplant”), so it can’t count as unprintable.

Neither can J.D. Berry’s “School of Roctopussy,” though that one appears only in the online version of the Invitational.

Unprintable because of language but really not as risque as either of the two entries above, this clever one by Jeff Contompasis: The ‘10’ Commandments”: #1 - Thou shalt not covet Bo Derek’s ass.

Which leaves the Scarlet X to:
Around the World in 15 Minutes: Phileas Fogg gets off quickly in Bangkok. (Kevin Dopart)

I should be online briefly now and again through the weekend. Have a happy Halloween, and I hope you post your costumes on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook.

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