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

Week 946: Definitive zingers, and those singular contests of Week 942 (or are they?)

By the E, Pat Myers

Good morning, everyone. I hope you can take a little while out of your Thanksgiving week schedule of making edible-art entries for Week 945 so you can enter this week’s contest as well (and even have a few minutes for family, dinner, etc.).

I’m afraid that it didn’t dawn on me until late Thursday night — after the print Invitational had been typeset for the Sunday paper — that, yes, we had done a “Devil’s Dictionary” contest more recently than a decade ago; in fact, it was just last year, in the form of the Ten Word Wiki contest, in which each entry had to be exactly 10 words long. I’ve included both sets of results — which indeed include many words, but hey, you have a whole dictionary to work with — in the posting here.

One difference between the Week CXII contest and this week’s: In his introduction to the results back in April 2002, the Czar emphasized that he was “looking for jaded drolleries, and not simple puns,” and then went on to cite “the niftiest” of the latter, which just happened to be from Invite wordsmith nonpareil Chris Doyle: “Bushism: The syntax of the father visited on the son,” and “Female: The sex that believes sighs matter.” The Czar added: “We also cite our colleague Tom Shroder of Vienna, who suggested ‘Terrorist: A car-bomb-based life form.’ “

That was then. This time around, such definitions are perfectly welcome, even if they’re not jaded drolleries. To tell you the truth, I think the 2002 results suffer from a certain sameness in cynical tone that gets to you after a while. So as long as the definition is witty, you don’t have to worry about whether it’s bitter enough. The words in the previous results are not off-limits for this contest, as long as the definitions are significantly different from the ones we’ve already run.

Since the results of the Week 945 contest will be running Dec. 18 – five weekends after the contest was announced -- that means this week’s results will run a week earlier than usual – Dec. 11. So as soon as I have my judging wrapped up on Week 944 (Is It Just Me, or …?), I’ll plunge into Week 946.


Much as they were when the Czar tried THIS contest, back in 1999, this week’s results tended to be “contest suggestions” resulting in either a groaner pun or a neologism. Not at all surprisingly, since it’s basically spoofing the workings of the Invitational itself, Week 942 attracted almost entirely veteran Losers; I think I counted 10 new entrants — compare that with 70 for one recent week.

Some of the neologism entries were reminiscent of the contests that longtime Metro section columnist Bob Levey used to run every month until he retired from the Post in 2004: Bob would cite a particular phenomenon and ask readers to coin a word to sum it up. For instance: ”What do you call the fact that ketchup is slow, slow, slow to emerge?” A month later he’d list the winning entries, many of them contributed by dozens of readers (the first entry received for a particular word got the ink). For that one, the winner was “redicence,” on which Bob commented, as he would in explanation each week, “What a tangy mixture of ‘red’ and ‘reticence’!” That one was by a Susan Eaton, but many people from the Greater Loser Community would get Levey ink as well, most notably Tom Witte, who’d bombard Bob with a hundred entries at a time. (Tom’s HM for that one was “pouralysis.”)

Although the point of this week’s results was to come up with a challenge so restrictive that only one entry would be any good, I wouldn’t be upset to be disproved with an even better answer for any of the “contest ideas” listed. If you think of any, flip it to with “Week 942” in the subject line and something else to indicate what it is. Don’t make a huge production out of it, though: I’m not hankering to judge this contest all over again.

It’s a ridiculous eighth Inker for Ms. Beverley Sharp, who just came back from a vacation in India with (I found out just yesterday, when it arrived at my door) a nice bribe for the Empress: a little blank journal whose beige paper is made from cow dung. Clearly a future Invite prize, in the tradition of our Panda Poo paper (heavily bamboo) and the elephant dung Christmas ornament. When I announced this yesterday on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook, Loser Larry Yungk offered this alternative name for it that could have been written into a Week 942 entry: A contest to come up with a name for a journal made out of cow dung. The winner: Diarya.

Among the runners-up, Mark Richardson, an on-and-off entrant since Week 840 (Loser Stats anagram “Man’s Horrid Rack”), gets his third “above-the-fold” ink out of 17 in all; Elwood Fitzner of our North Dakota Bureau, who’s been all but invisible the past two years after appearing regularly from 2005 to 2009, returns to pick up his 12th above-the-fold prize as well has his 99th blot of ink. He can’t stop now! And Ward Kay balances the scatological and sex references of the other three top winners with a political gibe for a remarkable eight fat inks out of 26 in all.

The weekly Haw! of Drawlin’ Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford goes to Cathy Lamaze’s “Less Miserables,” with Judy Blanchard’s “AARPers Bizarre” “a v. close 2nd.”

Amid the general punning, some clearly bitter entrants offered some good examples of what I call screediness: rants that are so bitter there’s nothing funny about them. Like this one: “A contest to pull off the greatest bait-and-switch con. Winner: Barack Obama.” Or even this: “A contest inviting the use of existing words or words you create to sound or seem funny in accordance with usually silly rules and be understandable to Homer Simpson’s type: Style Invitational.”

... this week goes to Tom Witte for this gem: A contest to come up with a nickname the Senate majority leader might give to his manhood. Winner: Hairy Reed. That would clearly be a contest with no winner, since we wouldn’t have run that entry for sure.


Brunch-hungry (and oddball-companionship-hungry) Losers can avail themselves of two choices next month: one in Baltimore on Dec. 4; the other in Northern Virginia on Dec. 18.

The first (Dec. 4 at 11 a.m.) will be at Gertrude’s, a restaurant inside the excellent Baltimore Museum of Art — where admission is free. I won’t be able to make it up for that one, but I will be at Kilroy’s brunch buffet on Dec. 18 (also at 11), just off the Beltway in a shopping center. All Losers and anyone else who’s interested are welcome; RSVP to Elden Carnahan from this page.

And be sure to save the date for the Losers’ annual potluck Post-Holiday Party, Saturday, Jan. 14, at the D.C. home of Dion and Jen Black. It’s a great way to get to know fellow Losers, and I understand that Dion is planning on some entertaining activities, but will probably not wear the Loser T-shirt dress that he won a few years back.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone — I’ll talk with you again the day afterward, if I can waddle over to my desk chair.

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