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

Week 954: Dem’s fightin’ words we’re looking for; plus the winning nervy ones

By the E, Pat Myers

With this week’s contest you get to just tell jokes, as opposed to the Invite’s other, perhaps predominant source of humor, puns and other wordplay — although there have been precious few weeks in the past 953 in which there haven’t been at least a few puns, spoonerisms, chiasmi, etc., among the inking entries. As you’ll see if you Google “the fight started,” these jokes are almost always about one spouse’s mean, smart-ass comment to the other. But I certainly have no objection to starting a fight (entry-wise) with a co-worker, a Metro seatmate or Rahm Emanuel. What’s important is that it be a funny, fresh joke that’s told well, either in dialogue or as an entertainingly readable narrative.

I hate to put a word limit on jokes, because it then often becomes a game of writing to a particular length, often sacrificing readability. But I really hope people don’t send big blocks o’ prose — nobody will read them. Bring it around to the punch line fairly promptly.

Historically, writing contests in the Invitational tend to produce relatively few very good entries, as opposed to the highly structured short-form challenges such as neologisms or horse names. On the other hand, I won’t have room to run 50 narratives anyway. So I’m not worrying. And I never fight.


Explaining the situation entertainingly was also the key to the Week 950 contest, which asked for examples of chutzpah, the quality of breathtaking gall, rudeness or presumptuousness. That was true for both the true and fictional entries, some of which were the best among several with the same idea.

This week’s Inker winner, Nan Reiner, wrote particularly zingily in both her winning entry about the admittedly easy target — as in side of a barn — of Rep. James Sensenbrenner, who shouldn’t be talking about anyone’s large posterior but his own, and least of all the fitness-buff first lady of the United States. In the print paper, where we of course can’t link to the news item as we do online, Nan’s entry appears above a photo of the voluminously chinned legislator.
It’s the second Inker, sixth “above-the-fold” ink and 52nd (and 53rd) ink in all for Nan, who’s been Inviting barely a year and a half. Nan, a former D.C. prosecutor, is particularly adept at song parodies (yes, that’s a non sequitur), and it’s been rumored that she’ll follow up her performance at October’s Freezing Flushies with a song composed expressly for the Loser Holiday Party tomorrow night.

This week’s second-place winner is an even more recently arrived phenom, Robert Schechter, who grabs his fifth above-the-fold ink since he debuted in September. Bob, whose official Loser Anagram in the standings is the fascinating “Sober Retch Retch,” blots up Inks 20 and 21 this week. And while the last couple of years have brought some terrific new Losers onto the scene in addition to Nan and Bob, this week’s shirts/mugs go to a pair of Invite perennials: Elden Carnahan, Keeper of the Stats, who debuted in Week 22 and whose pair of inks edges him just theeeeess far (i.e., 21 points) from the 500 required for induction into the Invite Hall of Fame (we need a better name for that honor, no?); and Roy Ashley, who got his first ink in Week 120 and now has a fat 257 blots.

I didn’t note any particularly thrilling but unprintable entries this week, so the Scarlet Letter is left to await the word pairs of Week 951, which is sure to boast many cleverly unusable little phrases. And the endorsement of Sunday Style editor Lynn Medford goes to the “And Last” entry, though Lynn didn’t get the reference at first — she wondered with great trepidation if Gregory Koch had actually murdered his parents. But once I pointed out that it was a play on the classic example of chutzpah that I cited both in the introduction to the winners and to the contest itself, Lynn pronounced the entry “brilliant, then!”

By the way, I know for a fact that Gregory, a sophomore at the University of Connecticut, is not exactly the parental-murdering type: A few days ago, after he’d asked me a question via Facebook’s chat function, sent me a message a while later that said: “Good night, Mother — I love you.” He’d been chatting with Mom at the same time and got the typing windows switched. (Usually, when I’m called “mother” it’s as the first part of a less loving compound word.)


About 50 Losers and their supervisors (as well as a few groupies) have stated their intentions to invade the D.C. home of Dion and Jen Black for the annual Loser Holiday Party tomorrow (Jan. 14), which for the third straight year is being held in January. It’s a casual potluck; I may have failed to tell Dion that I’m bringing a blueberry pie. (Maybe Pie Snelson will bring a blueberry Pat.) It runs from about 6 to 10; last-minute deciders can e-mail Dion at and he’ll give you directions. I’m eager to meet some new Losers and of course mercilessly mock the regulars.

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