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

Week 969: The studliest of this year’s horse names, and it’s back in the saddle

By the E, Pat Myers

What a mix of exhilaration and relief I felt today — the relief of finally reading every one of an estimated 5,000-plus entries for Week 965 (most of them twice), and writing up the results, 24 hours past my deadline; and the exhilaration of ending up with such a good list.

Actually, it’s pretty much the same mix of feelings I have every year — it’s my ninth as Empress — but as the longtime Losers know, I have a lousy memory. (Which is why I’ll excitedly introduce some “new” contest, having totally forgotten I judged the same one a year or two ago.)

The horseplayers who go back to the starting gate for the Week 969 “grandfoal” contest should have a very fine field of parents to work with. Because I’m running a full 70 entries online (including a whopping 42 that appear in the print paper), I dropped the cradle-robbing policy of the past couple of years, in which you could mate a foal with either another foal or a parent; this time it has to be two foals.

You'll notice in today’s results that almost all of today’s foal names reflect (sometimes a little wobbily) all the elements in the parents’ names; for example, a foal of Zip Top couldn’t be just about zippers in general, or Cop a Tude couldn’t just be a play on cops. But many of the foal names you’ll be using for grandfoals are already pun-heavy themselves, and so I’ve always tended not to mind as much when some element of the parents’ names doesn’t make it into Junior’s.

For example, here’s a runner-up from last year’s grandfoal contest, Week 918: Alito Night Music x Poetry and Bros = Sam Iamb (by Laurie Brink, one of the numerous people who don’t enter the Invite regularly but always show up for the horses; both she and her father, Bernard, get ink today). “Sam Iamb” incorporates “Alito” and “Poetry” but not Night or Music or “A Little Night Music” or Bros (unless you argue that Justice Alito is one of “the Brethren”).

Chris Doyle’s second-place winner, Brethren x Taurus a New One = Romulus and Reamus, got in Brethren (they’re brothers) and Tore Us a New One, but not really Taurus except that it’s a Latin word.

On the other hand, many entries ingeniously incorporate just about every element of both names. That week’s winner, Helix Himself x Supreme Ruler = DNA Ross, by perennial winner Pam Sweeney, referenced the “ruler” of the Supremes, Diana Ross, and of course the DNA helix. (But not “himself.”) And horse-regular Steve Price’s honorable mention AliasInWonderland x Curl, Interrupted = Lewis Clairol: — Alias (“Lewis Carroll” was a pen name); Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”; and Clairol for Curl (“Interrupted’ was the toss-away, as was any link to “Girl, Interrupted”).

So have fun and don’t get too obsessive about squeezing in every last aspect of the name. While I never choose foal names in the first round by considering how useful they’d be in the grandfoal contest, I did notice that many of this week’s winners don’t contain puns in themselves. (I’m guessing that No will be a very busy stud or mare).


There are lots of people out there who enjoy puns. And I enjoyed reading literally hundreds and hundreds of worthy wordplays as I searched systematically, one horse name at a time, through a document containing all 5,000-some entries. (I could never get a precise entry count because Microsoft Word, whose automatic numbering system looks for line endings, doesn’t pick up some of them from some people’s e-mails, and breaks up occasional single entries into multiple numbers; I just didn’t have time to fix it manually or do a manual count.)

Not all of today’s inking foal names are puns (though all four top winners are), but an entry such as, say, The Lumber Guy x Unyielding = Farewell Forest didn’t have much chance against First Offender Alex Mantle’s entry of The Lumber Guy x Grouse = Forest Grump. The non-puns had to have another kind of humor, rather than just managing to combine the two parents’ names. For example, the first honorable mention, by virtual newbie George-Ann Rosenberg, was a laugh-out-louder, creating a very funny mental image: Discreet Dancer x One Sock Down = Amish Stripper.

When I’m faced with an embarrassment of riches in a contest — many more good entries than I can reasonably run — I always feel bad that worthy entries won’t see the light of day. I had posted on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook that I was considering putting online my first cut of 300 to 400 entries (without entrants’ names attached), so that people could understand what I was working with — and how high the quality was — and enjoy seeing many variations on a single name. But several of the Losers quickly objected, arguing that it would rule out their using any of those hundreds of puns in future contests. And one person shuddered at the possibility that he would read 400 names and discover that none of his entries made even the top 400.

So if your brilliant entry didn’t get ink and its joke isn’t too similar to one that ran today (e.g., if you were one of about 50 people who made funny plays on “Et tu, Brute”; I chose one of them), you just know that your masterpiece was No. 71 on my list.

I guess that given the volume of entries, there weren’t a huge number of good ones that were submitted independently by four or more people, thus disqualifying them. Still, it’s always surprising to see several minds on the same wacky track. Here are the ones I made note of:

Mr. Percussionist x Boat Trip = Tomtom Cruise

Cigar Street + Boat Trip = Tobacco Rowed

How Do I Win x Captain Obvious = Finish First, or Run Faster (4 or more for each)

Lasso x Captain Obvious = Rope a Dope

Done Done Done + I’ll Have Another = DoneDoneDoneDone

Flashy Sunrise + The Lumber Guy = Morning Wood

Fox Rules x No Spin = O’Really?

Harvard ‘N Yale x Pretension = Redundancy


It’s the 22nd (and 23rd and 24th) ink and the first win ever for Susan Thompson, who’s been entering on and off since Week 336. On Saturday, May 12, I’ll be presenting the Inkin’ Memorial to her at the Flushies luncheon in Annapolis, since she’s coming up from Raleigh, N.C., to join us, along with the whole Thompson clan — husband Dudley and sons Russell and Sammy. . This was an amazing Loser week for the Thompson family: In addition to Susan’s hat trick, Dudley got three (for a total of 62 inks including four wins), and teenage Russell scored his second ink with “No Ship, Sherlock.”

Doug Frank of the Houston area can disguise himself in any of six mustaches he earns for his second-place ink. Doug plunged into the Invite in 2004, shortly after I took over, then backed away for a few years after deciding to live a Loser-free life. We’re happy he’s back to collect his 46th ink this week.

Horse racing aficionado Laura Bennett Peterson, who visits the Invite each year just for the equine offerings, wins a mug, T-shirt or bag. Laura’s 23 inks have been all (or virtually all) for horse names since back in the 1990s; she scores two more today.

And mug/T-shirts/bags are also in order for both Mike Gips, who’s been on an Invite tear recently — his three inks today bring his total to 51, with 28 of them in the past year or so — and Stephen Gilberg. who gets his third ink, and first “above the fold.” Mike and Stephen both sent in the “Fairway to Heaven” entry.

It may take a while for me to send out all the magnets this week (and the Fir Stinks for the two First Offenders): By my count, 57 people got ink this week. How can that not be a modern record?

This week’s results made Sunday Style editor Lynn Medford “HAW” all over. “BEST INVITE EVER!!!!” she noted, possibly repeating herself from two weeks ago. As usualy, however, her favorites didn’t exactly line up with the Empress’s top picks. Lynn instead cited Russ Beland’s “I’ll Have Another,” Jonathan Hardis’s “Muir Cowbell” and then Laura Peterson’s runner-up “ASAP’s Fables.”

(On the other hand, this week’s results did not make my predecessor, The Czar of The Style Invitational, haw all over. While he and I actually see eye to eye most weeks, it’s the horse names contest that probably points up our most significant difference: I am more apt to choose something that’s really clever but not necessarily bust-a-gut funny. In fact, though he did like many of this week’s entries, he found one cerebral combination so clever-not-funny that he described it as “a huge bolus of steaming sh--.” Sorry, you’ll just have to wonder if it was your own entry that merited such an accolade.)


Given horse names like Backdoor Strike and Late Night Action, we obviously were going to get some straight-for-the-Conversational names. Such as:
Algorithms x Groovin’ Solo = f(Yourself) (Jeff Contompasis)
Groovin’ Solo x Boat Trip = Master Baiter (Dion Black)
Groovin’ Solo x Alpha = Master Beta (Mark Eckenwiler)
Boat Trip x Late Night Action = Thar She Blows (Harvey Smith)
Boat Trip x Late Night Action = Yawl Cum (Jan Brandstetter)
Big Monster + Lemon Juice = Mothra Pucker (Jeff Brechlin)
Late Night Action x Got What = Penis Illin’ (Gary Crockett)
Groovin’ Solo x Late Night Action = Han Job (Mark Eckenwiler)
Lemon Juice x Late Night Action = Sour Cream (Jeff Contompasis)
Tiger Walk + Late Night Action = Woods’ Hole (someone who sensibly didn’t give a name)
Late Night Action x Verne = Around the World (anonymous)
Backdoor Strike x A Boy Named Em = Sod“Em”y (Tom Witte)

And my favorite of the bunch: Big Monster x Backdoor Strike = NotWithThatThing (David Smith)


You have to get your check in for the Flushies award “ceremony,” luncheon, mockery and schmoozefest ASAP to Elden Carnahan; Elden is getting pretty fretty, and “pretty” isn’t a very good word to describe Elden when he’s fretty. I’m looking forward to meeting several brand-new Losers and fans (yes! we have them!) as well to seeing familiar faces on Saturday, May 12, from noon to four at the Double Tree hotel in suburban Annapolis, Md. Phyllis Reinhard, who can’t come down this year from Pennsylvania, sent an especially, um, prominent foam rubber crown for me to wear.

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