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

Week 970: Once again, we turn for the verse

By the E, Pat Myers

We hadn’t had a poetry contest since our annual obit poems 18 weeks ago, and it’s a shame to waste the talents of our crack Loser Bahd Squad, as our across-the-pond contingent might call them. So when Invite rookie phenom but longtime light-verse poet Robert Schechter shared his and other “tailgaters” with the Style Invitational Devotees on Facebook a few weeks ago, I figured we ought to give them a try in Week 970. In the online discussion that followed (really, people, you’re missing all the yummy dish if you’re not a Devotee), I worried that there were just so few poems that are really well known to the American public. But so what? argued another Loser, David Smith, persuasively — you don’t have to know the whole poem to enjoy a funny follow-up to a single line in it.

Then there was a lot of back-and-forth about whether a popular song should count as a poem. Philosophy aside, I excluded songs from this contest for the most important reason: If this contest pans out — and why wouldn’t it? — I’ll be able to milk the same idea for a future contest. So if you find yourself with a clever riposte to a song lyric, hold on to it.

If the line you use doesn’t pop up on Google, please make sure it’s absolutely correct and tell me what it’s from. I will be awfully happy, though, if your line (and preferably the whole poem) is available to all; then I can link to the whole poem in the results, for one thing. I don’t know if I’ll credit every initial line, as I did in today’s examples.


Within hours of my posting the Week 966 word-ladder contest, the Losers started writing in alarm that this would be an almost impossibly hard challenge, especially with my requirement that the words stringing together the first and last relate to those outer words.

As has happened at least a few times in Invitational history, sometimes we have to let the Losers be a bit flexible in their interpretations for the sake of funny. And they came up with some nifty solutions, including using a lengthy word ladder to form an entire little story with remarkably natural syntax, as Dave Zarrow did in his Inkin’ Memorial-winning entry (oh, Mitt, your dog been berry berry good to The Style Invitational).

I ended up running less than a whole page of entries — not because they weren’t worthy, but, as I noted in the Invite, it’s just hard to read through a lot of these ladders in a sitting. It’s one of those challenges that are more more fun to do than to read. And I had wanted to share some more of those “Questionable Journalism” HMs.

Dave Zarrow is one of the Invitational’s True Greats — not only is he a 320-time Loser dating back to Week 30, and an eight-time winner of the contest, but the former “America’s Funniest Office Products Salesman” (now, I suppose, he’s America’s Funniest Office Products Saleman, Ret.) is also one of the founding members of the Dueling Losers Band, which provided entertainment at many a Flushies banquet (it’s not too late to RSVP for this year’s, on May 12; see the bottom of this column). These days, Dave enters the Invite only intermittently, and then usually with only a couple of entries in a week. But I bet there are very few weeks in which he sends his little entry and doesn’t get something in the mail from me four weeks later.

Style Invitational Editor Lynn Medford’s “HAW” for the week went to Doug Frank’s LOSER-to-MORON chain.


You could probably make a little book out of nothing but Chris Doyle’s Invite entries about Monica Lewinsky. He offered this one this time:
MONICA; monic; yonic; yoni; yon; on; one; lone; loner; lover; hover; HOOVER.
Chris didn’t mean the Hoover Institute.

And Amanda Yanovitch takes on both Santorum and “santorum,” providing her an excellent lesson for her English students on the difference between proper and common nouns (in this case, oh-so-proper and oh-so-common):
FECAL; focal; foal; fool; tool; took; tock; dock; dick; RICK.


I’m looking forward as usual to tomorrow’s Kentucky Derby, which has become even more fun to watch now that I have some of “my own” horses to root for each year: the ones whose names were “bred” in the Invite’s annual “Foaling Around” contest. We’re especially well represented this year at Churchill Downs, with 13 of the 21 horses (including the alternate) on the list.

Given that I chose the100 names for Week 965 from a list of some 400 eligible horses, that’s a pretty good fraction. It wasn’t entirely random; I did consult some early touts a couple of months ago, and included many of the names on the prognosticators’ lists of early picks. Still, I left off some of the most talked-about names, including a few of tomorrow’s favorites: Bodemeister and Dullahan because I didn’t think they’d be very useful as “studs”; Take Charge Indy because we’ve had “Indy” in more than one previous contest; and Daddy Nose Best because the name already had a pun, and we have to deal with that problem in the grandfoal contest anyway.

But it’s still better representation than usual for Invite Farms. There’s just a lot of luck in horse racing, you know?

Speaking of horse names, Ultra-Loser Brendan Beary shared a video clip of one of the best race calls ever: the famed announcer Tom Durkin having a whole lot of fun on the job at Saratoga in 2008 (the best horse name isn’t heard till 30 seconds or so into the race, so watch the whole thing).

Rookie Neal Starkman sent his string of entries that each started with a presidential candidate and ended in “LOST” as four separate entries. But I liked much more how the four worked as a unit. As the great philosopher said, “A whole greater than the sum of its parts may bring the parts’ creator a can of Instant Underpants.” It’s the fifth ink for Neal, but that includes an Inker and now a second place. Dang.

Chris Doyle resurrects his persona of super-hick Rufus Dobbs (this time around he’s Boggs) for perhaps one of the new Grossery Bags; they’re scheduled to arrive May 18. Back in Week 622 (2005), Chris got ink in the contest to suggest an addition to the U.S. Constitution using only words contained in the actual Constitution and its amendments: “Congress shall have the power to void the laws of the state of Georgia (under the section entitled ‘crimes against nature’) that deny the right of any citizen, and particularly a citizen by the name of Rufus Dobbs, to engage in sex with a bear, notwithstanding the fact that one such bear has granted consent, is of age, and has not been given any intoxicating liquors for at least a few days. -- R. Dobbs, Stone Mountain, Ga.“

And Kevin Dopart so cleverly turned Putin into his next-door neighbor Palin with a series of Palinesque ‘postrophes.


The recently declined second-place Invite prize of a genuine issue of Playboy in braille will find a more eager new owner at the 17th annual Flushies, the Losers’ own awards luncheon, being held this year a week from Saturday — May 12 — at a hotel in suburban Annapolis, Md., noon to 4. The new Loser of the Year and Rookie of the Year will be properly mocked, and Losers reaching various milestones of ink, to mix metaphors yet again, will be presented with something properly reflecting that signal achievement. (In the past it’s been inscribed rolls of toilet paper.) I’ll also be presenting the new Inkin’ Memorial trophy to horse-names winner Susan Thompson, who’ll be coming up from North Carolina.

And once again, at least one custom-made song parody has been worked up for the occasion, to be performed by the Ad Hoc Loser Choristers. Plus, as always, Dave Prevar on More Cowbell. Click here to RSVP to taking-the-checks guy Elden Carnahan. The Royal Consort and I I’m looking forward to seeing some new Losers and even some just-curious non-Losers, as well as the old hands, pancreases, etc. And my editor, Lynn — who happens to live in the Annapolis area — stopped by my desk on Tuesday to ask what the Flushies dress code was. So I’m hoping you’ll be able to offer a hearty Haw to her as well.

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