By the E, Pat Myers
Good morning, and a special welcome to those select few who want to increase their chances in the Week 976 contest, yet were not already pathetic enough to read the Conversational regularly in hopes that their names would be mentioned, or that they might glimpse some otherwise unpublishable risque entries.
We’ve done this basic neologism contest many, many times, since it’s easy to put together even at the last minute and, what’s more important, has never failed to generate a list of funny entries. As I see from perusing the Master Contest List created by Almost-in-the-Hall-of-Fame Loser Elden Carnahan, the first Hyphen the Terrible contest was in Week 156 — March 1996. The contest (suggested by Fred Dawson, painter of the famed World’s Ugliest Painting) was to combine half of a word that was hyphenated in any story from that day’s paper — including the hyphens inserted automatically at the end of a line when the whole word didn’t quite fit — with another hyphenated word in that story.
Here are the top winners from Week 156 (notice that they’re all local in those pre-online days):
--Fourth Runner-Up: Mer-derloin, n. Chipped beef on toast. (Joseph Romm, Washington)
--Third Runner-Up: Booby-ding, n. A red line from a poorly fitting brassiere. (Dan Chaney, Clinton, Md.)
-- Second Runner-Up: Valu-goslavia, n. The mega-mall that Canadian developers hope will revitalize downtown Sarajevo. (Harry and Gavin St. Ours, Boyds, Md.)
-- First Runner-Up: Over-suer, n. The head lawyer in charge of all the young, slave-driven paralegals in a sweatshop legal firm. (Kevin Cuddihy, Fairfax, Va.)
-- And the winner of the paired 1960s big-eyed teeny-bopper paintings: Tam-ple, n. The place where women go to pray for a late menopause. (Jean Sorensen, Herndon, Va.)
See, the Invite has a long tradition of taste-challenged humor; it’s not as if we’ve gradually lost our sense of propriety over the years. Wow: “Merde,” “booby” and “tampon” in just the winners.
The Czar went on to do Hyphen the Terrible contests in Weeks 206, 244, 291, 318, 367, 425 and 521 (August 2003). In the later weeks, after the advent of washingtonpost.com, he invited out-of-town readers to use an edition of USA Today instead of The Post, since online stories dispense with the hyphens used in print to even out the lengths of lines — meaning that there’d be a lot fewer hyphens to use for this contest.
When I did my first Hyphen the Terrible, in Week 589, I used a new tack, one we still use today: to let contestants use the first and last parts of any words, not just hyphenated ones (at the suggestion of Russell Beland). The word pool has varied: just the text of the Invite and Web supplement (pretty much what we’re doing for Week 976); anything in the Sunday Style and Sunday Arts sections; anything from a whole week of washingtonpost.com. It’s sometimes a tough call in a neologism contest to choose a word pool large enough to ensure lots of good entries without much duplication, while not having the pool so big that I end up with hundreds of very good entries that I have no room for.
New twists this week:
1. You can use this here column, as well as the Invite, as a source for words.
2. Note that I didn’t require that you use a whole syllable as a word-part — as long as it has two or more letters including a vowel, it’s good to go.
3. Note that you can use the letters you find at the beginning of a real word to be the end of your neologism, and you can start your word with the letters you find at a word’s end.
4. Your own word doesn’t actually have to be hyphenated, if a hyphen will make the word hard to read or would otherwise spoil the humor. I might end up adding or deleting hyphens if I think it’ll help the entry.
5. Already asked on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook (the Invitational went up early this week, late Thursday afternoon): Yes, if a particular word is used twice in the text, you could end up joining the beginning and ending letters of that same word, as long as you make something funny out of it.
6. You can ignore the original capitalization and/or punctuation, such as an apostrophe.
7. On the other hand, you can’t ignore a word ending like -’s or -ed, and use just the letters that precede it.
8. You may use any word or name that appears in this week’s Invitational or Conversational, but not the text on the pages we merely link to, such as the Devotees page or last week’s Invite.
9. If you’re removing an apostrophe, hyphen, etc., from the word you’re using, please let me know; otherwise it won’t show up when I search for your words in the Invite and Convo. In fact, it’s be great if you specified the words you used for your neologism.
Feel free to ask any more questions either in the comments section for this column or, much preferably, on the Devotees page, which has many more readers because it’s a lot easier to use, and much better for holding a discussion.
A TOPICAL STORM: THE RESULTS OF WEEK 972
The contest to compare and contrast any two items from a list is another Invite perennial, and I was only the weeest bit concerned that my new angle that week (suggested by Christopher Lamora) — to make the list entirely from a day’s “trending topics” on the washingtonpost.com home page — might pose a problem because it included more people’s names than a typical list.
Not to worry. The warped, er, flexible minds of the Loser Community offered plenty of ingenious connections, many of them involving such multisyllabically monikered wordplay as spoonerisms and antimetabole. And although a slam at John Edwards won Loser Jeff Brechlin an Inkin’ Memorial last week, we had no trouble at all rewarding lots more potshots at the formerly admired former senator, who was featured in three out of the top four entries (though not the week’s winner).
It’s the third first-place win for Anthony “Bird” Waring of the New York area, who’s been entering the Invite pretty regularly for more than a decade. Bird, whose anagram on the Loser Stats Page is Grr! I Win Bad, gets his 88th ink, including his 11th “above the fold.”
I hope the second-place papier-mache surfing skeleton won’t get damaged on the way to Austin for Edward Gordon, who gets his 37th ink and fourth above the fold. Ed’s been recovering from some whopper of an illness, so it’s good to see that his wordplay tissue remains strong as ever. Hall of Famer Brendan Beary wins a T-shirt, mug or Grossery Bag with his pithy perfection of a link between Beethoven and Edwards; and it’s a First Offender, Janice Haas of the D.C. area, who gets the fourth spot with a finely crafted “differentiation” between Edwards and the cast of “Desperate Housewives.” We’d better hear more from Janice posthaste.
“Clever, clever people!” enthused ever-enthusiastic Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford after reading this week’s results. Her North Carolinian “HAW!” this week went to three entries: Ed Gordon’s runner-up, plus Christopher Lamora’s and Larry Yungk’s “Red Sea/ scarlet A” and Matt Monitto’s “vamp ire." Because of this big-shot editorial endorsement, Christopher, Larry and Matt all get extra-shiny honorable-mention magnets.
TOO-HOT TOPICS: THE UNPRINTABLES
Even for a newspaper feature that awarded first prize to a tampon joke, some humor isn’t likely to get past the taste police and onto the printed page. But it’s a more self-selecting group of readers here at the Convo, and we figure that if you’ve read this far, you know (and don’t mind) what you’re getting.
Among this week’s cleverly risque entries, we enjoyed this pun submitted by several people comparing Beethoven with John Edwards, Howard Stern or Mark Zuckerberg: “One is a classical pianist and the other is just a classic dick.”
There was also a comparison of Edwards and Serena Williams: “Williams keeps her balls within bounds.” (David Kleinbard)
But the Scarlet Letter goes to Kevin Dopart, who sent this one:
“Yemen and Bristol Palin are alike because everyone now knows better than to enter either of them unprotected.”