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

Week 978 — Five lines, no waiting (unless we run more limerick results later); and news by the foot

By the E, Pat Myers

Hello, and welcome to the start of what for many of you is a six-day weekend, and for some more of you is a 10-day weekend. Since this week’s Invitational and results are already online, I’ll try not to prattle on as much as usual so that you can get the dog strapped to the car roof and get going.

The “framed couplet” form of this week’s contest — basically the hallowed form of iambic pentameter missing the first, unaccented (“weak”) beat of each line — is not a very restrictive one; it often resembles plain ol’ spoken speech. And the subject restriction to “something that’s been in the news recently” is not exactly going to restrict your menu of options to one of those little chalkboards they put up in some of your cutesier restaurants. In fact, the toughest challenge might be the brevity: to say something pointedly witty and original in two or four quite short lines.

In some past contests for poetry on the news, we asked you to write the verse about a specific news story of your choice; this isn’t necessary this week. You can give the topic or context as part of a title or heading, but it shouldn’t be a long explanation. Feel free also to give me a link to an article you’re referring to, but readers shouldn’t have to peruse an article in order to understand the 18 or 36 syllables you’re writing about it.

Because of the rule that each line must begin with an accented syllable, entrants shouldn’t be as confused as they sometimes are about what constitutes a rhyme — since rhymes are between accented syllables only; in two rhyming words, it’s their final ACCENTED syllables that rhyme, not the syllables (if any) following the accented syllables. Most of us understand this rule intuitively, having heard this form since Mother Goose; but those who don’t might rhyme, for example, “Kowalski” and “invulnerability,” as someone did in one of the Week 974 limericks. Anyway, I should have to deal with this problem only on one end of each line.

In NINE hundred SEVenty FOUR ... THE RESULTS OF WEEK, duh, 974

You might remember that Week 974 was presented as a tribute to the New York Magazine Competition — the model for the Invite — which ran for a paltry 973 installments before retiring in 2000. But as you might have inferred from the gracious headline “Eat Our Dust,” we were perhaps gloating just a wee bit. And really, I was completely certain that the limericks we’d be running about books, movies, plays and TV shows would outdo those from our predecessor.


I do think that the Greater Loser Community encompasses the best limerick-writing lineup in the English-speaking world. Of the approximately 900 limericks I received for Week 974, I didn’t care for only about 750 of them. And given that I’ve posted only 32 — more than that and readers won’t get to the bottom of the list — that means that a lot of well-crafted, clever verses didn’t get ink this week. Given that I’d like to go away for two or three days this summer, I might skip a contest and then run more limericks four weeks after that, when the results would have run. Sorry to be less than concrete about my plans.

Today’s results encompass the fine and funny work of 27 limericists, including three First Offenders. I can’t exactly express shock that two of the top four finishers were Chris Doyle (first place) and Brendan Beary (third), who were so dominant in early Invite limerick contests — especially when there was no 25-entry limit — that we staged a 10-round “smackdown” between them. Or that the other two were also successful Losers: Dixon Wragg, who’s amassed 52 blots of especially colorful ink since he started playing the Invite less than two years ago, and Beverley Sharp, for whom this is Ink No. 312 since her debut in Week 604.

I also especially liked the entries from our three First Offenders — Marion Shore of Massachusetts; Jerome Betts of seaside England; and Colleen Murphy of Connecticut. And it was heartening to see return engagements from some poets who got their ink only a few weeks ago, in the “tailgaters” contest of Week 970: Duncan Stevens, Brian Allgar and the very prolific Chris O’Carroll. And welcome back to Paul VerNooy, who hadn’t dropped by since 2008.

This week’s HAW by Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford was for Scotsman Stephen Gold’s paean to “Showgirls” and “a few of my favo[u]rite thongs.”

Given the scope of the contest, it’s not surprising that entrants used a huge variety of source material. But there were also some works that evinced limericks from several Losers. In addition to Marion Shore’s inking verse about “The Crying Game” with the fake “deleted” line, here are three more excellent entries about the same film — and note how all four cleverly hint at, but don’t spell out, the movie’s twist:

An IRA fugitive’s awed
By a singer’s sweet voice and hot bod.
After she sizes him
Up, she surprises him.
Turns out she’s packing a rod. (Chris O’Carroll)

Fergus and Dil (who could sing)
Were considering having a fling.
But then came the night
When they found they were right
For each other (except for one thing). (Kevin Dopart)

It’s a movie with plot twists galore:
Failed abductions, some murders and gore,
IRA plots and schemes,
And to top off those themes,
There’s a key surprise package in store. (Brendan Beary)


But we’re a general-interest newspaper. On the other hand, we have the low-, er, special-interest Style Conversational. So here are three that clearly were Not Safe for Print:

The Dictator, with Sacha Baron Cohen
At first, Aladeen is a hater—
His charming persona comes later.
He gets happy at work
With an up-and-down jerk—
Aladeen puts the dic in the tator. (Amanda Yanovitch)

“I Dream of Jeannie”
When I was a horny young teenie,
I loved me a magical genie--
One sexy Miss Eden.
‘Twas her I was needin’
To magically vanish my weenie. (Dixon Wragg)

And not bawdy, but objectionable nonetheless:
The Koran
They preach that this book makes you whole
They teach that it’s good for your soul
But doubt it or flout it
(Write limericks about it?)
Your infidel head’s gonna roll. (Kathleen DeBold)


This month’s Loser brunch was recently rescheduled to Sunday, July 29, at 11 a.m., partly because Constantly Losing Kevin Dopart will be back from Greece by then (he thought he was going to the Olympics, but he’d picked up an old brochure). It will be at Cafe Deluxe, across the street from Washington National Cathedral — very pleasant area, and a nice, sunny brunch spot. Hope to see lots of you there. RSVP at (the current date listed there of July 15 is incorrect).

Also in the works: a day trip to Gettysburg, Pa., on Sunday, Aug. 26, featuring lunch at a local pub and a historical tour led by Gettsburgher Losers Marty McCullen and Roger Dalrymple. MC, Visa and Pickett’s charges accepted.

Have a happy holiday, fellow Americans and anyone else who’d like to have one — and go ahead and get sick!

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