By the E, Pat Myers
(*”Imporve” is a long-running Loser trope, stemming from the 1994 “New and Imporved T-Shirt,” Cindi Rae Caron’s winning slogan for the second Loser T-shirt for runners-up. At their Flushies award “banquets,” the Losers award plaques each year to the year’s Most Imporved and Least Imporved contestants.)
It happens a lot when I'm judging neologism contests, as well as contests asking for a new title of a book or movie: The word itself is clever, but the description is sort of anticlimactic. And when I judged the entries for Week 976, I found myself marking dozens of them with “BD” — meaning “promising, but it needs a better definition.”
I never looked up the names of the people who came up with those words (at least a few were sent by more than one person). And this isn’t at all a slam on the Losers whose entries made this list; it’s just that there’s a good chance (though admittedly not a certainty) that a pool of hundreds of entrants will come up with a funnier, cleverer definition than a pool of one.
I realize that we’re not working with a huge list of names; when we did a contest like this once before, in 2009 (“Reologisms”), I offered a list of 50 rather than the 30-some this time. But we got so many good entries that I ended up running a Web supplement, and so I’m optimistic that we’ll come up with highly worthy definitions for most of these words this time around. As I note in this week’s column, I’m probably going to get lots of entries with roughly the same idea; rather than giving multiple credits, I’m more likely to choose the very best wording. (If — as happens very rarely, usually with the backward crosswords — there’s no single best definition, but there’s one frequently submitted really funny one, I might run it with and credit “many entrants,” for the enjoyment of our readers. (Remember, O Losers, that we don’t do this contest just for you. As much as we adore you all — and especially YOU.)
THE HYPH- OF THE PARTY: THE RESULTS OF WEEK 976
... though, as the results show, actual hyphens weren’t required for this contest to combine the beginning of a word appearing in the Week 976 Style Invitational or Style Conversational with the end of another, and then define the new word: I specified only that “each part must have at least two letters including a vowel,” not that each part be hyphenated or be a whole syllable. And for the first time I let people use a word’s ending as the beginning of their neologism, and vice versa — but not combine two endings or two beginnings.
Some entries, even those by the the most obsessive of Losers didn’t adhere even to those lax rules: I otherwise would have given ink to Jeffrey Contompasis’s combination of “Crockett” and “Question” to make “CrockQuest,” the rejected original name for “MythBusters.” And to Lawrence McGuire’s “bear-teen” (Beary + teeny-bopper): “a juvenile human awakened too early from its summer hibernation.” And Bird Waring really confused me with “cam-tivist: The guy who shows up at rallies simply to try to get on TV,” until I checked his e-mail and saw that he hadn’t used the Invite or Conversational, but that day’s front page of The Post.
It’s already the second Inkin’ Memorial for Robert Schechter; perhaps he’ll use them as a pair of bobbleheaded bookends. (They’re not very weighty, so I don’t think they’d hold up much more than a few comic books.) Because I didn’t want to supply an example for this week’s reologisms, I asked Bob Staake instead to illustrate Robert’s entry. Knowing that Washington has literally hundreds of statues and other monuments that fall into this category, I Googled something like “obscure D.C. monuments” and — ding! — learned about the memorial to James Buchanan, often hailed as the worst U.S. president in history. The Buchanan Memorial i is in a corner of the close-in Meridian Hill Park; I’m thinking we should add it as a de rigueur photo-op site for visiting Losers.
I’m especially fond of this week’s second-place winner, “Hyattsvilification” by David Smith, given that it’s about the too-real phenomenon about prejudice toward Prince George’s County, Md., which happens to be where I live, as well as where David used to live before taking a job as an astrophysics professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. As a large, predominantly nonwhite region bordering the District’s eastern, less affluent side, “P.G.” tends to be regarded by Washingtonians who have little firsthand knowledge as a hellhole of crack houses and carjackings. But while one can’t deny the county’s significant urban-type problems in some areas, there’s plenty of suburban comfort and natural beauty there as well. (Here’s a photo of the house around the corner from mine, which was just sold.) David doesn’t enter the Invitational very often, or in great quantity, but when he does, he tends to get ink: It’s his 72nd blot, and 18th above the fold.
Christopher Lamora’s “Enthusela” was the favorite this week of my predecessor, The Czar of The Style Invitational. Only-His-Family-Calls-Him-Chris gets his 159th ink this week, and perhaps his first Grossery Bag? And the hard-charging newbie Larry Gray had an amazing week, as he did last week as well, with a runner-up plus three Honorable Mentions.
This week’s HAW from Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford (verbatim from the subject line of her otherwise empty e-mail): “DING-MON!! [ by Ellen Raphaeli] Who can resist a more cowbell joke!? Disc-gust [Gary Crockett] was breeyant, too.” (Lynn likes to converse in North Carolinian French.)
UNSAVORY MIXES: THE UNPRINTABLES
When you ask people to combine parts of words appearing in a contest for a “neologism,” you should expect a bunch of entries destined for this section of the Conversational. Sure enough:
You get your ... “Smellogism: The latest technological breakthrough in adult entertainment.” (Bruce Schechter — a relative, I presume?)
Gism-path: The road more travleled (Edmund Conti)
And the Scarlet Letter goes to: Bat-gism: An even better fertilizer than guano. (Larry Gray)
Larry also offered these fine no-ways: Assoline: Santorum; and Pooturbed: Having a s--- fit.”
NEXT LOSER SIGHTING: JULY 29 (repeated from last week’s Conversational)
The Losers are having a rare late-in-the-month Loser Brunch on Sunday, July 29, in Northwest Washington. It’s at Cafe Deluxe, across Wisconsin Avenue from the Washington National Cathedral. I’ll be there with the Royal Consort, and as always, we’re always eager to meet new Losers and the Merely Curious along with the regulars. Ridiculously Consistent Loser Kevin Dopart plans to be there — he’ll be back from his annual trip to Greece — and has offered to lead interested brunchgoers on a tour of his interesting neighborhood, Cleveland Park. RSVP to Elden Carnahan at bitly.com/loserbrunch.