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

Week 991: VOTE now! Or VETO now! Or OTVE now! Whatever!

By the E, Pat Myers

Hello, everyone — hope you’re feeling as well as the Washington Nationals today and a whole lot better than the Washington President. (It turns out that the best way to have seen last night’s debate was to have it condensed into two minutes and then fed through Auto-Tune to turn the candidates’ talking points into singing points.)

Our own Fall Classic, the contest we’ve called Tour de Fours — now in its ninth year — is yet another one lifted, in sincerest flattery, from the Invite’s inspiration, the late New York Magazine Competition, which used the name Superghost. It was the first contest suggestion from Chris Doyle, who was one of NYMag’s major ink-gleaners until the contest was retired in 2000 and Chris turned his prodigious and prolific wordsmithery to the Invitational. Our twist on it was to allow the four letters to be rearranged.

The Invitational Master Contest List compiled by Founding Loser and Keeper of the Stats Elden Carnahan (who is still blotting up ink this week) allowed me to make sure that none of the previous eight Tours de Fours used this letter block; in fact, it’s our first that uses the letter V. My aim is to use a group of letters that can be used to help produce pronounceable words in many different permutations; “ABCD,” for example, won’t cut it. Judging from ALL the previous T d’F’s, I have every reason to expect a slew of wonderful entries.

As with all our neologism contests, the inking entries usually play off actual words or terms, and their definitions usually allude to the definitions of those words. For inspiration (though of course with a different block of letters), here are the results of Tour de Fours VIII, based at Christmastime on N-O-E-L (scroll down for the results) and Tour de Fours VII, on P-O-L-E (for no particular reason).


Gosh, I never tire of the Mess With Our Heads contest — thank you, Roy Ashley, for suggesting this contest in 2004 (Roy, by the way, also gets ink today; also by the way, Roy, unlike Paul Ryan, actually has run sub-3-hour marathons).

I admit that quite a few of today’s many, many inking entries — I just can’t bring myself to turn those cute little things away — are almost stupidly silly: “Obama doubles down” about overstuffed pillows; “Maryland at Temple” about the whole state going to synagogue. But “Well, it made me laugh” has always been one of my judging criteria; entries don’t always have to be Pointed Insights About the World. It’s nice to have both kinds, preferably in close proximity.

I received so many fun headlines this week — my initial “shortlist” numbers more than 100 — that I might run some of the worthy but ink-robbed ones, as well as some actual Losing entries, as Bank Head of the Day on Facebook, just as I did with the song parodies from Week 982. (Being published there won’t disqualify an entry from the “Look Back in Inker” retrospective contest to run near year’s end.) Sign up here to join the Style Invitational Devotees.

It’s the first Inkin’ Memorial, but already the fourth win, for Melissa Balmain of Rochester, N.Y. In these final weeks of the presidential campaign, I’m a bit loath to give a big prize for humor that attacks one side or the other, but I felt that Melissa’s entry was such an exaggerated (and funny) silver-spoon-type joke that it doesn’t count as attack humor in my book. (The “sky is crying” quote the headline is based on Romney’s remarks at a serious event, a memorial service, and so I didn’t link to it. But because that’s not evident from the joke itself, I don’t consider it a taste problem.)
Melissa had some exciting news to announce recently: She’s been named the new editor of Light, the acclaimed quarterly journal of light verse, succeeding the late John Mella. And the formerly print-only publication will be moving online. Melissa got to know some of our Loser Bards through Light — she even wrote a profile of Mae Scanlan — and I’m sure she’ll be working with several of them in the future.

Steve Honley of Washington, who just scored a Grossery Bag last week, is back “above the fold ”with his clever take on the Nats vs. Atlanta; this time he gets the more compact and way more weird toy potty in a little egg the size of the toys you get from candy machines. (It looks approximately like this. The accompanying poo — ours ... I mean, our prize’s ... is bright yellow.)

Howard Walderman, the guy who finally got a computer recently after meticulously hand-writing his entries every week since Week 212, gets his 117th ink, and 12th above the fold; and Loserly Dabbler Larry Carnahan — no, he’s not related to Elden! — also scores a mug or bag with one of a slew of sports-head entries this week, his first big ink among his five.

I’m glad that we have 10 days’ worth of headlines to choose from for this contest. I still got a lot of duplication. Usually I picked my favorite wording (sometimes it was a close call, and for one I used two different approaches), but occasionally there were several entries for a particular headline that were basically the same joke with very similar wording. This includes “Toys R Us markets a tablet for the youngest users: My First Ritalin (or My Little Valium, etc.) is candy-coated, chewable.”

I think almost all the headline misinterpretations are easy to figure out; the more challenging ones require you to change a verb into a noun (“Clinton urges ...,” “Decision will be felt”). Last week’s pun winners proved confusing to some people; in response, I printed a translation key on the Devotees page (scroll down the thread; the translation of each pun is after the name credit).

It was nice to see the return of Number One Loser Russell Beland, who had pretty much stopped entering the Invite. This has always been one of Russell’s favorite contests, and this week he got ink in a joint entry with son Adam; his other son, Zack, also gets ink.

This week’s HAW from Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford, who liked the play on Woolly Mammoth, a D.C. theater company, from Gary Sampliner, “a First Offender who should return.” He’d better!


Oy. Lots of tastelessness this week; a risque but possibly printable joke tends to end up here when its subject is a particular person, and there were a lot of those (bank hed is after the colon). And here is an extra warning. The Scarlet Letter joke below, while not sexual, is of such profoundly bad taste that only other people — not you — should see it.

Clinton’s China trip exposes wide rifts: “Misstep in Beijing and an ill-fitting pantsuit reveal Secretary of State’s butt crack (Jeff Contompasis)

Play-caller finally has a box of toys: Sandusky’s “trophy collection” discovered (Matt Monitto)
LaRoche wants to go deep, stay put: Nats first baseman doubles his Viagra dose (Chris Doyle); “Here, here”, echoes Mrs. LaRoche (Howard Walderman)

Got rabid beaver fever? Remain calm: Cosmo’s top ten tips to prevent scaring your man away (Nan Reiner)

Mitt Romney’s rock and hard place problem: Excited candidate embarrassed to stand up at Lollapalooza festival (Dan Steinbrocker)

The president’s small-ball speech: Obama okays NIH study of hypogonadism (Chris Doyle)

Clinton v. Santorum 2016?: And he thought the stain on Monica’s dress was embarrassing! (Dixon Wragg)

And the Scarlet Letter to the truly, truly, tasteless:
A shaky jobs pledge: Employment summit ceremony attendees note “Michael J. Fox is no Gabby Giffords” (Kevin Dopart)

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