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

Week 993: See, we’re not ALWAYS about limericks

By the E, Pat Myers

Good afternoon. If you think Bob Staake’s cartoon of the rap king Stephen Hawking is a bit tasteless, take consolation that this was the original. (To thank him for his quick revision, I shared with him this priceless bit of typography.)

I love — it’s funny, clever and just a bit highbrow. It’s gotten something like 23 million page views, so I can’t exactly claim to be revealing a little cult secret, but on the other hand I couldn’t find a mention of this site in The Post’s archives.

And I also love how the concept of Trash-Talkin’ Historical Figures plays right into the strengths of the Loser Community — the ability to juxtapose the highbrow with the lowbrow, while deploying a bigger arsenal of vocabulary, and being especially good at coming up with rhymes.
The rap genre is primarily about rhythm and also, like contemporary pop music in general, about vowel sounds. The Style Invitational genre is primarily about “perfect rhymes.” By “being a bit more lenient” about rhyming, I mean that I won’t just toss an otherwise brilliant couplet or four-line verse because it doesn’t hew to the perfect-rhyme rule: that the last ACCENTED syllables of the two lines rhyme (but are not identical) and that all following syllables are identical or will at least rhyme with each other. Still, and call it my arbitrary personal preference or whatever: Given two similarly clever verses, I’m going to prefer the one with the perfect rhyme.

Where we want to go: A duple (2-beat or 4-beat) meter — BAH da BAH da BAH da BAH da, or BAH da da da, BAH da da da, BAH da da da, BAH da da da, anything you can march to. Not rap: Limericks. Iambic pentameter. Double dactyls. Haiku. Paragraphs. (Just trying to anticipate the wrong kind of entries here.)

Where we don’t want to go: Putting down the rap genre as beneath the writer; using death threats or graphic violence; using “ebonics” (“He be talkin’ “), though I wouldn’t necessarily toss something like “there ain’t no ... .” If you use standard speech, though, I won’t rule it out for not sounding rap-like; I’ll probably think it’s funnier.

If you do your own rap on video, you probably CAN be looser with the rhymes. If it doesn’t translate well to print, though, I won’t use it in the paper. I really do hope some of you will make videos. They should make great entertainment for this year’s Loser Holiday Party.


I just found out this afternoon that my usual editor and HAWster, Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford, is away today and had asked a couple of deputies to look at the proof of this week’s Invite. And this just happened to be a week in which I really pushed the envelope; I have to say that if I were filling in for my boss and had to rule on these entries for taste, I’d have been at least as cautious — maybe more so.

The truth is that my short­list this week was shorter than usual. So, so many of the entries were painfully obvious wordplays or antiquated jokes. Balloonist + politician ... you know, my dear readers, even though I see one of them almost every week, a “hot air” joke about a politician is NEVER going to get ink. I’m loath to list specific examples of joke-lameness, even without attribution, because I don’t want to stick it to any particular offender; let’s just say that the Loser Community, even its more prominent citizens, let its standards drop a bit this week.

I don’t think I let mine drop, though (except perhaps for taste). I couldn’t argue with the axing (for print) David Genser’s “putts” and Mark Raffmans “get off” jokes, and am happy that the deputies didn’t object to Amanda Yanovitch’s “SOL” double-entendre or Clifford Fishman’s “tips” or Tom Witte’s joke about the electric chair.

Part of the problem may have been some confusion about what the contest was supposed to be. If you remember, Week 989 sprang from the Week 985 contest four weeks earlier, which presented five Bob Staake cartoons and asked you to come up a contest for which the cartoon could have been an illustration or example. And two Losers, Gary Crockett and Lawrence McGuire, had submitted entries (for two different cartoons) offering examples for a possible contest about double professions. While Gary and Lawrence won only magnets, I said that seemed like a good actual contest to use, and used their entries as the examples for it.

About a dozen Losers, including a couple of veterans, interpreted the contest as still requiring them to base their answers on the five cartoons. I’m sorry, but that possibility never occurred to me; I should have been clearer. Meanwhile, Mike Gips was able to get ink anyway with his illustration for Cartoon C at

It’s the first Inkin’ Memorial but the third win for Jeffery Hazle, who saw the value of not spelling out the punchline. Jeff is one of our more discriminating Losers, gaining six inks above the fold out of his 26 blots since his first in Week 802. Another has-a-lifer, David Garratt (this is the week of Losers who misspell their own names), gets the tasteless piggy banks for his third above-the-fold in 31 inks. Then, of course, there’s Kevin P. Dopart, who, it turned out, was appearing incognito among at least a few of the Style Invitational Devotees by using an anagram of his name for, what, two years? And David Genser, once again hanging out near the top of the list.

Lynn’s away, so no HAW.


Besides the aforementioned Web-exiled “putts” and “get off” jokes:

A presidential candidate moonlighting as a doctor on a Parkinson’s ward: Pretty much shaking hands nonstop. (Seth Brown, before seeing the similar tastelessness from last time)

Dog walker/ school bus driver: Spends half his day picking up little turds. (Bird Waring)

Drill sergeant and urologist: Both try to get privates to stand up straight. (Bird Waring)

An artilleryman moonlights as a fluffer: Both jobs require you to keep things pointed in the right direction. (Tom Witte)

But my Scarlet Letter favorite, and one I actually considered running: Also from David Garratt, and really what he should be getting the banks for: The secretary of homeland security could be the CEO of a condom company: She goes out on a limb to protect you. (David Garratt)


Have no fear: The Loser Stats have a temporary (at least) home at Click on the arrow to see the page you desire (unless you desire in vain to see your name at the top).


I can’t make it this Sunday to the Mosaic Cafe in Rockville, but there’s room for more Losers to RSVP here to Elden Carnahan. I do plan to go to Kilroy’s, just off the Beltway in Virginia, for the Nov. 11 brunch.

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