The Style Invitational goes viral


This meme, "Bad Analogies Written by High School Students" was not written by high school students, but instead contains winning Style Invitational entries from Week 120 in 1995. (The Style Invitational/THE STYLE INVITATIONAL)
February 28, 2013

Has anyone ever forwarded you an e-mail of Bad Analogies Written by High School Students? Or a list of funny neologisms, like “sarchasm,” from the “Mensa Invitational”? Or have you seen on Facebook that meme of the Hokey Pokey in sonnet form?

Yup, they’re actually all Style Invitational winners that have gone viral.

●The “Bad Analogies” list has been circulating nonstop for 17 years, with of course no attribution to the Invitational or to the (chronologically) adult writers who got ink in Week 120. The list includes such Invite gems as “Her hair glistened in the rain like nose hair after a sneeze” (Chuck Smith); “Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center” (Russell Beland); and “Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.” (Jennifer Hart).

●The Post sometimes gets credit, if incorrectly, for an amazingly viral list of neologisms from 1998 in which a real word has been changed by one letter. The list is usually topped by “Sarchasm: the gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the recipient who doesn’t get it” — Tom Witte’s winning entry of Week 278. It’s often paired with another 1998 contest, to give new meanings to existing words (e.g., “Coffee: A person who is coughed upon,” by David Hoffman). The two lists — with no credits to the authors — continue to pop up online literally almost daily, often with bogus items added, and often under the inexplicable name “Mensa Invitational.”

●One Invite entry, however, has brought its author remarkable fame: Jeff Brechlin’s Week CLXI winner from 2003 — the Hokey Pokey in the form of a (shortened) Shakespearean sonnet — has been reprinted in a zillion places, set to music at least twice, and performed at Shakespeare festivals. One man sent Brechlin a video of his 2-year-son reciting the whole thing. “I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours over the last decade writing SI entries,” says Brechlin, 54, who lives in Eagan, Minn., and develops training materials for a health-care company, “but my 15 minutes of fame all stems from the 15 minutes it took me to write this thing.”

The Hokey Pokey, by Jeff Brechlin
O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heaven’s yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the Poke — banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, ’tis what it’s all about.

Be sure to check out the many other segments of this 20th-anniversary Style Invitational retrospective: classic limericks; song parodies; neologisms (new words); horse “breeding” and “joint legislation”; and dozens of other winning entries from the past decade. Plus how to enter this week’s new contest, and a look at the Losers and their remarkable subculture. And more! See the index of articles here.

Next: The kangaroo-scrotum purse and other wacky prizes.

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