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

Week 971 — making it another double

By the E, Pat Myers

I’m polishing up my rhinestone tiara — and, um, squeezing up my big pink foam one — in preparation for the Flushies, the Losers’ own award lunch, which will be held this Saturday from noon to 4 at the Double Tree hotel outside Annapolis, Md. (Schmoozing till 1, then lunch, then the presentations, song parodies, general mockery, etc., at 2.) We currently have about 45 people scheduled to come, which means that organizers Elden Carnahan and Dave Prevar can fit you in and take your money at the door — just let them know that you’re coming. See the details on the link, and I hope to see you there.

We’ve been having a lot of contests lately in which you’re asked to pair two elements: horse names, people’s names, phrases, even two lines of poetry. And now Week 971 asks for two humorously complementary book titles, either one real one and one of your own, or two real ones.

I hadn’t planned this series of double plays; in fact, this week’s contest, suggested by Kevin Dopart, had been hanging around on my Contest Ideas list for ages — you can get an idea how long when you realize that Yann Martel’s “flip book”-that-wasn’t came out in 2010.

I’m not sure whether our new contest will end up more about jokes on the content of the books or about wordplay on titles. I think we’ll have room for both; let’s see what transpires.


This week’s prize has quite a story behind it, one that’s been followed incrementally on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook. Two months ago, I received this message from Loser Andrea Kelly:

“Hi Pat -- I have procured a knitted vagina to use as a ’Vite prize. It was made and donated for this purpose by my friend Jolene Mosely. To what address should I send it?
Thanks, Andrea
P.S. I feel like such a pimp!”

You think I’d say no to that? But I knew I couldn’t show a photo of it in the paper, which meant I’d have to describe it — in a printable (i.e., coy) manner. So I decided to ask the world’s best source of creatively crude humor: the Style Invitational Loser Community. So I showed the picture of the pudendum (mistakenly termed a vagina by the website posting the photo; it has no, uh, canal) and asked for descriptions that might possibly be printed by The Washington Post. What resulted was a lively, 149-comment discussion on the Style Invitational Devotees page, including an explanation by Jolene on how she happened to make the item, and a suggestion by Brendan Beary that she knit an accompanying “invasive wand” to be used in Virginia. Along with Anne Paris’s and Craig Dykstra’s descriptions that finally made it into the paper, Craig also suggested “Write a witty ditty, win this pretty knitty kitty” and Jeff Contompasis suggested the far safer “reproduction reproduction” — my fallback description if the others were vetoed.

But for a number of weeks, I didn’t have an opportunity to offer the prize pudendum, usually because the description took up too much room on the page. Finally, this week seemed promising. But over the weekend, I figured that it would be prudent to run said description (with a link to the photo) by my boss, Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford.

Monday morning, my “Can I run this?” e-mail received a succinct reply. “ NO!” I didn’t even argue. I just found another prize. I asked Andrea if I could instead give the She-Cozy away at the Flushies as a door prize. Sure, do that, she said

Tuesday morning, I got another e-mail from Lynn: “Go ahead with the vagina. Just don’t show in paper or put word in. Will explain later.”

The back story: In between the “NO!” and the “Go ahead,” a Mr. Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post, who has found a very agreeable milieu on Twitter and has thousands of followers (and who for many years used to hand-feed the pathetic Czar of The Style Invitational with a spoon), published a tweet suggesting that “ ‘Penis’ should be a verb, as in ‘please penis me,’ or ‘I want to penis her.’ It’s the f-word but with a sense of humor.”

This tweet initially alarmed some women at The Post, but the higher-ups gave it some thought and concluded that there’s not a single standard of propriety throughout the newsroom: that a humor columnist whose “brand” is irreverence and crudity shouldn’t have to tweet in as dignified a manor as, say, a reporter covering the Pentagon, or a writer of The Post's editorials. Gene’s tweet was deemed fine, and indeed there were no complaints from the public.

So ... irreverence. Not a single standard. See where we’re going? Lynn felt emboldened.

Later Tuesday (my usual day in the newsroom every week), Peter Perl stopped by my desk. Peter has had many writing and editorial jobs at The Post; now he’s a sort of chief of staff for the whole newsroom, overseeing any number of internal issues. “Do you have that prize? Lynn told me about it. I’d like to see it.” Um, okay, here it is.

“THAT IS GREAT!!!!! I LOVE IT!!!” I read him the planned description. “She-Cozy!! HAHAHA!!!”

So I won’t be giving it away at the Flushies (yeah, yeah, that’s what she said). But I will bring the prize — it’s tiny (life-size) and exquisitely crafted — to show the guests. I also hope to bring Lynn.


“Portmanteauverflow” was Tom Witte’s neologism.

Even though a number of entrants (even some regulars) seemed unclear on the concept, the combinations of two multi-word phrases or terms in Week 967 yielded an excellent bounty of mashups from a nice mix of veteran, occasional and brand-new Losers.

It’s so much fun at the end of the process to go through my picks and discover who wrote them — it’s sort of like seeing the credits at the end of a movie in which everyone was in disguise. (I do the judging from one master list that has no names attached, then eventually look up each entry on another list containing the original e-mails.) Once in a while, I can recognize the “voice” during the blind judging, but far more often it’s a surprise — especially, of course, when it’s a brand-new person, or someone who hadn’t entered in a long time, or a lot of ink from someone who’d never been a big winner before.

This contest was a complement of the Week 963 “Before and After” contest to overlap people’s names; Week 967 allowed everything BUT people’s names. But perhaps because people tend to have first and last names, some Losers didn’t notice the specific requirement in the Week 967 description, which was echoing the basic premise of 963: “Create a phrase that overlaps two terms, ///each of two words or more,/// and describe the result, as in Jeff’s example above [Log cabin cruiser].” Although once again I allowed for spelling variations in the overlapping segment, and I let hyphenated terms count as two words, I still got a bunch of entries that clearly wouldn’t qualify — and when you have so many good ones that did, there’s no reason to break the rule. [Except when I accidentally overlook the mistake; see below.]

So I tossed some nice clever portmanteaux containing at least one single-word term, such as Gary Crockett’s “PotoMac the Knife,” complete with song-parody lyrics, or Gil Glass’s “Facebook of Mormon” — “It locates your ancestors and friends them”).

I’m looking forward to presenting Mae Scanlan with her first Inkin’ Memorial (but third grand prize, and 193rd blot of ink) this Saturday at the Flushies. It’s certainly not required, but there’s a definite plus to a neologistic word or phrase that actually could serve as a useful expression in daily life. And Mae’s “player piano player” — someone who’s totally superfluous and has no idea that he is — has a million potential applications. I’ll try to use it myself.

I lucked out in choosing a second-place winner who happens to be based right in our city, since I wouldn’t have been able to mail the not perfectly sealed bottle of Laotian liquor with that energizing scorpion preserved in it. Mark Richardson can’t make it to the Flushies, but I’ll show off that prize there too (sorry, no sampling), before bringing it back for Mark to pick up downtown. It’s his fourth ink “above the fold” out of 26 inks since his debut in Week 840.

Melissa Balmain continues to snarf up ink at an indecorous rate; the winner of the Grossery Bag slogan contest now wins a bag (or mug or shirt) herself; and Jason Russo scores his first runner-up prize (he had “only” an Inker to show for his above-the-fold ink).

Lynn Medford’s weekly HAWs this week: Her biggest fave was “Porn on the Fourth of July” — WHUH-OH, that didn’t qualify!! Christopher Lamora lucks out due to my own failure to count to 2. And her other two choices were “Nature abhors a vacuum cleaner” (David Ballard in our second Amish joke in three weeks) and Lawrence McGuire’s “TV dinner jacket” — an open flannel shirt.

As sometimes happens in neologism contests, I found a lot of funny combinations whose descriptions ought to have been funnier. I’ve saved 23 such entries from this contest and may combine them with similar leftovers from an earlier one, and present a long list of neologisms back to the Losers to define in a future contest. (We did this at least one time before, to success.) So that’s why I don’t want to say which entries I’m talking about.


Matt Monitto’s headline.

“Mister Happy Meal” by First Offender Dayna Fellows even got into the print paper, so we had to dig down to the yuck for these nuh-uhs:

--Got up on the wrong side of the bed of roses: I seem surrounded by pricks today. (Perennial Unprintable Dixon Wragg)
— Skid Marco Polo: Game that typically takes place in the baby pool. (David Komornik)
-- Hired hand job: Economy hooker service. (Neal Starkman)
— Hard en route: Waiting for the Viagra to kick in. (Off Color More Than He’s On Color Tom Witte)
— Brazilian waxing philosophical: Cogito ergo sum’bitch, that hurts! (newcomer Jeff Shirley)
— Body double-entendre: A pinch titter. (Jeff Contompasis)
And finally: Scarlet Letter Box: It’s nothing but a dirty slot. (Jeff C. again)

See you Saturday! And yayyy for Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another, one of the “sires” in our horse-”breeding” contest of Week 965.

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