Back O' Laureate Goes to Front of Pack Sandra Hull, of Alexandria, pushed and pushed, and finally the door gave way. Ever so loyally, she has entered Levey's monthly neologism contest since moving to the Washington area about three years ago. Many times, the words she has coined have cracked our list of Almosts and Nearlies. This month, she made it to the top.

The August challenge that saw Sandra carry home first prize was:

What do you call the beaming family group that poses for pictures around the happy graduate?

Sandra's winning answer:

Back O' Laureates.

Right on the nose, said my nose. In that oft-reenacted group photo, the family is always in back of the laureate. And for college graduates, just about every degree is a baccalaureate. Add it up, and Sandra's word was a clear winner.

Alas, it wasn't an asterisk-free winner. Sylvia Fesler, of Northwest Washington; Elizabeth White, of Falls Church; and John Kerins, of Vienna, submitted the same brainstorm, but their entries arrived slightly later than Sandra's. To them, my thanks, my congratulations and my condolences.

Sandra Hull probably could have won our contest in either English or French. She holds a master's degree in the latter and works for a Crystal City defense firm as a bilingual administrative assistant to the general counsel.

Until our victory lunch, at Le Refuge in Alexandria, I thought I knew French passably well. But Sandra ordered her meal at a lightning native-level clip, leaving me to gasp, "Um, uh, I'll have the sliced tomatoes, please." She is a true linguist -- and now, a coronated neologist. Hats off!

This month's Almosts and Nearlies were close to hats-off material themselves. They were:

Congradrelations: Marjorie Varner first, then oceans of imitators.

Arc de Triumph: Leslie Forgrave, of Arlington.

BA's Relief: Maureen Peacock, of Arlington.

Degreeters: Anne S. Rowan, of Northwest Washington.

Sheep's Kin: Bob Walsh, of Wheaton; Michael Goldman, of Chevy Chase; and Richard A. Jaffe, of Gambrills, Md.

Clensmen: Mary Ann Curtin, of Silver Spring.

The Herd Degree: Nancy Kosinski, of Wheaton.

Matric-relations: Bill North-Rudin, of Alexandria.

The Feemancipated: Anna L. Patrick, of Alexandria.

Grad-abouts: Anne Underwood, of Arlington.

Diplomates: Nicholas A. Pappas, of Williamsburg, then dozens of copycats.

Ring Around the Scholar: Joanice Tarcza, of Alexandria; Leonard Greenberg, of Reston; and the team of Cheryl Cross, of Richmond, and Kathy Groves, of Silver Spring.

Flash and Blood: Stuart Rochester, of Burtonsville.

Senior's Citizens: Carlotta Ribar, of Northwest Washington.

Colony of Aunts: Posy Jim, of Latrobe, Pa.

Mugna Cum Laude: Sam Petuchowski, of Takoma Park.

Mom, Pop and Circumstance: Katy Bowser, of Chantilly.

Hooraylatives: Jan and Arnie Sperling, of Silver Spring.

Happy Hockers: Nina S. Gray, of Gaithersburg.

Gradflies: Dale A. McClelland, of Alexandria, and A. White, of Columbia.

Grin-Laws: Kathryn Quigley, of Vienna.

Family Smirkle: Bee Buckel, of Adelphi.

Poor Relations: Janis Goldman, of Chevy Chase.

Baccagloryats: Former champ Judy Stainer, of Columbia.

Mortarborders: Former champ Charles L. Vlcek, of Bowie.

Gradhanders: Steven Brown, of Riverdale.

Heirline: Jean Cottrill, of Bladensburg.

Grad's Roots: Lorraine Randecker, of Falls Church.

Alum'N'Us: Larry Jones.

And The Mamas and the Paupers: Michael Blattman, of Potomac, and Pauline Dana, of Arlington.

A lovely performance (but what else is new?)! Let's see if you neologists are up to the September challenge. It is:

The woods are full of Democrats who may challenge George Bush in 1992. But whenever anyone asks any of these "potentials" if he's running, the answer is always a dodge, a duck or a finesse. This refusal to give a straight answer to a straight political question is called . . . .:

First prize is not a place on the ticket (count your blessings), but lunch, at a restaurant of the winner's choice, in Washington or sanely nearby. The winner may dodge, duck or finesse the check, since Levey will cheerfully show up, and cheerfully pay.

Rules: You may enter as often as you like, on one piece of paper or many. Each piece of paper must bear a daytime and an evening phone number. All entries become my property. Entries will not be accepted by phone or returned. In case of duplicate entries, the one postmarked earliest wins.

Please mail entries to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071. Entries for the September contest must be received by Oct. 1.