The sun had barely risen in the state of Washington when I phoned Mary Hornsby with the good news. But she was right there with a delighted, delightful reaction.
"I'm thrilled beyond belief," said Mary, who lives in Normandy Park, Wash. "I can't tell you how much fun I have with this contest month after month."
Likewise, I'm sure, Mary, especially when a winning entry is as good as yours. Because of that, Mary reigns as the coast-to-coast champion of our March neologism contest.
Each month, I invite readers to coin a word to describe a given situation. As usual, about 3,000 of you submitted brainstorms in the month we just finished. This was the March challenge:
The plastic bars that food stores use to separate purchases on checkout conveyor belts are called. . . .
Mary's winning coinage: Buystranders.
That's a choice construction in any time zone. When you drop that plastic bar on a belt, you strand what you buy and you turn the other guy's purchases into bystanders. It's a perfecto, as we say on the jaded East Coast.
Our winner has entered loyally for many months, and she has been a bridesmaid several times. Mary is a technical fellow for Boeing, where she has worked for 24 years. She is a human factors engineer who works on aircraft cockpit designs. She's currently working on command and control planes for the military.
Mary was born in California. A "military brat," she moved every couple of years. She was educated at the University of California-Riverside (BA) and the University of Oregon (PhD in psychology). Her husband, Stephen Behnen, and their daughter, Julia, 13, are enthusiastic neologists themselves.
How does an accomplished techie become such an accomplished wordie? "I just have always loved words," Mary explained.
We agreed that we'll "do" her victory lunch when she visits Potomac-land over the summer. Until then, congratulations to Mary. And a warning to her fellow contestants:
When I told Mary that she's eligible to enter again and to win again, she said: "Just try to stop me." To judge from "buystranders," I wouldn't dare.
Almosts and Nearlies for March were:
Seguegaters: Paul Kocak of Syracuse, N.Y.
Shopgaps: Clarence M. Johnson of Beltsville.
Shopsticks: M. Lee Bragg of Chevy Chase, Hans Kurt Buettner, Sue Auerbach, Tony Chite of Olney and former champs Marlene B. Cohen of Columbia and Roger Gilkeson.
Bartitions: Recent champ JoAnn Hay of Fairfax Station, Marlene Cohen again and the team of Edith and Alan Stein of Silver Spring.
Drag Strips: Former champ Sidney Secular of Silver Spring.
Berrycades: Sidney Secular again.
Supper-aters: Former champ Lynda Gattozzi of Bethesda first, with a cast of thousands on her heels.
Buysectors: Roger Gilkeson was first with this one. Eleven others followed soon after.
Canstraints: Jan Verrey.
Feed Bumps: Another popular choice. Lisa Swanson led a sizable pack.
Halt Cuisine: Karen Kenworthy.
Shopping Block: Posy Jim.
Boundairies: Don Gatling of Gaithersburg.
Buyfurcators: Randy Kindy and none other than Roger Gilkeson.
Buysolators: Rick Cogswell of Chantilly and Roger Gilkeson again.
Duh'viders: Sheila Ratcliffe.
Aplombatons: Roger Gilkeson yet again.
Sackgregators: Karen Kenworthy again.
Counter-Errorism: Carol Ostrow of Laurel.
Shopperators: Former champ Jennifer Sklarew and her husband, Dann. Also Sally Stokes of Silver Spring and Elaine Stillwell and John Sourbeer.
Dibuyders: Jim Taylor.
Vittlesticks: Jim Darling of Bethesda and Clarence M. Johnson again.
Aggrigate: Tim Touchette.
Queue Sticks: Recent champ Claudia Grillo and Michael E. Linick.
Pursetitions: Karen Kenworthy yet again.
Sackquencers: Phil Frankenfeld of Northwest Washington.
Dinnerviders: Harise Poland.
Counterwaits: Neil Shawen of Falls Church.
Pick-It Fences: Howard Harrell.
Nix-Mix-Stix: Peggy and Richard Thorp of Luray, Va.
And Buylines: Jan Verrey again.
Nicely done, troops. Let's see if great words spring to mind in the spring month of April. Here's this month's challenge. It's based on a suggestion by Beth Loker:
You're beat after a long day of work. All you want to do is sink into the couch and watch TV. You turn on a show that you've been eagerly anticipating and have watched only once or twice. Yikes! It's a rerun! This aggravating phenomenon is called. . . .
First prize is anything but aggravating. It's a free lunch, at a restaurant of the winner's choice, in or sensibly near the East Coast Washington.
Contest rules: You may enter as often as you like. Joint entries are welcome. So are entries submitted by fax (202-334-5150) or e-mail (email@example.com). Entries must bear day and evening phone numbers, including area code(s). All entries become my property. Entries will not be accepted by phone or returned. In case of duplicate winning entries, I'll choose the one I receive first.
Please mail entries to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071. Entries for the April contest must be received by April 30.