I vowed a long time ago never to do neologisms.
It's not that I don't think those creations -- made-up words that describe various unusual situations -- are funny. It's just that the form is so associated with Bob Levey, the man who occupied this space for 23 years, that I thought it best to retire the neologism contest when Bob himself retired from The Post. Sort of like hanging Michael Jordan's jersey in the rafters.
Well, as Jordan once said: Never say never. I'm allowing neologisms to return for one time only.
Why the change of heart? Because of the signs that have started popping up in Metro trains and buses. They're part of a campaign created by Metro's advertising agency. (The agency is called LM&O. And no, I don't know what "N" and "P" were doing that day.)
The idea is to "enhance bus and rail safety, reliability and overall rider comfort" by employing "sniglets," which Metro says are "clever and creative words not found in your typical dictionary." The signs say:
Conseaterate: (ken-set-er-it) adj. thoughtful toward others who are more in need of a Metrorail or Metrobus seat.
PlanBdextrous: (plan-bi-dek-stres) adj. able to plan an alternate route home in case Metro is inaccessible due to unforeseen circumstances.
Sumpnspicious: (sump-en-spish-es) n. unattended package or odd, unusual behavior that is reported to a bus driver, train operator (via intercom at end of rail car), station manager or Metro Police at 202-962-2121.
Doorker: (dor-ker) n. person who crowds or blocks Metro doors, making it difficult for others to exit or enter promptly.
These are fine as far as they go, but Metro missed the chance to create words for many other annoying forms of Metro behavior. That's where you come in.
Verb: the act of pretending to be asleep with your briefcase on the seat beside you so no one will sit next to you.
Noun: the smelly, scary and manifestly unpleasant person who sits next to you anyway.
Adjective: the feeling you get when the Farecard machine repeatedly rejects every bill in your wallet.
Noun: the person or persons who stand on the left side of the escalator, causing a traffic jam.
Noun: a person who repeatedly opens the bus window when you close it, or closes it when you open it.
Provide words to match these definitions or come up with your own Metro-centric neologisms (word and definition). I'll print my favorites and pick one grand-prize winner to treat to lunch.
Send your entries (with "Metro Words" in the subject line) to email@example.com, or write John Kelly, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Please include your name and address. The deadline is Nov. 21.
Not long ago, Tom Nessinger was standing with a friend on the platform of the Silver Spring Metro station. He glanced up at the electronic message board, that thing that displays the subway line, the length of upcoming trains, their destinations and how many minutes before they arrive.
"In this instance," Tom wrote, "it read 'RD 6 ShadyGr 8' -- meaning a six-car Red Line train going to Shady Grove, arriving in eight minutes."
Eight minutes later, as promised, the train pulled into the station. The display now read: "RD 6 ShadyGrARR."
Wrote Tom (quoting Yeats): " 'GrARR?' I thought. What rough beast, its hour come 'round at last, slouches toward Silver Spring Station to be born?"
At that point, Tom and his friend couldn't help but do a riff on "Monty Python and the Holy Grail":
Tom: Shady GrARR?
Friend: They must have died while typing it.
Tom: Oh, come on. You wouldn't type, "GrARR!" You'd just say it.
Friend: Perhaps they were dictating.
Tom: Oh, shut up.
"Hey," Tom said, "riding Metro is joyless enough. You gotta grab your giggles where you can."
Squeezing the Juice
I've decided that "PlanBdextrous" is both the best and the worst Metro sniglet. The best because it rolls of the tongue in a pleasing way, the worst because it basically admits that you shouldn't depend too much on Metro.
Metro: We're here for you, usually, and in case we're not, here's hoping you have access to a bike.
Why, it would be like an electric company trying to sell you an emergency generator.
Which is exactly what Dominion Power is doing. Reston's George Farnsworth said his electric bill last month included an insert offering to sell and install a backup generator "for as little as $5,995."
Asks George: "Do you suppose Dominion Power is less than fully confident in their ability to provide reliable electricity? Do you think that they could be planning to make things worse so as to ramp up generator sales?"
"Oh, goodness no, certainly not," Dominion Power spokeswoman Le-Ha Anderson said when we put that question to her. "That wouldn't be acceptable."
Le-Ha said customers appreciate being able to buy generators directly from them: "Customers tell us that they're relieved that we admit that we're not perfect and that we give them other options. . . . We think it's a responsible thing that we're doing."
Julia Feldmeier helped research this column.