It was a homecoming of sorts for Jean Donnelly Maclay of Fort Washington. The last time she entered a contest, the idea was to explain why comedian Jerry Lewis was wonderful. "I was a 16-year-old baby sitter," Jean said, "but I still remember what I sent in."
And why not? Jean won first prize with this 25-words-or-less composition:
"Of all great comedians witty and wise/Jerry Lewis outshines the other guys/His antics make the public giggle/He's more famous than Monroe's wiggle."
That was many baby-sitting jobs ago. But last month, when Jean entered my neologism contest for the first time, she showed she hasn't lost her touch.
The November challenge was:
What do you call it when you put mail in a mailbox, close the lid, then immediately reopen it to be sure the mail went down?
Jean's winning answer:
That's the first time initials have won our word-making contest, and it's the first time a schoolteacher has walked off with first prize.
Nor is this just any schoolteacher. Jean has taught in D.C. public schools for the last 25 years. She is taking this year off, and says she's contemplating a try at the Great American Novel. If she writes as well as she enters contests, Mailer and Hemingway better look out.
Jean had to look out for an unusually strong crop of Almosts and Nearlies, which were right on her heels this month. They were:
Checks in the Mail (and various forms): More than 200 of you.
Mail Shove-inism (and various forms): More than 175 of you.
Mail Menopause (and various forms): More than 150 of you.
Goose Down: Nancy Sias of Columbia.
Bye-opsy: Mary Oleson of Chevy Chase.
Letrospective: Elisabeth Ramadhan of Derwood, Md.
Drop See: Leonard Greenberg of Reston, Bob Patch of Chevy Chase; Roberta Burdick of Cabin John; Ed Quinlan of Hollywood, Md.; Bree Fary and Lois Kampinsky.
Check in the Box: Kathy Wood and Steve Gordon of Chantilly and Mark McKee of Northwest.
Fliptomania: Ada R. Tannen of Rockville.
Peek Performance: Albert P. Toner of Arlington.
Lidmust Test: Jan Sperling of Silver Spring.
Closeterphobia: Lindsay Dietel of Bethesda.
Bipostal: Ruth P. Bloom of Bethesda.
Viewdo Rites: Bob Jones of Northwest.
Post Mortems: Robert F. Logan of Gaithersburg.
Peek 'n' Ease: Wayne Best of Chantilly.
Redown-Done-See: Eric Malzkuhn of New Carrollton and Charlotte H. Graham of Springfield.
Peek of the Letter: Roberta Sandrin of Derwood, Md.
Mail Seegotism: Lyle Lieberman of Bethesda and Joy Heath-Porter.
Trivial Peer-Chute: Joseph A. Pappano of Northwest.
Sure Chuting: Jordanna Kingston of Gaithersburg; Libby Lunceford of Gainesville, Va.; and Marshall J. Coleman of Takoma Park.
Relidgious Fanaticism: The gang in Classics 280 at the University of Maryland.
Confirmailtion: Bonnie Christ of Alexandria.
Pessimailist: David W. Mellott of Fairfax.
Drop Checking: Linda M. Schwab of Northwest; Darryl Adams of Gaithersburg and Frederick De Fraser Rivers III of Alexandria.
Flippancy (or Flip-n-see): Jane McDermott of Temple Hills and Dolores Miner of Northwest.
Slide and Peek: Marcia Creswell of Wheaton.
Two Shuts to the Wind: Robert Klein of Burke.
All Mail Re-View: Laura Baker of Seabrook.
Checks Post Facto: F. Lee Cochran of Bethesda.
Post Testies: Bob McMillen of Lovettsville, Va.
Mail Freud: Roger C. Adkins of Cheverly; Joseph Biedzynski of Riverdale; Mimi and Garth Clark of Springfield and Jeffrey L. Sheldon of Silver Spring.
Proof of the Put-In: A.C. Temple of Southeast and former winner Bill Beckett of Bethesda.
Resendivism: Nikki Ann Westra of Alexandria.
In honor of what you're reading, Watchingdown Post: Norma Mayo of Bethesda.
Letter Perfect: Martha Graham Bailey of Severna Park and Ed Leonardo of Arlington.
Err Mail: Kevin Hiden of Highland, Md.
Federal Excess: Robert S. Goldfarb of Silver Spring.
Skeptomailiac: Andrea Person of Gaithersburg.
Double Lidemnity: Former winner Mary Rose of Alexandria.
U.S. Postal Nervous: Erin and Tommy Miller of Northwest.
Trouble Chuter: Stacey Camillo of Hyattsville.
Letter Sweater: Carrie Duval Arnould of Gaithersburg.
Balk Mail: Art Shaffer of Springfield.
And finally, Checkoslowboxia: Jerry Macks of Baltimore.
Very nice! And now, to carry you through the holidays in neologistic splendor, we offer up the December challenge:
The father is reading his newspaper in the den. The young child approaches. "Daddy," he or she says, "where do babies come from?" The Daddy puts down his newspaper, chokes softly and replies, "Go ask your mother." This phenomenon is called . . . .
You may not get an answer to the child's burning question if you win the contest, since Levey is still trying to figure out the answer himself. But you will get a free lunch at a restaurant of your choice inside or reasonably near the Beltway. Levey, naive soul that he is, will be there to pass the sugar.
The rules are the same as always: You may enter as often as you like, on one piece of paper or several. Entries become my property. They will not be accepted by phone or returned. All entries must bear the creator's daytime and evening phone numbers. In case of duplicate entries, the winner will be the one that's postmarked earliest.
December entries must be postmarked by Jan. 1. The mailing address is Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.
Longtime followers of our annual fund-raising campaign know that I'll take Children's bucks anyplace I can get them. But until Joe Pensinger swung into action, I had never before gotten $5 from a guy with a case of the guilties.
Joe is one of the honchos in our circulation department. He got a letter recently that was addressed to:
THE WASHINGTON POST, TO THE HEAD MAN, MR. JOSEPH PERSINGER, CIRC.
When Joe opened it, two pieces of paper fluttered out. One was a $5 bill. The other was this letter:
"Dear Paper Man:
"When I was a child, I used to steal money off the paper stand on New Jersey Avenue SE and I want to pay you back $5 what I took and I am sorry that I took it.
"(Signed) M. B. J."
There's no indication of how many years have gone by since the thief did his thieving. But to guess from the shakiness of the handwriting, it has been a while.
Joe didn't take a while to figure out what to do with the money. He promptly sent it to me, to kick into the Children's kitty. I've duly done that. Many thanks to Joe for thinking of sick kids -- and the same to M.B.J. for turning guilties into goodies.
TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:
Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.