Sometimes, when the question is phones, only a phonester can answer. So it was with Lawrence W. Katz of Potomac.
Out of a stack of several hundred entries, I chose his as the winner of my latest neologism contest. It was only later that I discovered why Larry was so eminently qualified to think up the winning answer.
He works as a staff attorney for Bell Atlantic, one of several splinter companies created after Ma Bell went to the great phone booth in the sky. When Ma perished, the word that entered America's consciousness forever was divestiture. Now, thanks to Brother Katz, the word that has entered Washington's consciousness forever is:
That was the blue-ribbon answer to the following challenge:
You are about to make a phone call, but you discover the phone cord twisted up into a spaghetti-like mess. The best way to untangle the cord is to dangle the receiver just above the floor and let it spin a few times. What is this procedure called?
Larry's storm de brain earned him a lunch de swank -- a full-dress repast at Maison Blanche. If Larry was slim and trim before he sat down -- and he was -- he added a little heft within the next hour, thanks to onion soup, rockfish and a few rum-laced cookies with which to wash down his coffee. But as Larry said, it was worth it to get away from his daily labors, which include handling Bell Atlantic's legal business before the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC used to be Larry's employer, and it was there he honed the punsmanship that won him neologistic honors. When he resigned in 1979, Larry remembers one of the commissioners telling him, "One thing I won't miss is your puns." Now, four paragraphs north, we all see what the commissioner meant.
Larry had to do some fancy punning to beat out the rest of the pack. Here are some of this month's near misses:
Disendanglement: J.C. "Scotty" Thompson of Arlington.
Two that strike right at the heart of what the phone pholks offer -- Coil Waiting (Hazel E. Williams of Northeast) and Coil Forwarding (Larry Hochberger of Springfield).
Flipping the Light Phone-tastic: Our winner of a couple of months ago, Miles Klein of East Brunswick, N.J.
Total recoil: Bob Thompson of Sterling.
Ring Around the Caller: Carol Nissenson of Northwest and Hector G. Cruz of Olney.
Phonextriquette: Myriam Omori of Cabin John.
Phonetic Justice: Maureen Kenney of Herndon.
The Untangle Dangle: Judi Glasser of Burke.
The Uncoila: Diann Hinkle of Woodbridge and Patricia Denny of Arlington.
Cordiac Arrest: Jeannie Vernoia of Pleasantville, N.Y.
"With apologies to Tom Dooley," Margaret Carson of Culpeper submitted: Hang Down Your Cord, Unruly.
Watergate's slow twists in the wind brought these two: The Haldeman Maneuver (Joseph A. Pappano) and Doing an L. Patrick Gray (Patricia B. Thomas of Arlington).
The title of an old rock 'n' roll song brought Twist and Shout from Andrea Herman of Northwest, Debbie Brennan of Falls Church and Florence R. Dwek of Silver Spring.
Florence submitted another that's too good not to mention: Last Tangle Embarrassed.
Unravioli: Skip Yeager of Alexandria.
Cordio Pullmonary Resuscitation: Bob Rubin of Silver Spring.
De-kink and I: Virginia Varner of Alexandria.
Spinetti and Neatcalls: Irene Wittig of Arlington.
Twistidigitizing: Jeff Shaevel of Arlington.
Wavering Heights: David Cox of King George, Va.
And last but not least, Dangling Cordiciple: Leonard Osterman of Potomac.
From telephones, we move briskly to another hotbed of hassles: manners aboard the subway.
You're standing there on the Red Line, thinking about a million things, none of which is your raincoat. Suddenly, from behind, without warning, and without asking permission, you feel a hand on your shoulder. You whirl around, to discover that a stranger is tugging on your collar. "It was tucked under," he explains, lamely. What do you call the phenomenon of straightening a stranger's collar without asking or getting permission?
I only wish I could promise the winner of this challenge a lifetime pass on the Red Line, or a new raincoat. No such luck. It'll have to be our usual prize: lunch with Levey, at the local restaurant of your choice. Come hungry. He pays.
Entries by June 28, please. Mail them to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.
Footnote: In answer to several queries, the answer is yes, you can enter more than once, and yes, you can submit more than one answer per entry.