Whoever said there's no such thing as a free lunch may finally have been proven right -- by a word contest.
After sifting through several hundred entries, I declared Cindy Lane and Demetrius Simmons of Hyattsville the winners of my September neologism contest. Their prize was to be the usual: lunch at the restaurant of their choice, with Two Fingers Levey picking up the tab.
But when T.F.L. stared hard at both sides of Cindy's and Demetrius' entry, he discovered that it bore no return address, no telephone number, absolutely no clue as to where to locate the victorious pair. Brilliantly, T.F.L. had chucked the envelope in which the entry had arrived. Nor were the phone book or the crisscross directory any help.
Thus, the following plaintive bleat is aimed in the direction of Hyattsville. Ya done won, C & D. Now will you please get in touch with me (334-7276) so you can claim your prize? You must be getting hungry by now. I know I am.
I also know that the winning entry is a classic. The challenge was:
What do you call that awful noise your car makes when you try to start it, only to discover that it's already running?
The Lane-and-Simmons answer was:
For those of you who might have slept through high school French, the winning entry is a twist on the popular expression, deja vu, which translates literally as "already seen," and has come to mean "haven't I been here before?"
For those of you who slept through auto mechanics, deja vrooooom is caused by forcing the flywheel to mesh with a motor that is already turning. No car is built strongly enough to withstand such stupidity without a loud protest, be it the fruit of Detroit, Tokyo or anywhere else.
Here's hoping that the glare of publicity will stamp out deja vroooomism from the driveways and parking lots of this favored land. And here's hoping that Cindy and Demetrius will soon claim their prize. They've earned it, with an excellent entry.
The same can be said (and hereby is) about this month's near-hits. They include:
Shock of Wreck-Ignition: Len Greenberg of Reston.
Squirms of Engearment: Wayne Wittig of Arlington.
Chump Start: Joan Gibson of Owings, Md.
Another beaut based on French -- Cri de car, a pun on the French expression for a hurting heart, cri de coeur. Thanks, Bert Shapiro of Bethesda.
Roughing the Kicker: Al Toner of Arlington.
Roto-ruiner: Bert Rava of Northwest.
Starting from Screech: Leslie and Carolee Coleman of Gaithersburg.
A Rachet Job: Robert Lambert of Takoma Park.
A Dry Whine: Earl T. Klein of Silver Spring.
Keynote Screech: Martin J. Damgaard of Annandale.
Car Catarrh: H. Edwina McLean of (where else?) McLean.
The Plight of the Bungle Key: Kathy Hamilton of Arlington.
Car Berater: Patricia Schultz of Silver Spring.
Amazing Grate: Bea Holm of Annandale.
Gears Looking at You, Babe: Gene Rosera of Springfield.
Working Clash: C.M. Donoho of Annapolis.
Screech Howl: Eleanor Hawkes of Fairfax.
Pump and Grind: Robert Klein of Burke and Virginia Schultz of Silver Spring.
Car Done Blew: Ed Nelson of Wilton, Conn.
Three from Gaithersburg: Start Attack (Dara Winfield), Illusions of Grindeur (Sean Beary) and Shrill of a Lifetime (Greg Singer).
Car Strangled Damner: Jack Hamilton of Arlington.
Raspody in Two: Mary Beth Hess of Arlington.
And a great one for last, Double On-Turned-Re: Janice Kuntz of Great Falls, Va.
Thanks to one and all for a lovely crop of submissions. And, while we wait for the wires to start humming from Hyattsville, it seems only right for the October challenge to involve telephones. Here it is:
In the old days, when you dialed a number that was out of service, a real, live, human operator would come on the line and ask, "What number did you dial?" You'd answer, and soon a tape recording would tell you what changes or misfortunes had befallen the number you thought was correct. Nowadays, however, when you dial a number that's out of service, you'd better be holding the phone three feet away from your ear. The first thing you hear is a series of three awful, ascending, earsplitting chimes -- boop, Boop, BOOP! This triumvirate of boops is called . . . .
This time, gentle reader, please include your address and phone number with your entry. Another delay in awarding a free lunch to the winner(s) would plunge the Washington restaurant industry into dark despair.
Please mail your entries to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071. Deadline for the October contest is Nov. 1.