The real dictionary-change news from Tuesday’s announcement by Merriam-Webster was this:

They: expanded to include this sense: “used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.” It’s an expansion of a use that is sometimes called the “singular they” (and one that has a long history in English). When a reflexive pronoun corresponding to singular use of “they” is needed, themself is seeing increasing use.

In Week 1350, The Style Invitational’s second annual poetry contest featuring some of the year’s new words added to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, I decided not to include “they,” out of concern that some witty, well-crafted verse would be deemed insensitive, and I just didn’t want to have to debate it.


But I think you’ll find plenty of fodder for the more than three dozen new terms, and meanings for previously existing terms. In this week’s Invitational, each word on the list links to M-W’s full dictionary. But in that unlikely event that you don’t want to click 39 times, here’s a list below, provided me by Merriam-Webster of the meanings in a nutshell.


aphantasia, noun: the inability to form mental images of real or imaginary people, places, or things

Bechdel Test, noun: a set of criteria used as a test to evaluate a work of fiction (such as a film) on the basis of its inclusion and representation of female characters. NOTE: The usual criteria of the Bechdel Test are (1) that at least two women are featured, (2) that these women talk to each other, and (3) that they discuss something other than a man.


Coulrophobia, noun: abnormal fear of clowns

cross-sell, verb: to sell or promote (a different or related product or service) to an existing customer

cynophobia noun: pathological fear or loathing of dogs

dad joke, noun, informal: a wholesome joke of the type said to be told by fathers with a punchline that is often an obvious or predictable pun or play on words and usually judged to be endearingly corny or unfunny


deep state, noun: an alleged secret network of especially nonelected government officials and sometimes private entities (as in the financial services and defense industries) operating extralegally to influence and enact government policy


escape room, noun: a game in which participants confined to a room or other enclosed setting (such as a prison cell) are given a set amount of time to find a way to escape (as by discovering hidden clues and solving a series of riddles or puzzles). Also: a place or business where this game is played

fabulosity, noun informal + often humorous: fabulous quality, state, or nature: fabulousness

fatberg, noun: a mass of waste that collects in a sewer system

free solo, noun, rock climbing: a climb in which a climber uses no artificial aids for support and has no rope or other safety equipment for protection in case of a fall


haircut, noun, finance: a reduction in the value of an asset


inclusive, adjective: including everyone; especially: allowing and accommodating people who have historically been excluded (as because of their race, gender, sexuality, or ability)

inflection point, noun: a moment when significant change occurs or may occur: turning point.

inking, noun: tattoo

inspo, noun, slang: INSPIRATION

lumberjack shirt, noun: a plaid flannel or woolen shirt; especially: one having a red and black buffalo plaid pattern

matcha, noun: a green powder made from ground green tea leaves that is used to make tea and other beverages and as a flavoring agent

pain point, noun: a persistent or recurring problem (as with a product or service) that frequently inconveniences or annoys customers; broadly: something that is a recurring source of trouble, annoyance, or distress


rebrand, verb: to change or update the brand or branding of (a product, service, etc.); broadly: to publicly refer to or describe (someone or something) in a new or different way

rhotic, adjective, phonetics: of, relating to, having, or being an accent or dialect in English in which an r sound is retained before consonants (as in pronouncing hard and cart) and at the end of a word (as in pronouncing car and far): [So if you pronounce “wash” as “warsh,” like my Iowa-born stepmother, you speak in a rhotic dialect.]

sesh, noun, informal: session.

skeezy, adjective, slang: morally or physically disgusting or repulsive: skeevy, sleazy

stinger, noun: a short scene that appears during or after the closing credits of a movie or TV program


tallboy, noun: a tall cylindrical can for beverages (such as beer) usu. measuring 16 fluid ounces


tix, plural noun, informal: tickets

unpack, verb: decompress

upsell, verb: to try to convince (a customer) to purchase something additional or at a higher cost

vacay, noun, U.S., informal: vacation

And in a similar release from April 2019:

buzzy, adjective: causing or characterized by a lot of speculative or excited talk or attention: generating buzz

EGOT, noun: the accomplishment of winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award in one’s lifetime

bug-out bag, noun: a bag packed with survival supplies (such as food, water, medications, and flashlights) and kept ready for use in case of an emergency that requires rapid evacuation


stan, noun (slang, often disparaging): an extremely or excessively enthusiastic and devoted fan. Verb: to exhibit fandom to an extreme or excessive degree: to be an extremely devoted and enthusiastic fan of someone or something


snowflake, noun: and usually disparaging): someone regarded or treated as unique or special;: someone who is overly sensitive

garbage time, noun: the final moments or minutes of a game in which one side has an insurmountable lead, substitutes often enter the game in place of starting players, and scoring is typically easier because of looser defensive play

swole, adjective, informal: extremely muscular: having a physique enhanced by bodybuilding exercises


screen time, noun: time spent watching television, playing a video game, or using an electronic device with a screen (such as a smartphone or tablet)

unplug, intransitive verb: to temporarily refrain from using electronic devices (such as computers or smartphones). Also: to temporarily withdraw from the responsibilities and obligations of everyday life (such as work or home duties)


While I note that words with new meanings must have those meanings in the poem, I’m not going to split hairs debating whether the use was exactly fitting; I’m just trying to avoid, say, “unpack” to mean just emptying your suitcase.

For inspiration, take a look at the Week 1296 results here. Or see these top winners:

4th place:


Vigilant hacktivists,

We’re out here striving to

Keep your vote clean;

Da, we’re the good guys,

it’s Incontrovertible!

See you Election Day

2018. — V. Putin, Moscow (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

3rd place

TL; DR: “too long; didn’t read”

The editor sent back my poem.

I found his rejection bizarre.

“Thanks for the haiku,” it said,

“But sorry. TL; DR.” (Robert Schechter, Dix Hills, N.Y.)

2nd place

GOAT, “greatest of all time,” sung to To “Danny Boy”: (link to the parody is to a video sung by Loser Sandy Riccardi)


Oh, Donny Boy, the perps, the perps are singing,

From Flynn to Cohen, and now ’tis Manafort.

Bob Mueller’s here, each day new charges bringing,

Till soon ’tis you who’ll have his day in court.

Can’t go ye back to realty shyster jefe,

Where you’re the GOAT at stiffing schmoes you rooked.

The jig is up, and you’re in deep covfefe.

Oh, Donny Boy, oh, Donny Boy, your goose is cooked! (Nan Reiner, Boca Raton, Fla.)

And the winner of the Lose Cannon:

I sent a letter to my love, admiring from afar,

Returned! A hand-writ note above it said, “TL; DR.”

Though some might think she’s blown me off, still I prefer to dream,

My love’s response, in code (don’t scoff!) means: “True Love — Diane Rehm.” (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

FYI: Bob Staake is sick this week, which is why there’s no cartoon. Hoping he’s back next week.

Speaking of Loser Sandy Riccardi …

On Friday evening, Sept. 20, Sandy and her husband, Richard, will return to Germano’s Piattini restaurant/ supper club in Baltimore’s Little Italy as part of their national cabaret tour . and among the political parodies they’re performing will be several by Style Invitational Losers. The Royal Consort and I will be among the fans of the Loser Community at the show — and it looks as if tickets (i mean tix) are still available. You buy the ticket for the show to reserve your space, then order from the menu for dinner. Germano’s opens for dinner at 6; the show starts at 7:30. Here’s how to order — hope to see you there.

AZ if!* The ‘balanced’ neologisms of Week 1346

My original choice for the honorable-mentions subhead, by Tom Witte, until Jesse Frankovich pointed out that I’d used that headline myself recently.

Much like the ever-burgeoning dictionary itself, the Loser Lexicon of Style Invitational neologisms shows no sign of being full up. I had a very long shortlist of inkworthy entries to Week 1346, which called for “balanced” words, in that their first and last letters were equidistant from the ends of the alphabet. That allowed 26 combinations — A-Z, Z-A, B-Y, Y-B, etc. The most challenging pair, J-Q, did draw lots of tries, many of them fake Inuit words (nah), and did yield both J-tranq (Steve Smith, Roger Dalrymple) — the calming effect of Justin Trudeau’s dreamboat eyes, especially on one Mrs. Trump — and JokeBBQ (other regions’ barbecue) by Ward Kay.

After I posted the Invite this morning with a link on the Style Invitational Devotees Facebook page, Devotee Jay Banks noticed that several of this week’s Losers have “balanced” names themselves, “Mark Raffman,” for example. Then this week’s fourth-place winner, Jesse Frankovich, pointed out that the first-, second- and third-place winners this week had balanced names: Steve smitH, Brendan BearY, and Raymond Gallucci.” Jesse figures he’d better change his name to Frankoviq.

It’s already the second Lose Cannon for new phenom Steve Smith, who didn’t get his first ink until a few months ago; now he’s up to 13 blots, three from today alone. Steve tells me that while he hasn’t come to a Loser event yes, he has the Nov. 10 brunch at Paradiso marked on his calendar. I'll definitely be there.

Meanwhile, I’ll see some of you tomorrow evening!