The fictoid contests are spoofs on the myriad Fun Facts to Know and Tell lists and articles that you see about science, history, biography, gossip: The fictoids are supposed to sound like some interesting bit of information that you might begin with “Hey, did you know that …” — often beginning perfectly plausibly — and then become a joke, something humorously making a point, and, I hope, clearly exaggerated or otherwise obviously false. All this week’s inking entries work like this, in various forms, usually arriving at a surprising and funny punchline. Here’s an elegantly pithy one from Lee Graham that made me laugh out loud: “In Alabama, siblings may not testify against each other until their divorce is finalized.” (Sorry, 'Bamians; I do realize that many of you are not all that close with your kin.)
As opposed to just saying something that’s not accurate. Here’s an entry that not a joke (I never look up who wrote entries I didn’t choose): “The phrase res ipsa loquitur (the thing speaks for itself) refers to previously taped or recorded evidence.” Maybe this would be funny if you were grading law school quizzes?
Another thing that tends not to work in fake-trivia contest is a pun; that’s just not what the contest is getting at. “A deputy with a poor track record for successfully delivering subpoenas is known as a Sheriff of NotInHome.” “Any attorney representing a client pro bono must be a U2 or Sonny and Cher fan.” No and no.
An exception of sorts was this one by Keith Ord: “A law in Tudor England levied a fine on anyone who passed gas in church; the fine was set at a farthing.” At least you have to think for a second; what’s more important, the entry begins to read like a plausible Fun Fact of History — and then you get the punchline. The fine is also plausible, but why is he mentioning it? … aha.
This week’s winner and runner-up aren’t the Usual Suspects with hundreds (or thousands) of blots of ink: Clowning Achievement winner Bruce Carlson, who interpreted the “Bridge Freezes Before Roadway” signs as a federal decree, then played that into a political joke, gets his 39th blot of ink all time — and that’s dating back to Week 413 — but this is the third time he’s won the whole contest. Bruce, by the way, is also the wit behind at least two of our most popular Loser Magnets for honorable mentions: the NOT(E) WORTHY, from 2012, and the current NO 'BILITY.
Winning the hypodermic-looking pen they gave me when I got my covid shot is second-placer Daniel Galef, an MFA student at Florida State who scores his amazing fifth ink “above the fold” in only 16 blots of ink so far, with his untruth about British courtroom wigs. Daniel got a little puddle of ink back in 2016, then lay low for a while, and now he seems to be back for, I’d venture, serious inkage. Peter Boice’s fictoid about the secret message in RBG’s lace collar gives him his first above-the-fold ink and his 11th in all; and it’s just the fourth ink for newbie Joe McManus, who made his Invite debut in Week 1404. I’ll be able to give both Bruce and Peter their prizes at the Loser picnic on July 3 (see below); I’d love to meet Joe as well. (Daniel, I guess it’d be a bit of a trip for you.)
What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood tells me he enjoyed all four top winners, and also singled out: the Boston police determining that 23 Dunkin’ Donuts fit on a nightstick (Rob Huffman); that opponents of the First Amendment’s freedom of the press followed up with a Second Amendment so “at least we can shoot ’em” (Frank Mann); Keith Ord’s “farthing”; Duncan Stevens’s report (not so fictoidy but I didn’t mind) that juries tend to make the “Law and Order” CHUNG CHUNG noise at key moments in a trial; and especially Lee Graham’s Alabama siblings joke.
By the way, here’s one reason I adore Doug (and good copy editors in general): Rob’s doughnut entry originally was about Krispy Kremes (I’d added the Boston setup to make it sound more fictoidy). Doug noted that while KK stores are in 42 states and territories, Massachusetts is not one of them. But Dunkins are on every corner. Catch of the day!
In snark contrast*: This week’s contest, Week 1442
*Headline by Bill Dorner from Week 1348
It’s a long list to choose from for the latest version of our perennial (since 1996) compare/contrast contest. In recent years I ask the Style Invitational Devotees group for random items, and try to choose them without trying to engineer good combinations. If you’re unfamiliar with this Invite contest, please read through the results of a couple of the previous 28 Same Difference (plus other names) contests, all listed on one handy page on Elden Carnahan’s indispensable Master Contest List, for guidance and inspiration.
Here are a few top winners from years past:
Week 276 (1998): What is the difference between the human navel and a 1998 VW Bug? In the case of the navel, most people would rather have an innie. In the case of the Bug, most people would rather have an Audi. (Russell Beland)
Week 466 (2002): The difference between the Pennsylvania Dutch and a mole on one’s butt is that in a Pennsylvania Dutch neighborhood, there’s probably no crack. (Chris Doyle)
Week 563 (2004): The difference between the next Redskins season and Ivory Soap: With the soap, at the end the owner will end up with a ring. (Chuck Smith) (Only the team’s name’s changed, alas)
Week 738 (2007): “American Gothic” and the next three presidential debates: The pitchfork has three good points. (Chuck Smith)
Week 934 (2011): The difference between a toilet brush and a tattoo of Joe Biden: One’s a bristly Number Two tool; the other’s merely the depiction of one. (Rob Huffman)
Week 1167 (2016): Hillary’s emails are just like three inches of snow: not enough to keep you from running for the office, but danged if they don’t make the route hell. (Mike Ostapiej)
Week 1348 (2019): A hard Brexit and Jockey shorts: Two things we hope we never see Boris Johnson pull off. (Jon Ketzner)
And most recently:
Week 1390 (July 2020): Trump’s tie rack: Red neckwear. A skull-motif face mask: Redneck wear. (Jesse Frankovich)
See? Totally doable.
Social Engorgements update! Loser/Devotee picnic, Saturday afternoon, July 3
(More or less reprinted from last week’s Style Conversational; update about July 2)
A couple of weeks ago in this space, I noted that Alex Blackwood, my co-admin of the Style Invitational Devotees group — and Invitational reader-junkie — would be in town from Houston for an unrelated event on July 1, and would be free to Meet the Losers on Friday and Saturday. And she’ll be staying with me and the Royal Consort here at Mount Vermin in Fort Washington, Md., about seven miles due south of the Beltway. Many Losers and Devs are eager to meet her — and one another, now that we’re finally emerging from covid hibernation.
I decided that the best way is to have y’all over for a potluck picnic here at my house, anytime between noon and 4 on Saturday, July 3. I’ll provide Salvadoran barbecued chicken and some other stuff (plantains, lemonade, watermelon) and you bring a moderate amount of food to eat and share: That way, the more people we have, the more food we’ll have (I really don’t care about how many of each food group), and we don’t have to worry about an accurate count. There’s no program of events; just come and chat; if you like, you can walk in the woods behind our house, or saunter down the hill to the Piscataway Creek waterfront. Kids are welcome, pets not so much. We’ll have tables outside; if it rains, we’ll bring them inside and be a bit cozier.
As always, you don’t have to be a Loser, just someone who enjoys The Style Invitational. I’ve posted information about my address etc. in the Devotees group; if you’re not on Facebook and would like to come, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. for details. (If I don’t know you, expect to chat with me a bit first.) If you’re planning on coming and I do know you, let me know, too.
Change of plans for Friday: Alas, the July 4 weekend after a pandemic is not a good time to score timed passes to D.C. museums and whatnot; everything I checked out for Friday, July 2, was sold out (or freed out). So instead Alex and I will be getting together for lunch with a few Loser/Devotees in Southern Maryland, southeast of Mount Vermin. And that evening I’ll be having Alex clean my house before the Saturday event. (I kid, I kid, we’re not going to clean the house.) BUT! Alex may be coming back this fall to another Unrelated Event! So we can try again.
And later on we have two (non-Alex, alas) Loser events scheduled: Sunday, Aug. 22: A Loser brunch at the home of Loser Sam Mertens and fam in Silver Spring, Md., which is a dry run for Saturday, Sept. 18: The Flushies, the Losers’ annual awards potluck banquet and songfest, also Chez Mertens, to honor this year’s (and last’s) Loser of the Year, Rookie, Most “Imporved,” Least Imporved, etc.
“Bar Har Har” was a non-inking headline by Tom Witte for Week 1438.