The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Style Conversational Week 1509: Friends in ha places

The Style Invitational Empress on this week’s ‘sister cities’ results and new movie-themed contest

No, Rick Perry does NOT live there: Its population of 22 (presumably people, not cattle) notwithstanding, the Central Texas hamlet of Ding Dong figured in the entries of 10 different Losers in The Style Invitational “sister cities” contest.

The Czar-Jean-Weingarten-Royal-Hanover-Ford-Dee-Empress-Pat-Myers-Uvada-Free-Vilas-Little-Washington-Post-Creata-View-Moor-Rouse-Wirt-Player-Camp-Pettis-Shinn-Calla-Dees-Tile-Lynn-Fite-Tate-Shinn-Nell Losers [W.Va., Texas, Mo., Utah, Conn., Mont., Pa., Ga., Miss., N.Y., Utah, Ind., Wis., W.Va., D.C., Ky., Okla., Idaho, Nev., Colo., N.Y., Okla., Ohio, Iowa, Ill., Calif., Ala., Ohio, Neb., Okla., Tenn., Calif., Texas]

“I know it’s extreme,” added the writer (who turned out to be Longtime Loser Randy Lee); he suggested some trims.

Extreme? You think? More to the point, I was stuck at “Uvada.”

I guess I failed to beg people explicitly when I announced The Style Invitational’s Week 1505 contest to “choose any two or more real U.S. or Canadian towns … and come up with a joint endeavor they would undertake”: If you’re going to create a string of names that, to you, sounds just like a phrase or sentence, ask someone else to read it out loud and see if that person knows what you’re getting at. (This is also my suggestion for song parodies.)

“It’s funny how it’s so ‘obvious’ in the brain of the writer, but not the reader,” Randy told me when he translated that entry for me. “I saw that in several entries on Losernet,” the email group in which some Losers share their entries after the entrance deadline passes.

Herewith Randy’s translation:

The Czar-Gene-Weingarten-Royal-Handover-for-the-Empress-Pat-Myers-of the-Frivolous-Little-Washington-Post-Creative-Humorous-Word-Player-Competition-Called-the-Style-Invitational Losers.

(Late-breaking discovery: You can now listen to a voice reading these results! See farther below for info about the new “listen” option. First listen: A lot of these names are very clear!)

I don’t mean to slam Randy, who actually had a great week in today’s results of Week 1505, blotting up five honorable mentions plus an “abuse point” in the stats for the “HUH” instead of “HAH” about his entry on the sea burial of Osama bin Laden. But these HUHs are a cautionary tale in advance of next January’s biennial “Joint Legislation” contest in which we’ll join the names of new members of Congress to “co-sponsor a bill.”

In the course of judging almost 1,000 of these entries for Week 1505, I began to figure out most of the entries right away. But would an unpaid reader show that patience? Remember, it’s a humor column, not a puzzle page.

Here are a couple more entries that stumped me (I never checked who wrote them), and when I asked for help in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook, various Devs had so many interpretations that it was clear that I wasn’t the only stumpee:

1. The Alleghany-Maili-Chimayo-Napa-Cashion Persistent Jobseekers’ Fair

2. The Happy Jack-Eager-Kyle-Boulder-Timbo Frat Boy Road Trip

The second one seems to be frat boy names: Happy Jack, Eager Kyle, Bolder Tim-bo (?). But still a guess. Bolder Timbo isn’t something I’d know.

On the other hand, you can be stretchier in your pronunciations if you provide a hint for the reader — to make it clearly part of a common expression or quote, for instance: Granted, “Masham Mann” doesn’t sound much like “must a man,” but Duncan Stevens’s venture, the Wind-Blowin’ Research Institute, gives all the context you need for “Howe-Mina-Rhodes-Masham-Mann-Walker-Downs.”

But even “Masham Mann” isn’t so far off that it’s a mispronunciation. It’s a different story with this otherwise excellent one by Jesse Frankovich, which requires you to pronounce Towson, Md., as “toes-on” rather than “how-s’n”: The Gallup-Honor-Towson-Point Ballerina School. Towson, a large suburb of Baltimore and home of Towson University, is a well-known name to Post readers; that entry would just have read like a mistake.

This one by Frank Osen made me laugh, but Minden, Iowa, is pronounced Minn-den and not mindin'(g), which blew the Miner-Minden-Miner-Mindenmines Full Employment Act.

Some of the names were just too easy. I did use some especially creative entries that included Boring, Sandwich, etc., but almost all the inking entries involved punning on other words. Too easy were entries like Crotch Lake-Intercourse-Pee Pee Island Club for Immature Adults; Liberal-Snowflake Political Action Committee and Safe Space; Tarzan-Jane Jungle Preservation Association; and Latex-Ding Dong Dildo Development Center [both in Texas].

Interesting notes: One entry by Daniel Galef, “The Goblu [Ohio]-Agloe [N.Y.] Conference on Exploring Alternate Universes,” would have required the explanation that both names are nonexistent “paper towns” that appear mysteriously on maps, often by cartographers who put them there to see if anyone’s plagiarizing their work.

And while it’s not following the contest, since it’s just the initials: Bill Verkuilen sent in “The Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau high school drug education program,” noting: “This one is NOT made up! These three Wisconsin towns really do have a consolidated school district, with a high school known as ‘GET High’!”

Shah Huzzah! Guest Ace Copy Editor Shibani Shah, who usually handles foreign news, got a different task today, with Our Guy Ponch on vacation. Shibani liked all the top winners — by Hall of Famers Jesse Frankovich and Chris Doyle; Hundreds-of-Inkster Jon Gearhart; and Also Reliably Funny Dave Airozo — but she also says she laughed out loud at Duncan Stevens’s “Hansen-Franzen-Gurley-Mann-Pompey-Opp Schwarzenegger Spoofers School”; Bird Waring’s “Havana-Gila Bend Center for Jewish Folk Dancing”; and Leif Picoult’s “Bigfoot-Climax Study on Events We’d Like to Unsee.” Read us anytime, Shibani!

“Friends in Ha Places” in today’s headline was a non-inking headline by Jesse Frankovich; I instead went with Jesse’s “Community Jest.”

(Unprintable entries to Week 1505 are at the very bottom of this column. Some of them are crude. Do NOT go down there, read them, then complain about the language.)

Now hear this! (If you can stand it.)

I just remembered that it started today, so I’m adding this late in the game this afternoon: You now have the option to listen to the Invitational and Conversational being read out loud by a pleasant-sounding, though in this case somewhat comically unmodulated, “female” “voice” — it’s an automated program that’s so impressive that it takes a sentence or two for you to realize that it’s not from a human.

You just click on the headphone icon just under Bob Staake’s cartoon at the top of the Invite; on a laptop you get a pop-up box that’ll let you fast-forward. (The Invite takes a full 10 minutes, so that’s a very useful function.)

This new option comes at just the right week — you’ll see how close to English the word strings of Week 1505 really sound. (("SheShe” doesn’t know what to do with all the state abbreviations, but who cares?) I’ll be too embarrassed to listen to this column.

And while we’re up there: Note also from the screenshot that there’s also a “Gift” icon: Post subscribers may click on this to share — with no paywall — 10 articles a month. When you want to show the Invite to your (as yet) nearest and dearest, click on that and either copy the link (that’s what I do) or forward it right from there. The Post added that feature in the hope that it would encourage more people to subscribe; if they do after reading The Style Invitational, that would be a very good thing for The Style Invitational.

That’s how I share the paywall-free links in my weekly notification emails on Substack. If you’re not signed up — it’s all free and doesn’t go through The Post — here’s your chance!

Two-reelers: The Week 1509 movie name contest

Our Week 1509 contest, suggested by Loser Lee Graham, is a new twist on a kind of contest we do all the time: to alter the name of a movie and describe the new movie. This time it’s to combine two one-word titles — not into a one-word portmanteau, but into a two-word title (or one with a minor extra word or two).

When I say “one-word title,” that means “Jaws” but it does not mean “The Godfather.” Your title may have “the.”

Note that while two of the examples reference at least one of the original movies ("Psycho Cats’ " in the shower; “Unforgiven Pinocchio” the liar), the first one, “Metropolitan Parasite,” is unrelated. Historically, the plot-related jokes tend to get more ink, but I almost always use both types.

It’s easy to find the one-word titles; I called up some list of “100 Greatest Movies” and saw a whole bunch. In general, it’s better to use familiar movies rather than obscure ones, because readers get to enjoy the alteration of something they know — and if you’re referring to the plot, the reader must understand the joke.

When I ask for you to “describe” the result, that can be in just about any form: A tagline or a line of dialogue is certainly as welcome as a straight description. Even given the number of possible pairings of these movies, there’s guaranteed to be duplication, it may well come down to the humor after the title.

Our Prize Loser: Dave Prevar’s Other Post Ink

Three-hundred-some-time Loser Dave Prevar has been showing up in the Invite in recent years mostly for the many, many Loser second prizes he’s donated to the Invite — everything from a google-eyed-squid hat to an inflatable roast turkey. But in today’s Post he was featured in the Metro section — in John Kelly’s lighthearted daily column about local topics. John had recently mentioned that Nescafe had given out globe-shaped promotional mugs in the 1960s, and Dave wrote in to tell about the “Think Drink” mug he’d gotten in 1969 — and still had — as part of a coffee industry promotion to the younger generation. And John wrote him up, with a picture and all.

We’re not even going to ask him to donate this one.

Lock these keys to the cities: The unprintables: I was pretty sure than anyone who’d puzzle through more than 40 of these strings wouldn’t object to some risque language, but it’s part of the duty of copy editors to flag anything potentially offensive and then tell management about it. So I tucked in Pam Shermeyer’s “Back-Offutt-Athol” near the bottom of the online version as a little reward for dogged readers, while Leif Picoult’s “Bigfoot-Climax Study on Events We’d Like to Unsee” made it through the Taste Police without detention. But I wasn’t about to use any of these:

The Mount Pleasant-Bear Valley Brazilian Brothel (Jesse Frankovich)

The French Lick-Booger Hole Society of All Things Disgusting (Frank Mann) [Ind., W.Va.]

The Waimea-Amboy-Cutting-Cox-Success-Center for Gender Reassignment Surgery (Jane Auerbach)

The Clinton-Cummington Dry Cleaners (Dave Airozo) NOPE

Loading...