(Once again, the remote system that connects me with The Post’s publishing system, Methode, has stolen a giant chunk of my work. Good news: This will be a less blathery version of what was going to end up here.)
This week’s contest was the result of multiple suggestions: About six months ago, Keeper of the Stats Elden Carnahan e-mailed me to ask how we would mark Week 1040 — a tax-themed contest was surely in order. Sure, made sense, I agreed. I wasn’t sure what kind of contest would best pan out, though, so about three weeks ago I asked for suggestions on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook. Finally, I decided to post a contest in three parts (or, as I called it this week, “schedules”).
What I didn’t do was a search on Elden’s own Master Contest List at nrars.org, his Web site for the Loser Community. If I had, I would have found Week 709, described as follows — as I happened to see last night around midnight, while searching for something else:
April 15, 2007
A Return Engagement
Come up with some novel change to the tax code: a tax on something ought to be taxed, a credit for something that should be rewarded, what the $3 should go to instead of presidential campaigns, etc.
So. Oops. Sorry. However, it’s not by any stretch the first time we’ve repeated a contest with almost identical parameters. And that one was six and a half years ago. You just have the additional challenge not to repeat these results (scroll past the new contest).
Speaking of a contest we repeated exactly, I had a fun time compiling the results of Week 1036, at least once I got to the 100 or so puns on place names on my “short”-list. As I note in the introduction to the results, it’s inevitable that people have noticed over the years that a certain place name sounds like something else — the something else that gets ink today. At least I did remember in time to check Elden’s list for the results of Week 147, after which I tossed promising definitions for Sacramento, Topeka, Romania, Peekskill, Lackawanna and various towns ending in -chester.
So if you do recognize one or more of this week’s inking entries as an old joke, try not to let it spoil your day — or mine — and just enjoy it again.
Some place names were just too easy for this contest: Intercourse and Blue Ball, Pa., Lake Titicaca, German towns beginning with “Bad,” are pretty much jokes in themselves. Much more fun, I found, were names like the winning “Tarpon Springs.”
One interesting issue that sprang up in the judging, as it often does in pun contests, is how much you can joke about people’s accents. Occasionally during the judging process, I’ll share an anonymous entry or two, especially if it’s clear that the entry won’t be getting ink. And a few days ago I posted this on the Devotees page: “Here’s a Liff that’s Funny But No — destined for the Conversational:
“Anglia: ‘More irate,’ in China.”
That post set off a spirited though civil discussion of why that joke would be unrunnable. While conceding that a joke about Chinese accents was not printable, I posited that it was still funny, in precisely the same way as the entry about “Chechnya” sounding like “church near” (if you’re an upper-crust Englishman). or “Augusta” sounding like “a guster” (if you’re from Maine). And unlike nasty ethnic humor, it wasn’t predicated on a negative stereotype about a certain group — only that a Chinese accent blurs the R and L sounds, just as another accent makes “-er” come out as “-ah.”
But the difference is, as numerous posters pointed out, that mockery of East Asian accents has gone hand in hand for many decades with the most pernicious stereotypes of Asian Americans, and so continues to be inextricable from racist humor. When people make fun of New England or Chicago or Oxbridge accents, nobody sees that as casting aspersions. And that’s not the case with Chinese accents or African American Southern accents or Appalachian accents.
What it comes down to, as I noted in the discussion thread: “What it comes down to, quite honestly: We can’t run any joke that people of a particular ethnicity consider offensive. It’s their call.”
In more palatable humor, the Inkin’ Memorial this week — complete with an illustration by Bob Staake (let’s wish Bob a happy birthday, by the way) — went to one of the few place names that brought just one, very funny entry. Joel Knanishu got his first ink way back in Week 108 when he was living in the D.C. area, but moved to the Midwest before my time. Since then, Joel has entered very sparingly but never entirely forgetting about us: His 46 blots of ink have been won in 14 individual Loser Years, topping out at 11 in Year 3.
And there’s a First Offender from California, David Bruskin, in another of the four “above-the-fold” spots; I’ll be interested in hearing how David found us. Steven Alan Honley (charitable Loser Anagram: Heaven-Sent ’n’ Loyal) grabs his 27th ink, and Brendan Beary, who has accumulated innumerable amounts of Loser crap along with his 9.2 million inks, gets to make some more.
With Malitz toward . . . The choice of Sunday Style Editor David Malitz this week was Chris Doyle’s play on Naples as a Picassoey vision of breasts on the back of the neck.
In addition to “Anglia,” we have these other no-ways:
Hilton Head: Sex act with Paris (Edward Gordon)
Hitchcock: To officiate at the wedding of two men (Dan O’Day)
Bangkok: Answer to the eternal question ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?” (Diane Wah)
Woodhaven: Victoria’s Secret photo shoot (Jim Stiles)
Khartoum: The temporary resting place of Mary Jo Kopechne (not sure the writer wanted his name associated with this one)
Exeter: The only acceptable course of action for a man when a woman spurns his affections at the last minute. (Frank Osen)