From a rickety PDF, the examples for Week 356 (aka Week XXIII -- don't ask), July 2, 2000. (Cartoon by Bob Staake for The Washington Post/PDF via ProQuest)

(“Nerdy little secrets” was a non-inking headline by Chris Doyle.)

Along with the Stephen Colbert-style “True Confessions” that I asked for in Week 1248 of The Style Invitational, I also welcomed the Loser Community to share some that were actually true. Some Losers didn’t always specify which were which, causing me to look up who’d written some of the entries and ask those people about them. (Mark Calandra, if you really did eat corn on the cob vertically, that would have scored you a magnet just for weirdness; as just an idea, though, it fell a kernel or two short of inkworthy.)

Here are a few true admissions that, while I didn’t think they fit the Invite as something to chuckle at, are certainly fascinating.

From Brian Allgar, who’s from Britain but has lived in Paris for many years:

“The passage just behind our garden has become infested by loudmouthed drug-dealing hoodies [I saw that and knew the writer wasn’t American; Brian, “hoodie” here is reserved for hooded sweatshirts]. We used to dispose of our dog’s droppings hygienically, but now we smear them on the wall where the hoodies sit. I wonder if they’ve noticed yet? Perhaps they just say “Hey, man, this is good s---!” From this, one assumes that Brian’s plan didn’t work, unless he just wanted them to hang around with dog turds.]

From Ward Kay, who grew up in Detroit:

“My favorite high school prank was to exchange the realtors’ signs on different houses for sale, so they still had a for-sale sign, just a different company.” I wonder how many home sales that funny ol’ Ward thwarted. Hey, kids: Ward lives in Vienna, Va.

Jon Ketzner, of western Maryland, labeled the following as “mostly true”:

“Every Thursday, I am compelled to join my wife as she breakfasts with her cohort of female retired professional educators. I am the only male. I put a look of bemused fascination on my face as they denounce yet again our duly elected knucklehead and I wonder as to the stylings of the pubis of each breakfasting lady — fulsome, landing strip, Kojak, etc. I am impressively turgid by the time the eggs Benedict are served. Thank you, President Trump.”

Rather taken aback, I contacted Jon to ask which was the mostly part and which the non-mostly. He clarified: True, his wife has breakfast each week with her former colleagues, who are actuaries and educators. Also true that they “HATE HATE HATE” the current occupant of the Oval Office. Not true, alas: that Jon himself goes to these breakfasts; in fact, husbands are not invited. Also, “they eat at Denny’s which I don’t believe serves eggs Benedict.” And finally: “I only have carnal thoughts about my beautiful wife and my robust ardor has not waned in 43 years. Thanks for your interest.” Mrs. Ketzner, I’m guessing that you won’t be disappointed that your breakfast club and its participants and their nether regions will not be mentioned in the print pages of The Washington Post.

And then there was this, shared by Lois Winkler of Carrboro, N.C. Lois hasn’t had ink in the Invitational, but she’s a longtime Invite reader and also an active member of the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook. As I told Lois, I didn’t think her confession was right for a humor contest, but I think it’s fascinating and poignant. If she was willing to share it with the Invite, I hope that she actually writes an essay about it instead:

“When ‘PBS NewsHour’ had its honor roll of fallen military, I would honor them by pretending, in that quick moment, to have sex with each one, man and woman, even though some weren’t my type. I wanted them to be deeply loved — and [loved] — as they faded into history.”

The entries that did ink in this week’s results are all obviously jokes (don’t you figure that this statement will be refuted by someone who writes in and says, “No, I really did put the poop in the newspaper bag with my hands until I figured it out!”). It’s the ninth win in just a few years for Rob Huffman — who I will even more confidently say is the funniest librarian in the Stafford County, Va., school system — but it’s his first Lose Cannon, our new trophy. I tip my tofu-animal-head to Rob, who now has 165 blots of Invite ink.

Still-a-Phenom Hildy Zampella, who didn’t start Inviting till Week 1140, gets her 10th ink “above the fold” along with the big cloppy Dutch clogs donated by Pie Snelson. If they don’t fit, they’ll still do the number on cockroaches. David Kleinbard, who’s dropped in and out here ever since Week 169, reaches Ink No. 101 with his third-place entry, earning him his choice of the Loser Mug or the Grossery Bag (don’t make me guess, David), and Jonathan Hardis, who said he’d been waiting forever to use this joke, fills out the this week’s Loser Circle with his 69th blot.

What Doug Dug: Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood agreed with me this week about the winner. He also singled out Bill Dorner’s confession about pouring his Sam’s Club whisky into those status-symbol Costco whisky bottles.

Several Hail Marys are due (well, he doesn’t really have to say them, since he’s active in his Baptist church) from Ward Kay, whose entry was deemed Just Too Creepy by the Empress, the Royal Consort and even the Czar:

“Candy doesn’t do it anymore: Now if I want to lure kids into my creepy white van, I have to tell them I have free WiFi.”


I’m hopeful that for Week 1252 this week we’ll have plenty of wordplay and other humor still available that wasn’t used in our first go-round of this contest. Not all that many of the results in July 2000 were topical, but then again we have 17 more years’ worth of medical names to play off.

Here are the winners from what we now label Week 356, sensibly ignoring the Roman-numeral count that began in January 2000, after the Invitational returned from a six-month hiatus, and was finally dropped in March 2003, on the Invite’s 10th anniversary. As I did in last week’s Conversational, I’ve added a few annotations.

Report from Week XXIII, in which we asked you to come up with a new medication and its use.

* Third Runner-Up: Exceedrin: A cure for hangovers. (James Pierce, Charlottesville, Va.)

* Second Runner-Up: Barium Enigma: An unpleasant procedure that usually provides an ambiguous, but curiously interesting, diagnosis. (Steve Fahey, Kensington, Md.)

* First Runner-Up: Forgivemycin: A morning-after contraceptive. (Mike Serlin, Alexandria) [Hmm, I’m not sure that “forgive my sin” works too well with the designated use. ]

* And the winner of the gigantic bra and panties:

Herbal Hoover: A tranquilizer that’s been taken off the market because it was found to cause depression. (Chester Myslicki, McLean, Va.)

* Honorable Mentions:

Noraephron--A sleep inducer. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge, Va.)

Nadvil--Relieves post-vasectomy pain. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg, Md.)

Prozaic--A cure for the dullness of everyday life. (Richard B. Pearlstein, Falls Church, Va.; Twyla Vernon, Washington)

K.O. Pectate--A cure for diarrhea that plugs you good. (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park, Md.)

Testosteroni--A hormonal supplement eaten as pasta. (Tom Witte)

Milk of Amnesia--An infant formula to help forget birth trauma. (Paul J. Kocak, Syracuse, N.Y.)

Ginkgo Balboa--A seasickness cure, particularly effective for long ocean voyages. (Roz Jonas, Bethesda, Md.)

Kinko Biloba--Cures fetishism. (Joseph Romm, Washington)

Sexcedrin--What to give someone who says “not tonight, dear, I have a headache.” (Joseph Romm, Washington)

Oinkment--A topically applied weight-reduction cream. (Dean Crews, Chevy Chase, Md.)

Darva-on--Induces vomiting. (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge) [That year, Darva Conger was the first winner of the TV show “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire,” marrying one Rick Rockwell on the spot. Within two months, she had sought an annulment, claiming Rockwell had misrepresented himself. Later that year she posed nude for Playboy, and two years later won by unanimous decision a bout on “Celebrity Boxing,” defeating ... Olga Korbut.]

Pep El Cid--For use by morticians; restores realistic look to corpses. (Sue Lin Chong, Washington) [I’m not getting this one. Is there something in the legend of El Cid?]

Aesthetominophen--You don’t feel any better, but you look fabulous. (Meg Sullivan, Potomac, Md.)

Non-interferon--A black-market drug often slipped to unsuspecting in-laws. (Meg Sullivan)

Conan the Barbiturate--A combination sleep aid/steroid. (Meg Sullivan)

Oil of Oy Vey--It couldn’t hurt. (Stu Solomon, Springfield, Va.)

Ibuprofane--Relieves symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome. (Art Simpsen, Alexandria, Va.)

Preparation X--A treatment for anxiety caused by those irritatingly successful 18- to 35-year-olds. (Janet Arrowsmith-Lowe, Ruidoso, N.M.)

Katopectate--A treatment for lethargy. (Chuck Smith) [A reference to Kato Kaelin, O.J. Simpson’s Dude-like houseguest who gained fame as a trial witness.]

Tussaud--Combats ear wax. (Chuck Smith)

Ropadopamine--Retards brain damage from blows to the head. (Steven Feder, Arlington, Va.; Chuck Smith) [Given that “rope-a-dope” was the signature move of Muhammad Ali, we wouldn’t use that one now.]

Preparation Ouch--Dry-ice suppositories for hemorrhoids. (Steve Fahey)

Sigfreudoscope--A device for detecting repressed fantasies. (Jonathan Paul)

No D’ohs--Memory enhancer. (Jonathan Paul)

Mentalmucil--Relieves writer’s block. (Jonathan Paul)

Prestidigitalis--A cure-all. Works like magic! (Sandra Segal, Rockville, Md.)

Pepsid--A cure for addiction to Coke. (Rick Howard, Germantown, Md.)

Histalavista--Say bye-bye to those allergies. (Chuck Smith)

* The Uncle’s Pick: The Uncle makes no pick today. The Uncle Explains: There is nothing funny about disease. [The prissy, clueless, explain-the-humor-away Uncle of The Style Invitational was a running joke instituted that year by the Czar; if it was intended to spoof anyone in particular, the Czar never said so. While sometimes “the Uncle’s pick” was a way to mock an actual lame Invitational entry (by having the Uncle love it), some Losers successfully submitted entries designated as Uncle’s picks. In May 2001 the Invitational reported that the Uncle was missing, and a contest was announced to explain what happened. The winner, by Tom Witte: “Disillusioned gentleman ISO sympathy. I recently discovered my view of the world has been terribly flawed, and my professional colleagues have been snickering behind my back for years. I thought I held a position of importance; apparently, I was just being indulged. I have dropped out of sight, left my wife, and am now in the process of reevaluating my life. I’d like the comfort of an old-fashioned, plain-spoken woman. Sense of humor a minus.”]


The next monthly Loser Brunch — No. 202 — is the annual visit to the buffet at Buddy’s Crabs and Ribs in downtown Annapolis on Sunday, Nov. 12, at noon. It’s also fun to walk around the streets and shops afterward. I plan to go; especially if you’re not one of the regulars, let me know if you’re coming so I’ll be sure to attend. RSVP to Elden Carnahan at the Losers’ website,; click on “Our Social Engorgements.”