" 'Aw'ard: The trophy the team gives to the schlumpy kids just for participating. Roger Dalrymple's inking entry from 2013. (Bob Staake for The Washington Post )

As countless Losers who find me annoying and exasperating know, I’m apt to reply to a contest suggestion, “We did that.” or “We did that TWICE.” But here we are in Week 1280 of The Style Invitational with the sixth running of our “air quotes” contest, using the very same pool of words and names as in the previous contests. Good thing that that pool consists of every word and name in the English language — and who knows, maybe some foreign ones as well.

I do try, however, not to repeat jokes we’ve used in previous contests, though many have gotten through over the years, sometimes virtually identical to their predecessors. So please take a look at the sets of results I link to below.

The first “air quotes” contest was posted in 2000, two weeks after the Invite returned from a six-month hiatus. (The Czar, my predecessor, decided at the time to number all further Invites in Roman numerals, beginning with Week I for what was really Week 334; this silliness went on for three years, past such weeks as CXLVIII all the way to CLXII, when we resumed with Week 495 as if Rome had never existed.) The Czar noted that the idea occurred to him when a story jumped from Page 1 from “arse-” to “nal.”

Here’s a link to the Week 336 results of “The ‘Sty’le Invitational,” which Loser Elden Carnahan stores conveniently on his Master Contest List (not restricted by The Post’s paywall). As with all these links, scroll down past the week’s new contest to see the air-quotes results. And here are a few choice entries from each contest, selected at whim among so many classic entries:

Winner of the Hirsute Hair Shirt: G“angst”er: Someone torn by inner conflict, and bullets. (Tom Witte) [Fourteen years later, Tom regifted me the Hair Shirt; it went to the second-place Loser in Week 1064.]
Second Runner-Up: T “hick”en: Just mix in a passel of pig-fat drippins. (Jean Sorensen)

H“air”cut: The futile, pathetic trip to the barber taken by balding men. (Will Cramer)

From 2001, Week LXXII (or 405) :
Fifth Runner-Up: M“ick” Jagger: A 60-year-old in spandex. (Russell Beland)

And the winner of the genuine hair shirt [Yes! Another of the very same prize — and this had to be a total coincidence.] Di“agnostic”ian: This doctor is just not sure what you’ve got. (Steve Fahey)

And just so you don’t bother sending this for Week 1280: Donald T“rump”: Donald Trump. (Elden Carnahan)

From 2009, Week 826:
The Winner of the Inker: Che‘mother’apy: When I was a kid, it was cod liver oil and Vicks VapoRub. (Mike Ostapiej)

Second place: Misc‘once’ption: The myth that you can’t knock up your girlfriend the first time you have sex. (Lois Douthitt)

Ab‘dome’n: The six-pack 20 years later. (Wayne Rodgers; Mae Scanlan)

From 2013, Week 1031:
Compe“nsa”tion: Fringe benefit entitling one to a multiweek stay at the Moscow airport. (Yuki Henninger)

Se“cret in”gredient: A common marketing ploy targeting the pathologically gullible. (David Garratt)

Maybe this one is finally outdated? Ini“quit”y: The Capitals’ playoff performances. (Jim Stiles)

And from 2015, Week 1134: In addition to the examples atop this week’s contest:
Third place: The“irs”: That which, after April 15, no longer belongs to us. (Chris Doyle)

Ce“meter”y: Tick. . . tick. . . tick. . . — G. Reaper (Brendan Beary)

“Can”dor: “Well, yes, it does look big in that dress.” (Dion Black)

“Ass”uage: “Oh, no, it doesn’t look big at all.” (Danielle Nowlin)

So you see what to do — there are still a lot of words and names out there for the mining.

(*Non-inking headline by Chris Doyle)

The next time I do a limerick contest like the one in this week’s results, I’ll make one big change: Instead of asking you to use one of the given lines as the last line, I’d let you put it anywhere, and it would be a much vaguer line: Requiring it to be Line 5 pretty much stole your chance to make your own punchline. And there was way too much duplication of ideas among the entries for each of the lines.

But of course, our Loserbards rose to the occasion by playing on that Line 5 in imaginative ways. And Frank Osen does it four times over in this week’s results — including his Lose Cannon-winning prediction of Kanye West as Trump’s choice for President Fifty-One (after Ivanka, Jared, Don Jr., Eric and Barron serve as 46 through 50).

Frank also sneaked a verb into “They never saw xxxxxx again” by using a name with a verby surname, Nic Cage. He tried this in a number of non-inking entries as well: Sean Penn, Sal(ly) Field, Glenn Ford, Sheryl Crow, George Raft, David Frost, and even Stan Laurel and Chuck Berry. (Even without seeing the writers’ names when I judged, I kind of guessed that all of these were all from the same Loser.) This week Frank scores his seventeenth Invite win, for 348 blots of ink in all, and he didn’t even start Inviting since December 2012.

Second-place finisher Dudley Thompson played on “saw” for Ink 149 and his 19th ink “above the fold,” but we have a total newbie and a relative newbie as our other two runners-up: Kevin Tingley gets his eighth ink since Week 512, and his first trip to the Losers’ Circle, with the puppy eschewing the front page and Metro to “do it in Style,” and First Offender Sharon Neeman checks in from the northern tip of Israel (ooh, I’ve been to Kiryat Shmona) with her Oxford comma limerick, my choice of many limericks inevitably making essentially the same joke. In fact, there were similarly themed and almost as good limericks for all three runners-up.

Some of the Oxford comma jokes I received, however, didn’t reflect what an Oxford comma is: Also called the series comma or serial comma, it’s the one that most publications, but not all, use in a sentence before “and,” “but” and the final element in the series. In Sharon’s limerick, the Oxford comma is the one after “Bush” in “my papa and mama, George Bush, and Michelle R. Obama.

This one, on the other hand — an otherwise great job from Kathy El-Assal, is not about an Oxford comma, but the no-special-name comma earlier in the series:

Some vegans who favored no drama
Liked cooking their cat and their llama.
They saw things looked bad
So they hastened to add
A strategically placed Oxford comma.

Then we have the amusing rule breakers, like Brendan Beary, who conjured up That Super-Long Welsh Place Name for at least its fifth use in a Style Invitational entry, and Harold Walderman’s “And Last,” which I especially liked because it was about someone who doesn’t give a crap about breaking whatever rule he finds inconvenient.

What Doug Dug: This week’s results didn’t exactly slay Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood either; he diplomatically raved instead about Kevin Dopart’s “Se‘dated’ ” among the Week 1280 examples. But he did enjoy Brendan’s and Howard’s twists, and the “Fraulein” limerick from John “Ed” Edwards, who suggested this contest in the first place.

Just a bit too unprintable: Some people chose a president other than the current one for “That’s what the president said.” Like this one from the irrepressible Brian Allgar:
“We never had sex in a bed,
Although Monica gave me great head.
But that’s not immoral –
Ain’t sex if it’s oral.”
Well, that’s what the president said.
I just can’t say “gave me great head.” It might not seem logical these days, but I can’t.


Thanks to those who’ve responded (especially, of course, with Yes) to the Losers’ invitation to this year’s Flushies, the annual awards (potluck) banquet luncheon, this year on Saturday afternoon, June 9, at the Old Firehouse in McLean. If you didn’t get your emailed invitation, you can use this one right here. (If you have read this far down in this column, consider yourself and your handler personally invited.)

And this very Sunday, at noon, is the May Loser brunch, at the Coastal Flats restaurant in Tysons Corner (RSVP here). I can’t be there this time because I’m singing in a choral concert later that afternoon (rare plug: It’s going to be really exciting, with a brand-new work by crazy-phenomenal composer/conductor Douglas Buchanan). But that just means nobody will stare at your plate and ask you, “You finished with that?”

Speaking of rule-breakers, I sure hope I see more entries from Ken Gosse of Mesa, Ariz., who sent this for Week 1276:

A Grand Finale: Seven for One and One for All!
As a contest, it’s rather absurd,
Finding rhymes that must match the right word,
Yet we wind through the mazes
Of disparate phrases
Like know nobody read
What the president said;
I could write with aplomb
If I’d listened to Mom;
One-card solitaire’s fun,
Then I found fifty-one;
It embarrassed Obama,
That missed Oxford comma;
The lost garden gnome—
Someone please take him home;
Though it pains me a while,
I must do things in style;
Didn’t pay and those men
Never saw him again.
Dueling couplets like these
May cause rhyming unease . . .
But a limerick’s that kind of a bird.