Oh boy, what is going to happen to the ego of Jeff Contompasis? It’s one thing to have his photo plastered across the top of last week’s Style Conversational, but this column is what management calls “a niche blog”; i.e., hardly anybody reads it. It’s quite different to be portrayed by a big-shot artist and featured at the top of the back page of The Washington Post’s Sunday Style section, where his portrait will be gazed upon by untold dozens of people.
Fortunately, Jeff is by all accounts a lovable, gracious guy, pride of daughters Emily and Saralinda (response to one of Dad’s recent entries: “Ewwww!”). And of course, nobody gets 308 blots of Invite ink without being funny and clever. And so we in the Loser Community are apt to look fondly on the proudly nerdy 48-year-old chemical engineer, even when he makes posts like this on the Style Invitational Devotees page on Facebook: “For the 05OCT2012 Scrabble Grams puzzle, what was wrong with SNUDDLE? It’s obviously a combination of snuggle and cuddle. Sheesh.” Or: “The situation has become intolerable. I must speak out. A solution for a Scrabble Grams puzzle contained REVALUE which does not appear in the online Scrabble dictionary. What am I to believe any longer?”
Jeff’s endearing geekiness has been a running Loser joke for years — something fellow Loser Nan Reiner wrote to honor him as Loser of the Year at the 2011 Flushies, a parody of “That’s Entertainment” (full lyrics here):
The nerd – who’ll dissect every word
With intent – scatological bent,
Spouting math – like a true psychopath:
(See farther down for details about the 2013 Flushies — this Saturday!)
In any case, Jeff’s ScrabbleGrams contest idea is, to us, a good enough reason to put out another neologism contest. I’m using this long list of 100 possibilities to minimize duplication and allow for maximum funny. But — and this occurred to me just this morning — I would go insane judging it if I couldn’t use my computer’s search function to find every entry for one particular letter group, then search on the next one. So heed that boldface warning in the introduction to the contest: If you don’t state the particular letter group your neologism is based on — or if you don’t state the letters in that group in the exact order that the list shows — I am not going to come across it in my search, and its brilliance will go unappreciated even more promptly than it will otherwise.
How about using two or more of these letter sets to form multi-word terms? I’m not averse to this in principle — we’ve had many great two-word neologisms in the past — but each set would have to form a single, significant word; I don’t want two sets to be one big 14-letter pool, or even for one to be just the source for a short prefix or suffix.
As soon as I posted the Week 1017 contest four weeks ago, the Losers’ questions started streaming in on the Devotees page:
Q. “May we use contractions to avoid certain vowels? “Didn’t” if we’re using only “i” or “He’s” if we’re only using “e” as examples. A. Yes.
Q. In the word “eyes,” would the Empress consider the “y” a vowel or a consonant? A. You can use a Y for any reason.
Q. Can we use a word like WHY in a headline that uses, for example, A as its vowel, or must the word that has the Y also have the A? A. Yes.
Empress, a few minutes later, failing to see how she hadn’t made this clear enough:
“YOUR ENTRY MAY HAVE ANY CONSONANTS YOU LIKE. IT MAY HAVE ANY Y’S YOU LIKE.
BUT IF IT HAS AN A, IT MAY NOT HAVE AN I, E, O, or U.
IF IT HAS AN E, IT MAY NOT HAVE AN A, I, O, or U.
IF IT HAS AN I, IT MAY NOT HAVE AN A, E, O, or U.
IF IT HAS AN O, IT MAY NOT HAVE AN A, E, I, or U.
IF IT HAS A U, IT MAY NOT HAVE AN A, E, I or O.
Is this specific enough?”
My mistake, I realized later, was in saying that the “univocalic” headline could use only “one vowel throughout,” and then adding , “You may use the letter Y as well as your A, E, I, O or U.”
The problem is that those letters aren’t always used as vowels; a silent E, for example, isn’t being a vowel, and technically, neither is a long U, as in “uniform.” Meanwhile, a Y can be either a vowel (“snowy,” “byline”) or a consonant (“yellow”). So I should have, I guess, stayed away from the word “vowel” and stated the challenge thus: .Write a “univocalic” newspaper headline — one that uses one of the following letters without including any of the others: A, E, I, O or U. You may use the letter Y however you like, even without any of the preceding five letters in the headline.” This is why whole committees draft legislation.
In any case, the 219 people who entered the contest seemed to understand what I was looking for, and we ended up with a fun mix of headlines about real news events, about historical events, about scenes from literature, and for totally made up ideas, some of them bizarre (almost making the cut, by Frank Osen: “Chimp Sinks Gig, Rips Miss Mississippi’s Chitlin Bikini!”)
One right off the news earns another Inkin’ Memorial for Nan Reiner; it’s her sixth first prize and 112th (and 113th) ink overall. (And yes, Nan is on the entertainment committee for this weekend’s Flushies.) And Reese Witherspoon’s recent arrest prompted Dixon Wragg’s gag-prize-winning E-heavy tour de force as well. Meanwhile, we’re pretty sure that the third- and fourth-place entries were not entirely factual. I’ll be sending out mugs or bags to longtime but occasional Loser Mark Hagenau of New Hampshire (17 inks since Week 24, but an amazing eight of them “above the fold”) and Southern Californian Frank Osen, who really let his silly flag fly this week.
Some people got the idea of the vowels, but not that it was supposed to be a headline. Instead, they sent full paragraphs:
Right-wing gits fight in TV clip! Clint flips, hits Mitt! Mitt’s fist is limp. “I hit him? I friggin’ miss? Sh*t!” Clint wins. Mitt finds big brick, hits Clint. Clint is rigid. Mitt grins. “I did it! I win!” Clint is livid. Lifts Sig, firing blind - kills Mitt. Rising high, Mitt’s spirit rips Clint with lightning, splitting him. Mitt quips: “Stick tight, Clint! G’night, Clint!” (Brian Allgar, Paris)
A sad fact was MASH’s Alan Alda, mad at that sad sack rascal Radar’s sass and back talk, drafts a mad cap plan that stars that pack rat as a jackass aardvark that starts a fast march that lasts all fall and laps a ball park. (Forrest Miller)
The HAW of the week from Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford: She actually picked the same winner that I did! It happens every once in a while. Kudos to Nan.
(The unprintables are in the final section of the Conversational. Don’t read them if you have any taste at all.)
I’m told that it’s not too late to join the 45 or so Losers and some of their orderlies who’ve signed up to attend the 18th annual Flushies, Saturday afternoon, May 11, at Jake’s American Grille in Northwest Washington. E-mail organizer Elden Carnahan ASAP at elden.carnahan @ gmail.com to let him know. A few of us got together at the lovely home of Loser Mae Scanlan to run through this year’s tribute song for Loser of the Year — Mae did the songwriting honors, and we were greatly impressed by her kitchen decor.
Be sure to say HAW to Sunday Style Editor Lynn Medford, who’s coming in from the Annapolis area, and to thank her for giving us allllll that space for the 20th-anniversary retrospective. But coming even farther are two people who are attending their first Loser events: Ink-slurping Robert Schechter, who’s flying in for the day from New York; and parody prodigy Matt Monitto, who’s either coming up after college in North Carolina, or coming down from home in Connecticut.
I’ll also show off some recent prizes, and will seek some willing to pose while being attacked by a weird head-massager.
See you there!
Just two really notable ones this week:
Frizz biz rising: Shrinking miniskirts lift bikini-trim clipping firms. (Jeff Contompasis)
Grandma Says ‘Abracadabra,’ And Ta-Da! Grandpa Has Balls! (Robert Schechter)