The Style Invitational Week 901 Dead letters
By The Empress
Saturday, January 1, 2011;

Edwin Newman, grammarian:
Edwin Newman past away
But if he would of seen this rhyme,
He'd of crawled right out of his dark grave
And died a second time.

On this first day of 2011, we pause a moment to look back at those we lost in 2010 - and to write funny poems about them. It's our eighth annual Dead Letters (or Post Mortems) contest: Write a humorous poem about someone who died in 2010, as in the example above by Washington Post Resident Elegist-in-Doggerel Gene Weingarten. It doesn't have to rhyme, though good rhymes tend to be funny. Short poems are more likely to get ink in the print paper, but especially good longer ones will get virtual ink on Song parodies are not forbidden. There are many lists of "notable deaths 2010" and such online.

Winner gets the Inker, the official Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a Flarp Noise Maker, a little nothing machine the size of a yo-yo on which you push buttons to create various electronic noises, ranging from froglike to sick cat. The whole thing sounds kind of anemic, actually. Donated quietly by Dave Prevar.

Other runners-up win their choice of a coveted Style Invitational Loser T-shirt or yearned-for Loser Mug. Honorable mentions get one of the lusted-after Style Invitational Loser magnets. First offenders get a smelly, tree-shaped air "freshener" (Fir Stink for their First Ink). One prize per entrant per week. Send your entries by e-mail to or by fax to 202-334-4312. Deadline is Monday, Jan. 10. Put "Week 901" in the subject line of your e-mail, or it risks being ignored as spam. Include your name, postal address and phone number with your entry. Contests are judged on the basis of humor and originality. All entries become the property of The Washington Post. Entries may be edited for taste or content. Results to be published Jan. 30. No purchase required for entry. Employees of The Washington Post, and their immediate relatives, are not eligible for prizes. Pseudonymous entries will be disqualified. The revised title for next week's results is by Brendan Beary; the honorable-mentions subhead is by Jeff Contompasis.

Report from Week 897, in which we asked you to "translate" a sentence appearing in The Post into "plain English"; we also allowed the occasional not-really-a-translation if it was funny enough. Funny can trump a lot in Invite Land.

The winner of the Inker

Sentence in The Post: "The positions the Obama administration is taking today are not the traditional positions of most Democrats."
Plain English: They're trying out alternatives to "fetal." (Danny Bravman, Chicago)

2 the winner of the turkey carcass hat: "If you are out and about in a kilt, then remember to show some decorum."
PE: And decorum is the only thing you'd better be showing. (Dion Black, Washington)

3 "Our biggest sweater sale of the year!"
PE: "Nobody bought our sweaters!" (Dave Prevar, Annapolis)

4 Obama: "Our success depends on our willingness to engage in the kind of honest conversation and cooperation that hasn't always happened in Washington."
PE: "We're doomed." (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

A B in PE: Honorable mentions

"I'm absolutely a person who has not let ego run amok," Winfrey says.
Plain English: ". . . as you will learn in this month's article about me in my personal magazine, O, and on several shows premiering on the Oprah Winfrey Network." (Jeff Brechlin, Eagan, Minn.)

"We clearly have to continue to provide the message to the Afghan people about why we're here and what it is that we want to do," Petraeus said.
PE: "Can somebody tell me why we're here and what it is that we want to do?" (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase)

Buy your next BMW with zero down, and no processing fee.
PE: Please, please, for the love of God, buy one of our ^%&% cars! (Craig Dykstra, Centreville)

This is a show about being a disaffected, emotionally scarred New Yorker.
PE: This is a show about being a New Yorker. (Kevin Dopart)

Richard Nixon, discussing various ethnic groups on a recently released tape: "I've just recognized that, you know, all people have certain traits. . . ."
PE: Mine is that I'm a sleazy bigot. (Russell Beland, Fairfax; Nan Reiner, Alexandria)

Obama: "As much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do."
PE: "There was no way I was going to win this fight." (Jeff Hazle, Woodbridge)

Rick Santorum: "Things are happening that maybe give me the impression that maybe I need to look at this seriously."
PE: "For crying out loud, even I would make a better president than Sarah Palin!" (Trevor Kerr, Chesapeake, Va.)

Despite a performance by helmet-haired tweener heartthrob Justin Bieber and pop star Katy Perry, this year's Grammy Nominations Concert plunged in the ratings.
PE: Because of a performance by helmet-haired tweener heartthrob Justin Bieber and pop star Katy Perry. . . (Dixon Wragg, Santa Rosa, Calif.)

Friday's memo states that workers and contractors must "use government information technology systems in accordance with agency procedures so that the integrity of such systems is not compromised."
PE: We thought we told you guys to lay off the porn. (Edward Gordon, Austin)

Senators always have expected time to debate issues.
PE: Senators always have expected time to debate nonissues. (Danny Bravman)

The tax deal "offers the best prospect that was available for achieving the kind of escape velocity that we've been seeking for the past two years."
PE: "We hope to escape being murdered in the next election." (Judy Blanchard, Novi, Mich.)

Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan: "I'm not exactly sure at this time exactly what we're going to do or what direction we're going to go."
PE: "I'm exactly sure that we don't know how to win." (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn)

Washington football fans are a pretty sophisticated bunch.
PE: Only the finest hog-snout masks will do. (Barry Koch, Catlett, Va.)

Horoscope: What someone considers beautiful might not be your cup of tea, and that's something you can keep to yourself.
PE: It's never a good idea to start a sentence with "Yo mama." (Beverley Sharp, Washington)

Take any sentence from an article or an ad in The Washington Post or from Dec. 3 to Dec. 13 and translate it into "plain English." PE: Read vast sections of The Washington Post, especially the advertisements, extremely carefully for 10 straight days. (Michael Reinemer, Annandale)

Next week: Clue us in, or Foretell it to the judge

Unspun heroes: More 'plain English' from Week 897 of The Style Invitational

Rep. Charles Rangel: "I leave here knowing that everyone knows I'm an honest guy."
Plain English: "Everyone knows I'm no more crooked than most of you." (Nan Reiner, Alexandria)

"We are looking for self-motivated individuals with lots of energy who enjoy working in a team environment."
PE: "We are looking for desperate pushovers who'll put up with loads of crap for practically squat." (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

"If we did wear underwear, it would be made of, like, twigs," he said.
PE: "Because, as a group, we're really stupid," he stopped short of saying. (Russell Beland, Fairfax)

8 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
PE: By "sticks of butter" we mean "sticks of butter one-third the size of real sticks of butter." (Kevin Dopart) (The recipe was later corrected to "12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks).")

Sign up to see what your friends recommend.
PE: It beats talking to them. (Dixon Wragg, Santa Rosa, Calif.)

Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo: "Did we go an extra year and another $18 million beyond anybody else? Yeah, we did. I'm not ashamed."
PE: "Hey, it's not my money." (Roy Ashley, Washington)

"This is a one of a kind property and is obviously very secluded," the listing says [for the Unabomber's land in Montana].
PE: "This property is tailor-made for the discerning paranoid agoraphobic psychopath." (Nan Reiner)

Columnist Michael Wilbon: "I can only hope, as I leave for my own personal gain with a full-time career with ESPN, that the men who shepherded my career don't regret granting all those opportunities over the years."
PE: "Suckers!" (Trevor Kerr, Chesapeake, Va.)

Cable industry executive Kyle McSlarrow: "A usage-based pricing model, for instance, might help spur adoption by price-sensitive consumers at the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder."
PE: "We want poor people to spend more money on us." (Nan Reiner)

Werth was undaunted by playing for Washington, in part because of a meeting with the Lerner family.
PE: Werth liked the blank check. (George Vary, Bethesda)

Car ad: Need a second chance?
PE: Want to make the same mistake twice? (Craig Dykstra, Centreville)

Columnist John Kelly: Several readers wrote in after Monday's column to say that they, too, had seen my beaver.
PE: The censor-editors evidently had the day off yesterday. (Craig Dykstra)

Mrs. Johnson traded a lifetime of anonymity for one moment of indelible notoriety.
PE: One moment?!! Style Invitational entrants will be doing money-in-bra jokes for years! (Craig Dykstra)
The headline for this supplement is by Kevin Dopart.