Style Invitational Week 1050: Just redo it — enter any of the past
year’s contests

By Pat Myers
Published: December 5

Have you ever read the Invite winners and /then/ come up with an entry
that obviously would have won had you sent it three weeks earlier?
(Clearly some of you have, since we repeatedly get entries from people
who send them after the results are posted; perhaps they figure we’ll
alter the progress of time and fit them in last week.) Well, here’s your
annual chance to catch up on the past year: *This week: Enter any Style
Invitational contest from Week 1000 through Week 1046. *Use as few or
many contests as you like, up to 25 entries total. You may refer to
events that have occurred since the contest was published (except for
the Week 1004 obit poems, which should still be about people who died in
2012); for contests that ask you to use that week’s paper, use this
week’s. Since there’s only so much space in the print paper, longer-form
entries are likely to run only online. Thanks to the bizarre devotion of
Ur-Loser Elden Carnahan, you can see all the contests — with links to
both text and PDF versions (you’ll need to see pictures if you want to
enter a caption contest) — at the *Master Contest List* on his Web site,
* ,* where he also keeps his exhaustive Loser
Stats. (If Elden’s site happens to crash, you can see the vast majority
of contests at
.) You’ll also be able to
check that your entry doesn’t repeat the idea of one that already got ink.

Winner gets the Inkin’ Memorial
the Lincoln statue bobblehead that is the official Style Invitational
trophy. Second place receives a prize donated eons ago by Megaloser
Beverley Sharp, brought back from a sightseeing trip to Israel: a
souvenir T-shirt featuring a cartoon of a native ibex doing the
perennial tourist stunt of lying on one’s back and reading the newspaper
in the super-buoyant salty waters of the Dead Sea. (“They were out of
rocket mortars,” noted Beverley.)

*Other runners-up *win their choice of a yearned-for Loser Mug

or the ardently desired Grossery Bag
Honorable mentions get a lusted-after Loser magnet, either the Po’ Wit

or Puns of Steel.
Offenders receive a smelly tree-shaped air “freshener” (FirStink

for their first ink). E-mail entries to /
/ or fax to 202-334-4312. Deadline is
Monday, Dec. 16; results published Jan. 5 (online Jan. 2). No more than
25 entries per entrant per week. Include “Week 1050” in your e-mail
subject line or it might be ignored as spam. Include your real name,
postal address and phone number with your entry. See contest rules and
guidelines at . The subhead
for this week’s honorable mentions is by Elden Carnahan; the alternative
headline in the “next week’s results” line is by Kevin Dopart. Join the
lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at /
,/ and click “like” on Style Invitational Ink of
the Day at / /

*Report from Week 1046 , in which we asked for totally bogus stories of the origins of familiar
expressions, even more bogus than the “true” ones you can find on the

*The winner of the Inkin’ Memorial *

“Is this the face that launched a thousand ships?” was actually an
expression of surprise among ancient Greeks that Helen of Troy was so
beautiful, since it was customary for the Greek queen to use her
forehead to butt new vessels into the water. /(Frank Osen, Pasadena,

*2.* /Winner of the book“I’m Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears, and Other
Intriguing Idioms From Around the World”

In the day when a woman wore “pin money” — pinned where a gent would
blush to glance — she sometimes would spend it too early in the evening.
And so someone might say, “Jane had to walk all the way home because she
was flat busted.” /(Dana Austin, Falls Church, Va.)/

*3.* Pierre L’Enfant, designer of the “Federal City” street grid (and
thereafter known as “L’Enfant Terrible”), showed a crude sketch of his
plan for the new city to George Washington. The president, even though
he had been a successful surveyor, inexplicably approved the haphazard
doodle, calling out special praise for what were actually teacup stains.
Unwilling to acknowledge his sloppiness, L’Enfant hastily described them
as “traffic circles.”/(Lew Clayman, Silver Spring, Md., a First Offender)/

*4.* The phrase “built like a brick (out)house” originated with the
Egyptian pyramid builders. Today it refers to someone who is sturdy and
robust, but at that time it meant flimsy and shoddy, as ancient Egyptian
(out)houses were made of five-ton stone blocks./(Gary Crockett, Chevy
Chase, Md.)/

*Eh-tymologies: Honorable mentions*

In London back in 1827, the number 9 on the face of Big Ben had loosened
and was in imminent danger of being knocked off by the hour hand. The
intricate numeral was too delicate to withstand a bolt or nail, so the
plan was to rush up the tower to tie the 9 back onto the clock face. But
as the worker climbed onto the scaffolding to stitch the 9 in time and
save it, his foot hit a bucket and he fell to his death. Thus the
expression “to kick the bucket.” /(Seth Brown, North Adams, Mass.)/

The sport of competitive eating goes back many centuries. In the 12th
century, the greatest champion of them all hailed from remote China.
Time and time again, overconfident challengers failed attempting to
“bite off more than Won Kan Chu.” /(Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn) /

During the times when the disease of consumption was widespread, it was
rare to see anyone laugh. For one thing, if a victim dared to so much as
giggle, a hacking cough would sometimes bring up a small piece of lung.
So if something wasn’t especially humorous, it was categorized as “no
laughing matter.” /(Frank Osen)/

More than 200 years ago, William Herschel discovered a new planet and
secured his place in history. But he also described alien cities he’d
supposedly seen on the planet surface. Even back then, people knew not
to believe that, and so talking nonsense became known as “talking about
Uranus” (later corrupted to “talking out your lower back region”).
/(Martin Bancroft, Issaquah, Wash.) /

In the mildly depressed city of Seattle, a man named Fred Starbucks had
an idea to open a coffee shop with strong brews and a hefty price. “No
one will pay $2 for a cup of joe,” scoffed the critics. And indeed, the
first customer showed up with only $1.75 in his pocket. Fred informed
him firmly: “That and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee.” /(Jeff
Shirley, Richmond, Va.) /

Anglo-Saxon tradition mandated that when a groom jilted a bride, the
best man was obligated to provide comfort and even wed her instead.
Typically, this occurred in arranged marriages to undesirable women, and
the best man would be left “holding the bag.” /(Jeff Contompasis) /

Unscrupulous agents in New York would lie in wait for aspiring actors,
singers, comedians, etc., streaming in from all over the country to make
their name. The worst of these “sharks” would pounce on fresh-faced kids
trying to make it on Broadway. These agents became known as “great
whites,” which is why Broadway was dubbed the “Great White Way.” /(Mike
Gips, Bethesda, Md.)/

Women don’t just go to the restroom together: When ladies go in for a
“Brazilian” before swimsuit season, sometimes they’ll go to the salon as
a group and chant together as a way to distract themselves during the
uncomfortable procedure: “For looking smooth while at the beach, I’ll
put up with this final SCREECH!” This came to be known as “waxing
poetic.” /(Jeff Shirley) /

In 19th-century France, chefs at elite culinary institutes would
instruct students in basic skills such as roasting a chicken. If an
instructor found a student’s chicken less than perfect, the arrogant
chef would place his middle finger in the chicken’s exposed cavity and
catapult it off the table into the garbage. This scornful gesture became
known as “flipping the bird.” /(Robert Schechter, Dix Hills, N.Y.)/

Long ago in some Asian kingdoms, a guest suspected of being
untrustworthy would be presented with food that not only looked
unappetizing but also had clearly been dropped on the carpet. If the
guest ate it, he proved polite and trusting, if a little naive. This
process was called “giving the hairy eyeball.” /(Andy Bassett, New
Plymouth, New Zealand) /

In the world of the wolf, being Alpha Dog means everything. And how does
the wolfpack determine who the Alpha is? As soon as they can stand, the
male pups jockey for position, to see which of them can pee on his
brothers first and longest. Which is why obtaining an edge is called
“getting a leg up on the competition.” /(Nan Reiner, Alexandria) /

*Still running — deadline Monday night: our Week 1049 contest for
alternative ratings to warn viewers about certain elements of movies.
See .*

/See the Empress’s online column The Style Conversational
(published late
Thursday), in which she discusses today’s new contest and results along
with news about the Loser Community — and you can vote for your favorite
among the inking entries, since you no doubt figured the Empress chose
the wrong winner. If you’d like an e-mail notification each week when
the Invitational and Conversational are posted online, sign up here
or write to the Empress at (note that in the
subject line) and she’ll add you to the mailing list. And on Facebook,
join the far more lively group Style Invitational Devotees
and chime in there. /

*Next week’s results: Bank Shots, * or
*Heh-Lines, * our perennial contest in which you quote a real headline
from the paper and reinterpret it by pairing it with a meaning-changing
“bank headline,” or subtitle. See

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