Style Invitational Week 1417: Dead Letters, our annual obit-poem contest
Time for commemorations with 2020 hindsight; plus poems using the year’s new words
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(Bob Staake for The Washington Post)
Pat Myers
Dec. 30, 2020 at 10:13 a.m. EST
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(Click here to skip down to the inking poems based on new dictionary words)

Linda Tripp (1949-2020), Clinton scandal figure
Linda Tripp, world-famous buttinsky ,
Dropped a dime on M. Lewinsky.

So 2020 is behind us. And it may be hard right now to glance back on it, especially for The Style Invitational’s traditional top-of-the-year contest. So many lives to commemorate — but our Loserbards’ brand of wry, even funny wistfulness might be just what we need right now.

This week: Write a poem of no longer than eight lines (plus an optional title) about someone who died in 2020, as in the mini-example above by Washington Post Ewwlogist Gene Weingarten. Google “deaths 2020” and you’ll find many lists of those who won’t be joining us this week. (And if you’re, say, thinking of writing an ode to The Late 2020, the Empress promises she won’t narrow her eyes and hiss, “Is that a someone?”) Note: The Invite is a humor/light-verse contest, so we don’t want straight-out sobbers; the verses should be leavened with wit and even a laugh. But neither should they be nasty or gloating. We have enough hurt in our world right now.


The mask was supposed to say “NYC strong,” but came our reading like “NYC crotch”: This week’s second prize.
The mask was supposed to say “NYC strong,” but came our reading like “NYC crotch”: This week’s second prize.
Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday, Jan. 11; results appear Jan. 31 in print, Jan. 28 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a face mask with one of those classic Judaica Fails, like last year’s menorah socks with seven candles. This one was supposed to say “NYC shtark” — “strong” in Yiddish — but someone placed the Hebrew letters left to right, giving them no Hebrew or Yiddish meaning, except that reading them right to left gives you the pronunciation “crotch.” Donated by Loser Edward Gordon.

Other runners-up win their choice of our “For Best Results, Pour Into Top End” Loser Mug or our “Whole Fools” Grossery Bag. Honorable mentions get one of our lusted-after Loser magnets, “No ’Bility” or “Punderachiever.” First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air “freshener” (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline “M-Wahaha” is by Chris Doyle; Beverley Sharp wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at; “like” the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.


The Style Conversational: The Empress’s weekly online column discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week’s, published late afternoon on Wednesday, Dec. 30, at

The “You’re Invited” podcast: Eight half-hour episodes, including dish from the Empress and the Czar, and tips from top Losers. See

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago …

M-Wahaha: Poems with new dictionary words
In Week 1413 the Empress once again asked our Loserbards for poems featuring words and phrases added recently to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary.

4th place:
Cryosphere, the part of Earth’s surface where water stays frozen
Ice fields of Antarctica are disappearing quickly,
And pretty soon the penguins could be looking kinda sickly.
With global warming on the rise, our planet’s cryosphere
Might first become a swimming pool, and next a dryosphere. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

3rd place:
Iatrophobia, fear of doctors
I have severe iatrophobia —
Who knows what diseases they’re carrying?
But I think I can freeze my deep fear of MDs
When it comes down to whom I’ll be marrying. (Jesse Rifkin, Arlington, Va.)

2nd place
and the clam-flavored Clamdy Canes:
Impostor syndrome, persistent doubt about one’s ability and fear of being discovered to be incompetent
“Bid your impostor syndrome adieu,”
Said my therapist, Dr. Leroux.
“You’ll still feel like a fraud,
But that isn’t so odd,
For, in your case, it’s perfectly true.” (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:
Useful idiot, a naive person who can be exploited politically
I had a useful idiot; for years he kissed my bottom.
I need a favor? Two or three? Well, every time I got 'em.
But now he's on his way out and I'm feeling kind of miffed.
Those millions that he's in my debt? I'm likely to be stiffed.
— V.P., Moscow (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

Bury 'em, Webster! Honorable mentions
Canna, as in cannabis
Because his house calls cause such dread,
My doc now brings me canna bread.
For this, I am his biggest fan — a
Touter of his bedside manna.
(Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)


Most anything that’s canna,
I admit that I’m a fan a’.
With “herbal” skin cream I anoint,
But I like it better in my joint.
(Sam Mertens, Silver Spring, Md.)

Deepfake, an elaborately doctored photo or recording
So what if this keepsake
Is only a deepfake?
A Photoshopped image that shows me in bed
With a naked George Clooney
Doesn’t mean that I’m loony —
A loon would’ve put him in PJs instead.
(Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)

When Trump starts conceding
And stops his impeding,
Reveals what he’s hidin’,
Congratulates Biden,
Accepts the results,
Appeals to adults,
You’ll see how they make
The perfect deepfake.
(Frank Mann, Washington)

Greige, gray-beige
A husband came back from the store:
“I’ve got greige paint you sent me out for.”
“Are you some kind of dope?
Can’t you see this is taupe?”
And she pointed him back out the door. (Hildy Zampella, Alexandria, Va.)


Iatrophobia, fear of doctors
Virus-responding group —
All of your meetings Trump
Seems to omit.
Could be a symptom of
Fear that your docs will say
“You’re full of [alternative facts].”
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

Iatrophobia’s my curse,
My home I had to flee,
For what location could be worse
Than Baltimore, MD? (Mark Raffman)

The iatrophobe suffers from gastric distress
But fears doctors will just do him harm,
So he’s treating himself at the new CVS,
Where he may well be buying the pharm. (Chris Doyle)

Hydroxychloroquine can treat malaria or lupus.
It’s not a cure for covid, though our leader tried to dupe us.
The drug has many side effects like headaches and depression.
It’s rather like the president — so use it with discretion. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

WFH, working from home
Each and every day.
How I can live this way.
I’m sure I’ll make it through.
My Zoom meeting’s in two. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)


Kids gonna body-shame, that’s what they do.
So I have two heads, one more than you.
But I couldn’t care less — what the hell do I care?
I got a good-lookin’ head, and another to spare. (Roger Dalrymple, Gettysburg, Pa.)

Please keep physical distance — that’s so
You’ll be safer wherever you go.
Experts say that it’s smart
To stay six feet apart,
Or you might end up six feet below. (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

CV, coronavirus
At a job interview,
What you don’t want to do
Is to give them your CV
By going “Ah-choo!” (Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)

Melissophobia, fear of bees
“Melissophobia”! How glad I was
To hear this word — to know, when folks avoid me,
It’s just because they’re frightened of my name:
My personality is not to blame!
Oh how this knowledge comforted and buoyed me!
(Then, hearing “fear of bees,” I lost my buzz.) (Melissa Balmain)


Truthiness, maintaining without evidence that things are true
If QAnon truthiness spreads to this city, it’s
Likely to grow and produce useful idiots. (Chris Doyle)

Cryosphere, the part of Earth’s surface where water stays frozen
You cry for the summit without any snow;
With sea levels rising, you cry for the bay,
And hundreds of species with nowhere to go —
Yet nowhere, with temperatures rising, to stay.
You don’t have to cry for the cryosphere, though;
It cries for itself as it’s melting away. (Alex Steelsmith, Kailua, Hawaii)

I fled to far frontiers
Where bare ice pearled;
That suited me fine —
Of all the cryospheres
In all the world,
She walks into mine. (Brett Dimaio, Cumberland, Md.)

An unworldly young woman named Deb
Bought a teddy bear straight from Zagreb.
When it came, it was stuffed
With what ought to be puffed!
When gift shopping, avoid the dark Web. (Hannah Seidel, Alexandria, Va.)


Finna, “fixin’ to”
If you’re finna gettin’ thinna
You should cut back on your dinna.
But if you’re gladda growing fatta
Then by far you’re our big winna. (Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)

Losing weight, though I’d once been a gainer,
Is so easy, it couldn’t be plainer —
I just eat, eat and eat
Any meat, meat or meat;
Every paleo meal’s a no-grainer. (Frank Osen).

Thirsty, desirous of attention
KFC was so thirsty for hype
That it made a short movie (what tripe!)
’Bout a buff Colonel Harlan —
Should have said, “Look here, darlin’,
I’m a leg man, and you’re just my type.” (Mark Raffman)

To “Be Our Guest”
Anti-vax, anti-vax,
We don’t trust your deep-fake facts,
So give us herd immunity while you just grind your axe.
Just a minute on the lips, but forever, microchips!
Luciferin, that’s suspicious — please believe me, for my wish is
To be free, to be pure, not injecting your manure
And we sure don’t trust that Fauci and his hacks.
Sure, that covid’s a test for me, but my body knows best for me:
Anti-vax! Anti-vax! Anti-vax! (Ann Martin, Brentwood, Md.)

Still running — deadline Monday night, Jan. 4: Our retrospective in which you can enter any of 25 recent contests. See

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