Style Invitational Week 1449: Let’s have a get-together
A ‘Before and After’ name contest. Plus funny poems and jokes on spelling bee words.
(Bob Staake for The Washington Post)
By Pat Myers
August 12, 2021 at 10:02 a.m. EDT
(Click here to skip down to the winning poems and jokes featuring spelling bee words)
Heimlichtenstein: A small country firmly lodged between Austria and Switzerland. (Sandra Hull, 1998)
Robert Frosty the Snowman: Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. All I know is that if this hat goes, I’m a puddle. (Rob Huffman, 2012)
Rene Descartes Before the Horse: I am, therefore I think. (Bob Dalton, 1998)
Edgar Allan Popeil: Quoth the Raven, “Wait, there’s more!” (Pam Sweeney, 2010)
Call it the Munchkin: The lapel pin that's this week's second prize.
Call it the Munchkin: The lapel pin that's this week's second prize. (moma.org)
Here’s a contest we’ve done in different ways over the decades, first inspired by the “Before and After” category on “Wheel of Fortune” (and later “Jeopardy!”): Begin with a real name; append to it a word, name or expression so that they overlap; and finally define or “quote” the resulting phrase or name, as in the inking examples above.
The spellings don’t have to apply accurately to both elements — witness “Nicorette Butler,” star of “Gone With the Winstons” (Chris Doyle, 2010) — but they should be pronounced the same or you’re likely to spoil the joke.
Submit up to 25 entries at wapo.st/enter-invite-1449 (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday, Aug. 23; results appear Sept. 12 in print, Sept. 9 online.
Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a tiny and elegant (in its way) lapel pin with the iconic “Scream” character from the painting. Call it the Munchkin. Donated by Loser Dave Prevar.
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 wapo.st/InvRules. The headline “Bee’t Poets” is by Mark Raffman; Jesse Frankovich and Beverley Sharp both submitted the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at on.fb.me/invdev; “like” the Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at bit.ly/inkofday; and follow @StyleInvite on Twitter.
The Style Conversational: The Empress’s weekly online column, published late Thursday afternoon, Aug. 12, discusses each new contest and set of results. See this week’s, in which she’ll share the sometimes now-obscure topical humor of our previous portmanteau-names contests, at wapo.st/conv1449.
The “You’re Invited” podcast: A new episode featuring one of the Invite’s greatest and funniest Losers, Brendan Beary. Hear it and 14 other half-hour eps at bit.ly/invite-podcast or most other podcast platforms.
And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago . . .
Bee't poets: Spelling words in verse
In Week 1445 we asked you to write a funny poem or Q&A-type joke, featuring one of the words in the later rounds of this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee. We think the kids should ask the readers, “Can you use that in a poem?”
Thanatophidia, poisonous snakes
(a double dactyl)
It’d be awesome if
Samuel L. Jackson used
Terms more arcane:
“I’ve had a surfeit of
On this mephitic and
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)
Vrille, a maneuver in which a plane spins downward, nose-first
Ha ha, I’ll be fine, I am healthy and whole!
If I say I’ll get through it, I will.
My life isn’t spiraling out of control —
I’m, uh … purposely doing a vrille.
(Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)
and the bathroom-scale ‘stress reliever’ toy:
Argentous, containing silver
Second place! An achievement momentous!
A feather this puts in my cap!
But instead of a medal argentous,
Pat sent me some lame piece of crap.
(Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.) [Hmm, he sounds ... stressed.]
And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:
Dysphotic, poorly illuminated
Dysphotic water's where to hide
The bodies of the vics who died
For disrespecting capos' wishes.
Now they're sleeping with the fishes
At the bottom of the Hudson,
Down in zones that too much mud's in. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)
Bee-minus: Honorable mentions
Gewgaw, a shiny trinket
A trinket or a knickknack,
an ornament, a kickshaw,
a frippery, a gimcrack,
a bibelot, a gewgaw . . .
Bring me back a souvenir,
some cheap Parisian trifle,
even if it’s just a mere
synthetic plastic Eiffel.
(Robert Schechter, Dix Hills, N.Y.)
Thanatophidia, poisonous snakes
On the red carpet, a wardrobe malfunction:
Medusa is vamping, without much compunction,
Revealing the writhing of thanatophidia.
For safety, I beg you, don’t YouTube the videa!
(John Hutchins, Silver Spring, Md.)
Rural Australia is
Loaded with critters we’d
These include octopi,
Spiders and dingoes, but
Not the drop bear.*
(Stephen Gilberg, Silver Spring, Md.)
*A mythical terror-koala
Regolith (REG-uh-lith), loose deposits above solid rock
That county extension guy knows how to call it!
He took a quick look at my garden and said:
“Your regolith is of inferior quality.
“Lose all those moon rocks — try soil instead.”
(George Thompson, Springfield, Va.)
Q. That farmer who damaged the soil — what did they charge him with?
A. Regolith endangerment! (Jesse Frankovich)
Nepeta (NEP-eta), the genus that includes catnip
Mumbled Smoky (light gray, neutered male),
Whom the fuzz had just tossed into jail:
“Yah, I guess it wuz nepeta,
But m’job’s justa schlepitta
Other cats. Dawg, I didn’t inhale.”
(Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)
Potiche (po-TEESH), a ceramic vase with a lid
Grandma’s spirit to heaven’s returned
But her ashes, I’ve recently learned,
Are inside a potiche
(That’s a vase — you capisce?)
On our mantel, the spot that she’s urned. (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)
Trophallactic, sharing regurgitated food, as ants and bees do
Met her on a dating website,
Hoped she’d fill my lusty thirst,
Thinking we should meet in person;
Fortunately, she asked first.
“Won’t you come and share a meal?”
So I rushed over, rang her bell;
Turned out she was trophallactic
And the date did not go well.
(Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)
Bathyal, relating to the deepest seas
The bathyal depths of the ocean
Hold creatures that will never see the sky.
And yet these poor light-deprived critters
Care more about Kardashians than I.
(Craig Dykstra, Centreville, Va.)
Paramimia, misuse of gesture in expressing thought
Paramimia Pete offers words that seem sweet,
But his hands leave impressions that linger;
It’s quite disconcerting: One moment he’s flirting,
Then he suddenly gives you the finger. (Duncan Stevens)
Paramimia is gesturing, it’s said,
That [arms open wide]
May confuse [push] one instead.
[Face palm] Come hither!
So hot in here! [shiver]
[Eye roll] Please hug me!
I like you! [shakes head]
(Frank Mann, Washington)
Sloe, a plumlike fruit used to make gin
Candy is dandy
And liquor is quicker,
But is that still so
If the liquor is sloe?
Saxicolous, growing on rock
A rock climber, known only as Nicholas,
Fell and landed on something saxicolous.
Now his imprint, in lichen,
Can be seen by those hikin’ —
Mountaineers say the crowds are ridicolous. (Frank Osen)
Dysphotic, dimly lit, and batrachian (ba-TRAY-kian), relating to frogs and toads
Turn the Lights Down First, Darling
“Nothing’s more erotic
than a bedchamber dysphotic!”
(says she whose paramour possesses
skillful kisses and caresses
and a buoyant, bubbly bonhomie
. . . and batrachian physiognomy.)
(Daniel Galef, Tallahassee)
The creature you see is batrachian
(Unless I’m completely mistakian).
’Twas a frog or a toad
That was crossing the road,
But now the poor thing is pancakian. (Craig Dykstra)
After four freaking years of his dreck
Don’s removal was welcome as heck
Vaudeville once employed
What we should have enjoyed:
An ancistroid cane round his neck!
(Jon Gearhart, Des Moines)
Gorgon Medusa can
Turn you to stone just by
Looking your way.
Fearsome, her head’s full of
That’s what you might call an
Evil hair day.
(David Peckarsky, Tucson)
The Ash Grove
With apologies to the poem by Thomas Oliphant
Melody of the song here
Down yonder green valley again I am coming,
Where rolling stones gain no saxicolous moss.
’Midst nepeta fragrant and trochiline* humming
My heart is aphyllous,** dysphotic with loss.
O where is my true love, my Lulu, my doozy,
Whose ancistroid wiles set my soul in a vrille?
Batrachians, oh, tell me, where is the fair floozy?
“She croaked, bro, and lies ’neath the regolith chill.” (Steve Bremner, Philadelphia)
*trochiline: of hummingbirds; **aphyllous: bare of leaves; ***ancistroid: hook-shaped
And Last: Dysphotic
The Washington Post gives this word to the wise:
In conditions dysphotic, democracy dies. (Jesse Frankovich)
Still running — deadline Monday, Aug. 16: our contest for lim-ericks with words starting with “he-.” See wapo.st/invite1448.
DON’T MISS AN INVITE! Sign up here to receive a once-a-week email from the Empress as soon as The Style Invitational and Style Conversational go online every Thursday, complete with links to the columns.