Style Invitational Week 1455: Good idea! Or not.
Make a wee change from one to the other. Plus bad first drafts of famous quotes.

(Bob Staake for The Washington Post)
By Pat Myers
September 23, 2021 at 10:04 a.m. EDT

(Click here to skip down to the winning bad first drafts of famous quotes)

Good idea: Wiping out poison ivy.
Bad idea: Wiping with poison ivy. (David Patch, 2014)

Good idea: Reply to all sensitive emails.
Bad idea: Reply All to sensitive emails. (Eric Yttri, 2014)

Good idea: Wash hands after using toilet.
Bad idea: Wash hands using toilet. (Jay Snyder, 1995)

We’ve run this contest only twice before in The Style Invitational’s 28-plus years: The Czar ran it in 1995, and the Empress offered it again in 2014. Let’s give it another go: Cite a “good idea” and, with a small change of wording, a “bad idea,” as in the examples above.

Ever-obliging Royal Consort Mark Holt with this week's second prize on his head.
Ever-obliging Royal Consort Mark Holt with this week's second prize on his head. (Pat Myers/The Washington Post)
Important formatting note! Please write both halves of your entry — the good idea and the bad idea — on the same line, not as it’s shown above. This will let the Empress shuffle up everyone’s entries so she’ll have no idea who wrote what.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday, Oct. 4; results appear Oct. 24 in print, Oct. 21 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a hat in the colors of the Belgian flag, promoting the native Primus beer and sporting two giant fingers sticking up, three sticking down. One has Velcro. Wha? Donor Dan Huff knows only that a friend brought it back from Europe. After considerable research, our best guess comes from Loser Laura Clairmont in the Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook: The Belgian soccer team is the Red Devils, and the hat resembles the French Sign Language word for devil horns. But still, why the ring finger?

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 new lusted-after Loser magnets, “A Small Jester of Appreciation” or “Close, but Ceci N’est Pas un Cigare.” First Offenders receive only a smelly tree-shaped air “freshener” (FirStink for their first ink). See general contest rules and guidelines at The headline “Prewrites” was submitted by both Tom Witte and Kevin Dopart; Tom and Chris Doyle both came up with 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: This week the Empress’s weekly column shares ink from the previous good-idea/bad-idea contests, plus highlights of the Losers’ Flushies awards/parody-fest last Sunday. See

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago . . .

Prewrites: Winning 'first drafts' of famous quotes
In Week 1451 the Empress asked for “first drafts” of famous quotes, and promptly got 2,200 of them. So it wasn’t surprising that lotsa losers suggested something like “Call me Ishy” and had Samuel L. Jackson opine that “I’ve had it with these pesky snakes on this darned plane!”

4th place:
“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some jelly beans and a Yoo-Hoo.” — Hannibal Lecter (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

3rd place:
“I grow old . . . I grow old . . . I shall wear the tops of my trousers at the level of my nipples.” — T.S. Eliot (Danielle Nowlin, Fairfax Station, Va.)

2nd place
and the ‘Best Excuses and Lies’ cards:
“Because I could not stop for dea . . .” — Emily Dickinson (Rob Huffman, Fredericksburg, Va.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:
"Torpedoes?? Damn." — Adm. David Farragut (Marli Melton, Carmel Valley, Calif.)

Late-round draft picks: Honorable mentions
“Two all-beef patties, some ketchup and mayonnaise mixed together, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” (Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)

“A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits. Oh, and because of the whole Watergate thingy, I quit.” — Richard Nixon (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

“A woman is like a tea bag: hot for a short time, then lumpy and soggy.” — Eleanor Roosevelt (Marni Penning Coleman, Falls Church, Va.)

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way: I’ll try to explain in the next 800 pages.” — Tolstoy (Greg Dobbins, Boynton Beach, Fla.)

“And you, my pink-eyed girl . . .” (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

“Elementary, Watson, you stupid quack!” — Sherlock Holmes (Roger Dalrymple, Gettysburg, Pa.)

“Et tu, bruh?” (Marni Penning Coleman)

“Fourscore and seven years ago — raise your hand if you know how many that is — our fathers . . .” (Mark Raffman)

“Fourscore and seven years four months fourteen days nineteen hours and [checks watch] about seventeen minutes ago . . .” (Todd DeLap, Fairfax, Va.)

“El ex ex ex vee eye eye years ago . . .” (Bird Waring, Larchmont, N.Y.)

“Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers, well, our fathers weren’t born yet, but metaphorically speaking . . .”
(Emma Daley, Greenfield, Mass.)

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall . . . oh, I’d give it about 160 years.” (Noah Meyerson, Washington)

“Here’s my wish list.” — MLK (Frank Mann, Washington)

“I see dead people. Like you! Because you’re dead, see.” — Cole Sear, “The Sixth Sense” (Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

“If you think the cops cheat, put him back on the street!” — Johnnie Cochran (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

“It ain’t over till the trailing team hits or runs into the third out of the ninth or subsequent inning.” — Yogi Berra (Eric Nelkin, Silver Spring, Md.)

“Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re going to get, which is why I turn each one over while no one’s looking and dig a little hole in the bottom to check.” (Francesca Kelly, Highland Park, Ill.)

“Mama always said life is like a filthy restroom: You never know what you’re going to get.” (Laura Clairmont, Venice, Fla.)

“No, but it wasn’t a dream. It was a place. And you and you and you — and you were there. Not you, though.” — Dorothy Gale (Eric Nelkin)

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, mine has the best sliders.” (John Hutchins, Silver Spring, Md.)

“One of the happiest places in Anaheim.” (Coleman Glenn)

“Stella DuBois Kowalski! Stella DuBois Kowalski!” (Mike Caslin, Round Hill, Va.)

“Technically speaking, I am not a crook.” — Richard Nixon (Craig Dykstra, Centreville, Va.)

“My name’s Bond. Bond comma James. That’s how it’s printed on my payroll slips at MI6, you know, where I work as a spy. Oops.” (Daniel Galef, Tallahassee)

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — and to a lesser degree, trepidation.” (Chuck Smith, Woodbridge, Va.)

“The only thing we have to fear is a collapsing bank system, plus huge unemployment, dust all over the Great Plains, and some nut in Germany.” (Stephen Dudzik, Olney, Md.)

“The unexamined life is, well, who knows? No one has ever examined it.” — Socrates (Frank Mann)

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in black-and-white anymore.” (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

“Wastin’ away again in Gin & Tonic-ville . . .” (Craig Dykstra)

“When they go low, we go, ‘I’m just going to pretend I didn’t hear that.’” — Michelle Obama (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

“A penny saved is, at 2 percent interest, 2 pennies after 35 years, before adjusting for inflation.” (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

“Now the chipmunk was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made.” (Bill Collinge, Gettysburg, Pa.)

“I beg your pardon, Adrian, will you kindly look my way? It is I, Rocky Balboa.” (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

“In the beginning was the word, and the word was ‘aardvark.’ ” (Steve Bremner, Philadelphia)

“I just want to say one word to you: polytetrafluoroethylene.” (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. You’ll be hearing from my attorney.” (Steve Leifer, Potomac, Md.)

“The first rule of Fight Club is to please refrain from discussing our meetings with nonmembers.” (Hildy Zampella, Alexandria)

“The first rule of Fight Club is newest member brings the doughnuts.” (Duncan Stevens)

“That concludes our scheduled activities for this program.” — Looney Tunes (Roy Ashley, Washington)

“You say So-LAY-num lycopersicum and I say So-LAH-num lycopersi-cum . . .” (Jonathan Paul, Garrett Park, Md.)

And Last: “Democracy dies if you don’t read The Washington Post, so subscribe today!” (John Klayman, Fairfax, Va.)

Still running — deadline Monday night, Sept. 28: Our contest for haiku containing puns. See

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