Style Invitational Week 1478: It’s a small, small word
Write a poem using only the 1,000 most common words. Plus winning neologisms.
By Pat Myers
Yesterday at 9:49 a.m. EST

(Bob Staake/Illustration for The Washington Post )

Click here to skip down to this week's winning neologisms

The bars are all filled;
It’s a very good sign.
The beer’s going fast,
And they’re serving up wine.
We’re FINALLY out!
There’s wide-screen TV!
The big game is starting: It’s — yes! — World War Three!

Here’s a contest we did back in 2014, but now you’ll have the help of a nifty self-checking tool that 418-time Loser Art Grinath brought to the Empress’s attention: Write a humorous poem, eight lines max, using only those from a list of the 1,000 most common English words, such as the one above by Style Invitational cartoonist Bob Staake (who’s written many of his picture books in rhyme) — and this time the list is according to the fabulous Randall Munroe, creator of the comic strip XKCD and especially “Up Goer Five,” a blueprint-style diagram of the Saturn V rocket, with notations “using only the ten hundred words people use most often.” The rocket, for example, is called a “flying space car”; helium is “funny voice air.” You may add a title, common word or not.

A year after our Week 1069 contest, Munroe created the website Simple Writer (, which lets you type your own simple writing — and instantly flags every word that’s not on his “ten hundred word” list. You don’t see the list; you find out when you type. But it allows many plurals, past tenses and contractions. In any case, your poem must not have any words flagged on Simple Writer.

Submit up to 25 entries at (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday, March 14; results appear April 3 in print, March 31 online.

Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives a handsome pair of Bigfoot Socks, lime green legwear featuring a rather trim and amiable Sasquatch sporting a jaunty red scarf. They are indeed men’s-size, so they do live up to their name that way. Donated by Dave Prevar.

On your calves, the cheeriest Bigfoot ever. This week's second prize. (
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 “Hyphen Help Us” is by Jesse Frankovich; Tom Witte and Craig Dykstra both submitted 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 this week’s new contest and results; definitely check it out if you might enter a common-word poem. See this week’s, published late Thursday, March 4, at

And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...

Hyphen help us! Neologisms from Week 1474
Week 1474 was one of our Hyphen the Terrible contests, in which we asked you to create a new word by combining two halves of hyphenated terms you found in the paper.

4th place:
De-tailed + be-tween: DE-TWEEN: To remove the Super Mario sheets from your ninth-grader’s bed. (Leif Picoult, Rockville, Md.)

3rd place:
Misinforma-tion + Beetho-ven: MISINFORMA-VEN: Someone who’s done his own research. (Ann Martin, Brentwood, Md.)

2nd place
and the 2004 vintage Loser Mug:

Non-red + an-nouncement: NON-NOUNCEMENT: “For now, I’m 100 percent focused on the job the voters elected me to do.” (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:
Paper-work + privi-lege: PAPER-PRIVI: The repository for highly sensitive Trump administration documents. (Steve Smith, Potomac, Md.)

Halve-nots: Honorable mentions
RUS-ISTAN: What Ukraine vows not to become. (William Joyner, Crozet, Va.)

COAL-JERK: Pertaining to Sen. Joe Manchin. “The new clean-energy bill produced the expected coal-jerk reaction.” (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

LIB-SURDITY: Any criticism of the dynamic tourism at the Capitol that day. — R. McDaniel, Republican National Committee (Kevin Dopart, Washington)

NA-NAVIRUS: Vaxxers and anti-vaxxers mocked each other for contracting it. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

FEBRU-MENTAL: A couple days short of a month, if you know what I mean. (Gary Crockett)

ST.-ICK: Don’t sit on this Santa’s lap! (Steve Smith)

COMPETI-DRESSING: For many teenagers, it’s the real prom event. (Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

ALT-QUALITY: Euphemism for “chintzy.” “Our dollar store has a wide selection of alt-quality items.” (Jesse Frankovich)

ANONY-MIES: People you didn’t even know you hated. (Wendy Shang, Falls Church, Va.)

CONSERVA-DRESSING: Formerly, a dark suit, white shirt and striped tie. Today, antlers, red ball cap or tinfoil hat. (Mark Raffman, Reston)

CONFECTIOUS: What do you call a piece of birthday cake after a group of 4-year-olds helped blow out the candles? (Steve Smith)

CURRI-CANE: What happens when the vindaloo sends you to the loo. (Mike Ostapiej, Ravenel, S.C.)

DECI-FOOT: An oh-so-convenient unit of measure equal to 30.48 millimeters. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

DE-GROOMING: Leaving him waiting at the altar. (Roy Ashley, Washington)

HYPER-MUTERS: Two years into the pandemic, they still can’t remember to turn their mics back on in a Zoom meeting. (Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

FORM-FIGHTING: What too-tight jeans are. (Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)

INTERROGATO: A curious cat. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

MAGA-DUCTION: A singular sort of logic. “Pence didn’t overturn the election results, so that must mean he’s in league with George Soros and AOC!” (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

MAR-A-PULT: A quick exit from Palm Beach for those who fail to kiss the ring. “Right after he beat Trump at golf — boing! He got the Mar-a-pult.” (Frank Mann, Washington)

TEENEST: Most harebrained. “Subway surfing – riding on the roof of a moving train? That is the teenest idea ever.” (Bill Dorner, Indianapolis)

ODOR-GRAM: A lingering olfactory signature. “Pete’s cologne sent another odor-gram – and he left five minutes ago!” (Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)

OUT-MOM: “I’ve felt pretty guilty after our phone calls before, but she really out-mommed herself this time.” (Jesse Frankovich)

PANDEM-OCRATS: Those socialist brownshirts who try to prevent outbreaks of freedom. -- M.T.G., Georgia (Kevin Dopart)

RE-LICING: A handy but inadvisable trick for getting out of school (Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)

PRE-PUBLICAN: A fifth-grader who complains to the school board that long division makes him uncomfortable. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

PRE-PUBLICANS: Advocates of police defunding who have yet to be mugged. (Jeff Contompasis)

DE-PUBLICAN: A Democrat who seems to be pulling for the other side – not to Manchin any names. (Jonathan Jensen)

SEMI-PUBLICAN: A member of the GOP who doesn’t kneel facing Mar-a-Lago five times a day. (Jonathan Jensen)

RIP-UP-LICAN: A POTUS who doesn’t give a … rip about some Presidential Records Act. (Kevin Dopart)

SEMENTALISTS: Zealots who believe every sperm is sacred. (Terri Berg Smith)

NATURE-CAN: The spacious “outhouse” of the woods. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

SOLO-PLAUSE: What comes from that one person at the concert who didn’t know you don’t clap between movements. (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

TICK-FIL-A: Fast food that sticks to your ribs. (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

UNCOMFORT-HUG: An embrace from your unvaccinated cousin. (Steve Leifer, Potomac, Md.)

UNRENT: A polite term for “evict.” (Lenard King, Richmond, Va.)

BUDG-MENT: A willingness to compromise. “Don’t think of it as betraying your foundational values; think of it as exercising sound budg-ment.” (Coleman Glenn)

G-SPORT: Team event where at least one person feels the thrill of victory. (Kevin Dopart)

OVER-DUCTED: What every office building in an action movie seems to be. (Coleman Glenn)

SCORCHED-TRUTH: The Tucker Carlson strategy. (Jeff Rackow)

SNY-JACKING: Announcing your team’s new name just in time to distract from a story about sexual harassment. (Frank Mann)

SPY-VERSATIONS: Dialogue like “The geese fly high.” “But the frost lies on the ground.” (Jeff Contompasis)

And Last: LIFE-FREE: What you are if you spend hours and hours scanning hundreds of articles for hyphenated words for some contest that pays you in magnets. (Jesse Frankovich, who has 874 blots of Invite ink)

Still running — deadline Monday night, March 7: Our contest for user reviews for any of eight everyday products. See

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