Style Invitational Week 1510: Only U (or A, E, I or O)
Write a funny poem using only one vowel. Plus winning verses using ‘pwn’ and other new dictionary words.
By Pat Myers
October 13, 2022 at 9:29 a.m. EDT
Click Click here to skip down to the winning poems featuring new dictionary words
An ajar clam
Can stank a tad
That wafts all damn day —
As dank as bad shad.
— Univocalic poem by Bob Staake
This week’s contest was suggested by Valerie Holt of Baltimore, who has been subjected to The Style Invitational for almost 30 years on account of being the Empress’s offspring. This week: Write a humorous univocalic poem — one that uses only one of the vowels A, E, I, O or U — as in the ... well, we settled on “hilariously bad” one by Bob Staake, who will probably not include it in his oeuvre of more than 50 acclaimed picture books. This doesn’t mean you should strive for hilariously bad; you should try for the usual hilariously good.
Submit up to 25 entries at wapo.st/enter-invite-1510 (no capitals in the Web address). Deadline is Monday night, Oct. 24; results appear Nov. 13 in print, Nov. 10.
Winner gets the Clowning Achievement, our Style Invitational trophy. Second place receives one of the more exotic prizes The Style Invitational has ever offered, up there with the wine containing a coiled cobra: It’s a beautiful, old-looking box about eight inches long, covered in padded silk. Slide open the little toggle closure that looks like a sliver of ivory, and inside you’ll see two hefty translucent paperweights, into each of which is immersed a real, still shimmery cicada. According to Google Lens, the label inside says it’s from the Tianqiao Social Welfare Crafts Factory, Jinan, China. Donated by Loser Marleen May, who picked it up on Freecycle.
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, “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 wapo.st/inviteFAQ. The headline “Pwn Stars” is by Jeff Contompasis; Beverley Sharp wrote the honorable-mentions subhead. Join the lively Style Invitational Devotees group on Facebook at on.fb.me/invdev; follow Style Invitational Ink of the Day on Facebook at bit.ly/inkofday; 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 Thursday, Oct. 13, at wapo.st/conv1510.
And from The Style Invitational four weeks ago ...
Pwn stars: The new-word poems from Week 1506
In Week 1506 we once again asked for poems using terms newly added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, from “adorkable” to “yeet.”
OMAKASE, Japanese chef’s-choice menu
Have a seat, begin to eat whatever’s on your plate.
Don’t ask for something else – the chef is known to get irate.
In foodie circles, omakase dining is a winner,
But back home Mom just called it “Sit your butt down and eat dinner.”
(Pam Shermeyer, Lathrup Village, Mich.)
PWN, To dominate an opponent
You pwned me – I thrpw in the tpwel.
“Ypwza!” “Wppt!” you rejpiced with a hpwl.
I cpncede, you’re tpp gppd;
You’re the tpast of the hppd!
It makes me frpwn, glpwer and scpwl.
(Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)
and the Merriam-Webster mug with its ‘pumpkin spice’ definition:
SUS, suspect or suspicious, of dubious quality
Once upon an L.A. street-o, I consumed a sus burrito,
Filled with rice and beans and cheese and meat that oozed with grease galore,
Soon enough there came a churning — gurgling, rumbling, tumbling, turning —
Noisy, queasy, most uneasy perturbation in my core.
“ ’Tis the vengeance of the Aztecs,” said I as I roundly swore,
“Food Truck Maven? Nevermore!”
(Mark Raffman, Reston, Va.)
And the winner of the Clowning Achievement:
Yeet: To throw, especially with force
INAUGURATION DAY 2021
“Mr. President, welcome! This way—
Over here on a monogrammed tray
Is the ketchup you’ll hurl at the wall,
And— how’s that? You’ll throw nothing at all?
But tradition, sir! Please! I entreat!
For four years it’s been all-you-can-yeet.”
(Melissa Balmain, Rochester, N.Y.)
Diction-awry: Honorable mentions
JANKY: Shoddy, faulty (plus SUS)
Though deals abound at Dollar Plus,
Certain merch should still seem sus,
For if you're planning hanky-panky,
Your condoms simply can't be janky.
(Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)
LEWK: Personal fashion style (as in “look”)
If you frequent the posh ski resorts
And you spot a young fellow who sports
Lightweight shorts with his parka and hat
You might ask yourself, “What’s up with that?”
“Was his luggage lost? Is he a kook?”
Meet the snowboarder-wannabe lewk.
(Terri Berg Smith, Rockville, Md.)
GREENWASH: To publicize a company’s environmental efforts to minimize the damage it’s actually causing
Corporations attempting to greenwash
Their pollution cannot get a clean wash
Of their foul reputation,
Which smells to the nation
Like a private who’s done a latrine wash.
(David Mayerovitch, Ottawa, a First Offender)
BIRRIA: A Mexican meat stew
A Bostonian’s Critique of a Mexican Restaurant
(Michael Stein, Arlington, Va.)
DAWN CHORUS: The chattering of birds as day breaks
Monday there’s mowing at quarter to 8.
Tuesday the train passes carrying freight.
Wednesday we hear from the rooster next door;
Thursday the street cleaning happens at 4.
Friday the garbage cans bang on the street,
Weekends, the paper goes thwump! at my feet.
All while I’m still in my slippers and flannel;
If this is my dawn chorus, please change the channel!
(Sarah Walsh, Rockville, Md.)
KRATOM, a traditional psychoactive drug, pronounced either krayt’em or kratt’em
My boss gave a harsh ultimatum:
“Sell these meds, even though people hate ’em.”
So I hawked yucky drops;
Though they're normally flops,
They all sold, ’cause I spiked them with kratom!
(Karen Lambert, Chevy Chase, Md.)
Kratom is a stimulant in small doses but a sedative at high doses.
I took a little kratom, and felt a surge of joy,
And then I took a little more — O boy! O boy! O boy!
Another batch went down the hatch, a quite humongous dose,
And that is why you found me here, completely comatose.
I’ve learned the truth today, forsooth, and baby, this is it:
You need to split the kratom—and take just a little bit.
(Stephen Gold, London)
LARP: Live-action role playing
My wife loves Harry Potter LARPing;
Could this hobby cost me more?
She says that I should quit my carping…
But her “house”? It’s Gryffin-Dior.
Said a shivering guy in a tarp,
“Dude, you know me, I don’t like to carp,
But this role-playing game
Is unpleasant and lame.
Why’d you make a Fyre Festival LARP?”
(Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)
HAIRY EYEBALL, a disapproving glare
Once upon a morning early, while I slumbered, tired and surly,
Having stayed up much too late out partying the night before—
After snoozing for an hour, suddenly I saw a glower,
Disapproving, rather sour, glaring from my bedroom door.
’Twas my mother’s hairy eyeball, and I knew what was in store ...
Didn’t sleep a minute more.
(Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)
“The hairy eyeball” means a dirty look,
The kind you’d give a pervert or a crook.
But if you’re learning English, this expression
Might lead to a lamentable transgression,
Like asking (if the meaning’s misconstrued):
“Do hairy eyeballs have to be shampooed?”
(Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)
LEVEL UP: Advance to the next level
To level up our lives, what if we tried
To not make one more dang thing gamified?
(Coleman Glenn, Huntingdon Valley, Pa.)
MacGYVER: To fashion a solution to a problem using whatever odd materials are available
Paper clip, gum wrapper, safety pin, dime,
Broken-down watch that no longer tells time,
Eraserless pencil honed down to a nub,
Decades-old membership card for the club,
Spare covid tests (’cause there’s still a pandemic),
Rocks that have undergone changes alchemic.
You gonna MacGyver a snare for a crook?
Nope, that’s just from cleaning out Mom’s pocketbook.
SUS: Suspect or suspicious; of dubious quality
The lyrics Ira Gershwin wrote
I find banal and gauche.
With all those twee truncated words
Like ’magine and emosh.’
Now “’swonderful” and “’smarvelous”
May suit you to a T.
But “fash” and “pash” and all the rest –
They just seem sus to me.
(Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)
“Want to travel?” They found us and said,
“You can have a new home and clean bed!”
“That flier looks sus…”
“Oh, don’t be a wuss!”
Martha’s Vineyard – we were misled.
(Matthew Zimmer, New York)
TATER TOTS, STROMBOLI
What words are exciting, exotic and new
At Merriam-Webster in 9/22?
There's something called “Tater Tots,” also “stromboli.”
They must not get out much, or else they work slowly.
SIDE HUSTLE, a supplementary job
As a side hustle, Uber’s a curse,
For the income could hardly be worse!
I’ll concede, though, I know
That I might make more dough
If my vehicle weren’t a hearse.
And Last:A side hustle could be a good thing to do
If you’re wanting a little more cash to accrue.
But these poems I’ve written just aren’t the way—
In The Style Invitational, rhyme doesn’t pay.
Still running — deadline Monday night, Oct. 17: Our contest to combine two one-word movie titles. See wapo.st/invite1509.
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