Style Conversational Week 1500: Loserfestering in Niagara Falls


Hi, everyone! It’s taken at least six days to decompress and get back in gear from a five-day vacation last week — one that I enjoyed every minute of. A dozen of us Invite-types, including me and the Royal Consort (celebrating our 40th anniversary), gathered in Niagara Falls, Ontario, for another Loserfest, organized once again with immense enthusiasm by Loser Kyle Hendrickson, dubbed Loserfest Pope years ago by who-knows-who. The RC and I rode up with local Losers Mike Creveling and Ann Martin; Kyle, Kathleen Delano and Sarah Worcester came in another car, and Jonathan Hardis in a third; Miriam Nadel flew in from another trip; Edward Gordon and his friend Doug came from Austin by way of Toronto. And Sharon Neeman — visiting from Israel — came over from a friend’s in Buffalo to join us one morning on the New York side.

Kyle’s optimistically planned “Fungenda” proved flexible and resilient when things ran late, a site was closed, etc., allowing us to sample all sorts of activities that the town offers. Of course there’s the literally breathtaking experience of getting right up to the falls — by boat and by observation decks in which you’re issued essentially a floor-length plastic bag to encase yourself, somewhat futilely, against the spray. But we also took in an artsy light show in a power plant turned museum (celebrating the miracle of hydroelectric energy!), and Kyle even found a way for us to be shuttled up a hill one night to a nondescript administration building, where we were taken to a back deck and took turns flipping switches that lit up the Horseshoe Falls in our choice of colors.

Throughout, everyone stayed cheerful and even-tempered during the inevitable snags, making and solidifying friendships that are sure to continue. While the Invitational itself was tangential, at most, to the vacation, it once again reinforced the Invite as a three-decade-old social community. Kyle’s taking suggestions for where the next Loserfest will be; I’m favoring one closer to home, where local Losers and Devotees have the option of making it a day trip on one day of the festivities (and not having to break the piggy bank). In the past we’ve gone to Baltimore and Frederick and Delaware and even downtown D.C.

Kyle also needs your suggestions on where to have our monthly Loser Brunches over the next year; he’s taking over the duty of scheduling the rotation from Elden Carnahan. (See “Important note” below.)

Nice pair! The results of Week 1496

When I compile the list of items to liken, differ or otherwise link in The Style Invitational’s more or less annual Same Difference contest — the results of Week 1496 went up this morning — I really do try for randomness: Sometimes I’ll look around the room and write down some object I see, or something that catches my eye in that morning’s paper on the kitchen table. And even when I scroll down the comment thread from my solicitation in the Style Invitational Devotees group, I’ll choose among literally hundreds of Losers’ suggestions without much pondering how much humor they’ll generate — and no thought of how one item will relate to another.

Because the Losers always find clever ways to relate these random items. Or at least enough of them.

There were plenty of good ideas among Week 1496′s roughly 1,050 entries (plus a hundred-odd headline ideas); my “shortlist” numbered 10 percent of the total. Some of those, though, were various versions of the same joke; either I didn’t credit anyone personally, as in the puns on “high interest,” or I chose one entry that hit me as a little better than the rest: pithier, using less explanation, more parallel, sometimes including a funnier word.

Example of the same good idea with one funnier word :

Didn’t make it: Both a flushable wipe and six Supreme Court justices all want to get up in women’s genitals.

Made it: A flushable wipe and six Supreme Court justices: They’re both up in my business. (Deb Stewart, Damascus)

In many other cases, the joke was unique among the entries. That was the case with this week’s Clowning Achievement by Kevin Dopart: The difference between a hypersonic missile and a banned book: “You can open-carry the missile in Texas.” It’s the third Clowner trophy for Kevin Dopart — but it’s his 36th contest win since Kevin started Inviting in 2005, immediately swamping the contest with ink and going on to be the highest-scoring Loser for seven years straight. In fact, with his four blots this week (or it might have been in the last few weeks), Kevin sails past the 1,700-ink mark to pass Tom Witte for second place in all-time ink. The longtime marathoner will have to sprint mightily, though, to catch up with GOAT Chris Doyle’s 2,400-plus.

The rest of the Losers’ Circle is composed of veteran Losers as well, from Hall of Famer Mark Raffman to relative newbies — but both immediate stars — Steve Smith (debuted in Week 1326) and Hannah Seidel (Week 1383).

I don’t see the names of the authors of the entries until I choose them, so I was excited to see how many women got ink this week; the M/F imbalance in the Invite has always been a bit mysterious and frankly embarrassing. So I’ll happily congratulate Hannah Seidel, Deb Stewart, First Offender Katherine Schaepman, Karen Lambert (four times over!), Beverley Sharp, Pam Shermeyer (x 3), Barbara Turner and First Offender Michie March on having scored about a third of the week’s ink. Getting there!

Important note: I get all these stats from the Losers’ website, The stats have been maintained since Week 1 by Elden Carnahan — but because of health issues these past few months, Elden hasn’t been able to devote his usual efforts to maintaining the Loser Stats, Master Contest List, the All Invitational Text file, brunch rotation, and many other things that we’re only now noticing in their absence. And he’s now in the process of handing over the reins to others in the Loser Community. This evening, Kyle Hendrickson will host a Zoom meeting with a number of people who’ve expressed willingness to take on a small part of what Elden has been doing virtually on his own. If you’d like to help maintain this indispensable resource — especially if you have programming skills, but not necessarily — let me know and I’ll put you in touch with Kyle. My deepest thanks to all of you who’ve stepped forward (and those who will) — and of course to Elden himself, the father of our feast.

Elden had wanted to join us in Niagara Falls last week but wisely decided to stay home (very wisely, it turned out, considering the nonstop activities) — so we’ll instead go to him: We’re hoping to schedule a Loser brunch or other meal sometime in the next few weeks out in his home base of Laurel, Md. — or, as he terms it, Nether Scaggsville. Stay tuned.

What Pleased Ponch: “Lots of gems this week!” reported Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia after reading the print Invite, which contains about 40 of the total of, I think, 48 inking entries. Ponch’s faves all came from the Honorables:

A flushable wipe and six Supreme Court justices: They’re both up in my business. (Deb Stewart)

Six Supreme Court justices vs. a worn-out toothbrush: Only the justices will control your cavities. (Kevin Dopart)

Cat hair and a romance novel: Lots of nasty stuff on the furniture. (Jesse Frankovich)

8 percent inflation and Old Bay: They’ve both been added lately to every item in the grocery store. (Ben Aronin)

A romance novel vs. cat hair: One involves mattresses and the other involves cat tresses. (Leif Picoult)

8 percent inflation can make your money worthless; a period-tracking app can keep your honey birthless. (Gary Crockett)

A worn-out toothbrush: The bristles overused. Cat hair: The Bissell’s overused. (Chris Doyle)

8 percent inflation: What you’ve earned is worth less. A Style Invitational second prize: What you’ve earned is worthless. (Jesse Frankovich)

The square deal for Week 1500: This week’s neologism contest

Yes, Week 1500 is yet another chance to coin new words, one that’s pretty clear on what to do. We did the same contest for 14-point words in Week 1402; here are some of the results, for your guidance & inspiration & just plain entertainment. And you know, don’t send in these same words below and tack an S on the end. Do note that definitions match the part of speech of the word: noun for noun, adjective for adjective, etc. Or how they avoid the problem by not using definition form. (See rant in Style Conversational Week 1495.)

4. SHAMNESIA: “Hush money? I don’t remember anything about that. Maybe you should ask Michael Cohen. I hardly know the guy.” (Jesse Frankovich, Lansing, Mich.)

3. DUMBRAGE: Indignation based on ignorance. “How dare you say you’d like to emulate me, you filthy pervert!” (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village, Md.)

2. NAGIVATION: The art of backseat driving. (Jonathan Jensen, Baltimore)

And the winner of the Lose Cannon: BUPHOON: An ill wind from Washington that blows nobody any good. (Stephen Dudzik, Olney, Md.)

NOSHTALGIA: Remember when we could gorge on nachos and beer and not gain a pound? (Chris Doyle, Denton, Tex.)

TYRANNODON: Creature we thought could not possibly exist today. (William Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

ABSENTIFA: A group of dangerous anarchists that terrorizes people by not showing up. (Jonathan Jensen)

ATLASHRUGS: Gestures that show you don’t care. “When asked about the death rate, the White House official gave an atlashrug.” (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

THISTOPIA: 2020. (Duncan Stevens, Vienna, Va.)

BELLOWIER: What one candidate tries to be in a “debate.” (J. Larry Schott, West Plains, Mo.)

BIFECAL: They used to be rose-colored, but lately I’ve been seeing the world through this kind of glasses. (Bill Dorner, Indianapolis)

BULLIGERENT: Not only spouting total BS, but doing it while someone else is trying to talk. “In tonight’s debate, the president was . . .” (Jonathan Jensen)

CARDAVER: The mannequin you put in your passenger seat when you’re driving solo in the HOV-2 lane. (Wendy Shang, Falls Church, Va.)

CONDUMB: What you are when you insist on using Durex XXLs but they keep falling off. (Jeff Shirley, Richmond, Va.)

COVFEE: Miracle potion drunk by POTUS to cure himself. (Edward Gordon, Austin)

DORKLY: Extra-clumsily. “Coming in from the patio, Ernie walked through a glass dorkly.” (Chris Doyle)

EGONOMICS: Maybe that was Trump’s major in business school. (Chris Doyle)

FRETTORIC: Playing to the audience’s fears — or creating fears for them. “ ‘He will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream,’ he began in a speech full of frettoric.” (Jeff Rackow, Bethesda, Md.)

VOODOODOO: The Curse of 2020. (Beverley Sharp, Montgomery, Ala.)

NOTCAKES: The quintessential commercial failure: “The new sardine-flavored protein bars sold like notcakes.” (Perry Beider, Silver Spring, Md.)

MAILINGNANT: Current state of the Postal Service. (Edward Gordon)

QUITR: The kid who dropped out of the spelling bee. (Frank Mann)

RALPHIEST: “I shouldn’t have eaten the jalapeño chili with the pork vindaloo. It was the ralphiest combo ever.” (Roy Ashley, Washington)

FLOPTILLA: The Trumpers’ boat parade that sank itself in its own wake. (Frank Mann)

SCOTUSBALL: Political sporting event in which the rules change depending upon who has the whistle. (Mike Greene, Richmond, Va)

WEDNOODLE: A honeymoon downer. (Chris Doyle)

WHATAGE: The lack of clarity produced by a dim bulb. “The journalists tried to parse the president’s debate answer, but were overwhelmed by the whatage. (Danielle Nowlin, Fairfax Station, Va.)

MOJOE: It had better be working, is all I can say. (Jonathan Jensen)

LOLLAPALOSER: A wannabe comedian who thinks somebody will publish all 25 of his entries. (Chuck Helwig, Centreville, Va., who at least was 1 for 18 this week)

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