Creative New Words from Washington Post Readers


I don’t live in the Washington D.C. environs, so I have only recently discovered the Style Invitational, a weekly humor c   ontest that has been running in the Style section of the Washington Post since 1993 (with a brief hiatus in 1999). I feel like a loser to have only discovered it now, but that’s appropriate because that’s what the thousands of loyal S.I. followers call themselves: Losers. Maybe it’s not too late for me after all.

The Style Invitational solicits creatively hilarious entries from Post readers in a wide variety of weekly contests. The first contest asked for less offensive names for the Washington Redskins (an issue that is once again being debated). The winner, a Douglas. R. Miller, won with the following suggestion: “The Baltimore Redskins. No, don’t move the team, just let Baltimore deal with it.” He won a Timex watch like the one President Clinton wore at the time.

The following week’s contest was to replace the Maryland state slogan, “Manly deeds, womanly words.” (Good idea to replace that if you ask me.) That elicited entrees like “Maryland — Home to its residents.” The winner was “Maryland — Wait! We can explain!” by someone calling himself Oslo.

Contest winners these days win what is known as the Inkin’ Memorial because getting an entree published in the column is known to Losers as “getting ink.” Runners up get famously silly and useless prizes.

The contest was overseen by a writer known only as the Czar until 2003 when he was replaced by The Empress, who continues the tradition today.

Let me just say that I’ve added “get ink” to my official bucket list.

Below is a sampling of entrees from one of the S.I.’s most popular annual contests, the Neologism Contest, in which contestants are asked to create new words with various restrictions. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Change a Word By One Letter

Guiltar: A musical instrument whose strings are pulled by your mother. (Frank Mullen III, Aledo, Ill., 2003)

Eruditz: A philosophy professor who can’t figure out how to work the copying machine. (John Kupiec, Fairfax, Va., 2007)

Skilljoy: The would-be friend who’s a bit better than you at everything. (Steve Fahey, Kensington, Md., 2008)

Sparadigm: A model panhandler. (Kevin Dopart, Washington, 2009)

Spell a Word Backward:

Nword: Something that gets you in really deep trouble. (Russell Beland, Springfield, 2004)

Onisac: A dark, often smoke-filled chamber in which elderly Homo sapiens deposit their nest eggs before dying. (Peter Metrinko, Plymouth, Minn., 2004)

Words ending in -ion

Errudition: Comical misuse of big words. “Madam, your dress looks positively superfluous on you tonight,” he said with amazing errudition. (Tom Witte, 2006)

Percycution: Giving your child a name he will hate for the rest of his life. (Marty McCullen, Gettysburg, Pa., 2006)

Words containing a block of three consecutive letters of the alphabet

Coughin: A small enclosure designed especially for smokers. (John Glenn, Tyler, Tex., 2010

Portmanteau (overlapping) words

Treadmillstone: The unused home gym that keeps staring at you. (Rick Haynes, Potomac, Md., 2008)

Crapplause: A polite but unenthusiastic expression of approval. (Dion E. Black, Washington, 2009)

Palindrome term

AHA HAHA: When you finally get the joke. (Tom Flaherty, Culpeper, Va., 2010)

Move a word’s first letter to the end

Carecrows: Women who are so devoted to their men that they frighten them away. (Lawrence McGuire, Waldorf, Md., 2011)

13-letter words

Typochondriac: A paranoid proofreader. (Ward Kay, Vienna, Va., 2011)

Combine the beginning and end of two words from the day’s paper

Prob-solutely: A definite maybe. (Kyle Hendrickson, Frederick, Md., 2006)

Ignorial: A monument that nobody visits. (Robert Schechter, Dix Hills, N.Y., 2012)

All of these selections appear in this article published as part of the 20th anniversary of the Style Invitational.


As always, your comments are invited.




About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Klamon

    I was at a gathering of political types when the inability of a well-known candidate to identify Aleppo
    came up. Those present offered their own answers. These included; Aleppo is a small furry South
    American animal, now endangered. So no more Aleppo coats. Aleppo is a problem of the inner ear,
    related to Vertigo. A woman said that her brother was a member of Aleppo Delta Chi, while in college.
    Perhaps your readers could help out the unfortunate candidate.

  2. Stephen B. Fleming
    Stephen B. Fleming02-06-2015

    There is lot of clever, funny stuff here. I think my favorite is onisac. You could have a contest for every state in regards to new slogans: Texas, big enough to be both best and worst.

  3. Larry Gray
    Larry Gray02-06-2015

    I’ll add one more Loser’s voice to the chorus, Brian. Thanks for giving credit where it is so greatly deserved. The Czar and the Empress have nurtured our silly family for a long time with patience and affection, and the result is a feature that has earned an enthusiastic following, and one in which it’s easy to see the fun coming through each and every week. And you DO need to enter; come on over to the dark side!

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko02-06-2015

      I’m already working on an entry for this week! Thanks, Larry.

  4. Bill Landau
    Bill Landau02-06-2015

    As a first-time official Loser this week, I encourage you to enter. I’ve been a participant in the Style Invitational Devotees’ FaceBook page for a while, and as I mentioned there, I finally figured out why I wasn’t getting any ink – I hadn’t entered. I entered for the first time, and got ink, for the contest whose results will be in this Sunday’s print paper.

    I’m glad you won’t correct our grammar. But I will quibble with your word choice in this post: “entree” is the main dish at a meal; what you are referring to are “entries” in the contest.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko02-06-2015

      Of course it should be “entries.” Everybody knows that. Heck. I mean, come on! It’s a test. And you passed — congratulations! It’s an honor almost as celebrated as getting ink in the Style Invitational.

      I only edited it because I’m tired of the whole contest thing. Too much trouble. And because it’s exhausting to deal with all the people think it was really a mistake. Pssh.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko02-06-2015

      I might possibly decide to run more secret “find the error” contests in the future.

  5. Doug Frank
    Doug Frank02-05-2015

    I’m one of the Losers, and am very glad to see you give the proper attribution to the “Invite”; many who copy and distribute Invite entries attribute them to any number of other groups, including Mensa.
    And even if you never ink, you should get on the distro list for the weekly contest results. Or meet some of the Losers at the fans’ Facebook page:

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko02-06-2015

      Thanks for the invitation, Doug. Since I don’t live in the area, I forgot all about the Style Invitational. I love that I can keep up via Facebook. I’ve liked the page and look forward to being a part of things.

  6. Rhonda Barfield
    Rhonda Barfield10-10-2013

    My favorite is “Maryland: Home to its residents.” All 50 states could adopt this one. . . substituting the correct state, of course. Brilliant!

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