Style Conversational Week 1515: We har the world


Aww, that’s our little vector! Turns out sweet Sylvie Aurora Aronin, the 7-month-old daughter of double losers Rivkah Lees-Levinson and Ben Aronin — 125 ink spots between them — inspired the winning “air bid” in Week 1511 of The Style Invitational (full results here).

It turns out that Sylvie, who just started her freshman year at daycare in Northwest Washington, is still a little young to be bringing home finger paintings and pipe cleaner crafts, but she did a great job of bringing home the trendiest disease of the season: respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Which – as all cool cubs do – she promptly gave it to Rivka and Ben. That was after Covid and before – like this week – the flu.

Hence Rivka’s winning “air quotes” entry for Week 1511: “RSVP: Yes, we would be delighted! And we’re going to bring little Makayla – don’t worry, her virus is almost better.”

The clown is Rivka’s first “big” award in the Invitational and her 14th inkblot overall. Spouse Ben, who has been inviting for many years longer, also got inked this week; his honorable mention for also close to home “In “flu”: An anti-vaxxer who does you go viral” is his 113th spot.

(Fun fact for Seder-goers: Have you ever seen, in an older haggadah, a parody of “Clementine” paraphrasing the passage about the Four Sons? That’s from … Ben Aronin! and I, our Ben is better with parodies.)

Completing the losers’ circle this week is veteran Ann Martin, whose “Wonderful evening!” gets the 100 Pooping Puppies puzzle (I’m pretty sure those are just pooping puppies and no actual product is shown), Transformative Rookie Karen Lambert (Fist “ICU”ffs) – three spots today gives her 59 inks in 39 weeks – and almost new: Al Lubran, who gets only his second spot of ink for participating (he suggested contests and donated a prize) for Formerly, how did you lose your wife Al has already joined the Loser community at two Loser events: the Elden Carnahan Honor Brunch and last weekend’s festivities at TopGolf.

Once again, Air Quotes is the competition that keeps on giving; I think this is the eighth time this game has been run in literally the same way. Like Rivka with RSV, many losers used current names, such as Ye and Xi and Oz and the Metaverse, and of course many current references in their descriptions – the parched “Sip” peepee, Trump’s “Save Me”. roared the PAC. All 47 ink entries this week also fit on the print page and there were no editorial objections to any of them.

What didn’t work as well? A few problems I noticed among the 1,500 entries (I didn’t look up who wrote any of these):

Misspelling of quoted word: Qu“err”ulous and A “cape”lla (something about a superhero) were among them. The records would not function as “er” or as “capella”.

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Referring to the wrong part of speech: If the main word is a noun, the description should be on the noun, not the word in parentheses. Contrary to this: Lot “har”io: Typical reaction of an unusual seducer. Clever idea, but the definition should refer to that ridiculous seducer instead. Similar: “Garb”ageman: Reflective Safety Vest.

Too much: Many people have sent something similar “Meh” Oz: He doesn’t seem to excite voters enough. Right, I know, how do you know what other people will post? That’s why you get 25 chances.

Without irony: If the inner word actually means what the main one does, it doesn’t work. Summa cum “laud”e: When parents gush about their child’s academic achievements. Another was the main idea for S’ick’ Humor.

It’s not said in a funny way, or doesn’t make any witty or amusing point or observation: “Employer”: A boss who uses fraud to keep his employees’ wages low. “Previously”: the former residence of the deposed priest.

It makes no real sense; it’s just about this match: “Oatmeal” Guardians: Rebels who demand organic granola when they’re locked up. [Update! I misspoke here: Author Judy Freed notes that the “Shaman” Oath Keeper had demanded organic food in jail. It would have tipped readers off better had it referred to “that insurrectionist who …”]

Too specific and localized: Spit On Y’s Pizza: Get it – or get a free extra topping! The participant explained that there was an outlet from Spitony’s Pizza in rural Warrenton, Virginia.

Too complicated; no one would read it: “p”i””r””a”t””e””” [“a” within “rat” within “rate” within “irate” within “pirate”]: That jerk who steals your cable and thus raises the prices for the whole neighborhood makes you angry.

We used it in previous matches: Jesse Frankovich got inked in 2019 with “Spur”ious: What were some draft delays. I saw that at least once this time, though not so well worded. Remember that you can view (and search) All The Invite Ever Written; just call up the All Invitational Text page on, the Losers’ own website (please wait a few seconds for it to load).

Airless: The Unprintables: Clever, but not:

C”hardon”nay: Who Says Alcohol Impedes Men’s Performance? (Jonathan Jensen)

Clea”vag”e: an appetizer that makes you think about the main course. (Tom Witt)

The Washington Post: The Nasty Newspaper Everyone Should Cancel Their Subscription To. (DT, Mar-a-Lago)

Oh, map day! (Part 2) Match for this week, Sunday 1515

Given that we did the same matchup 10 weeks ago, with cities in the United States and Canada, it should be pretty clear how to do Week 1515, in which we face Europe/Eurasia (ie, including Russia, Turkey and some former RBS like Armenia).

Here is the post for the 1505th week.

Once again, here’s the link to the list of 51 countries we use for eligible countries – and you can use cities from anywhere in the country, even the Asian part.

And if you want to think of jokes and then find cities for them, (click on “Cities”) will be a big help, although there are still Google-able cities that didn’t appear here; Bob Stake found Lost, Germany by Googling even though it didn’t appear in Geotarget. Thanks again to Randy Lee for sharing this helper.

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Some differences from last time:

– Foreign cities have more problems with pronunciation than American ones. As I said in the Invitation, I’m not looking for completely authentic excuses, especially if the city isn’t well known. For a fairly well-known city like Nice, France, I hesitate, but I probably won’t end up choosing ones that require us to pronounce it like the English word “nice” instead of “neece” – we don’t want to look ignorant.

– I don’t want this to turn into another headache of long strings of names. If you have such an array, have someone read it aloud to you and explain, without prompting, what you are trying to say. (Next January: “Common Legislation.” Then we’ll see about name strings.)

– Moscow or Moscow? With famous cities, I’d keep it to the English versions to make the joke more accessible, but the other one could work too. I won’t rule them out. (Don’t use non-computer Russian names for Ukrainian cities, please!) If the spelling is the same, don’t use the foreign pronunciation; if you use Paris, don’t expect the reader to think “Pare”.

— Put the names of the countries at the end of the entry, but this time do not use abbreviations; Post doesn’t abbreviate foreign countries, and the audio version of Invitations (click the “listen” icon just below the cartoon) really screwed up the country names.

NEW ENTRY FORM! Starting this week, I’m writing the contest entry form through Google Forms, rather than through The Post’s own, but soon-to-be retired, Sub-platform. I pretty much worked it out myself, basically copying the old one into various fields on the Form.

The shortened URL,[this week’s week number], will be the same, and as before, not subject to The Post’s paywall; you don’t need to subscribe to see it.

As before, there is only an open field (it may just look like a line) to put all your entries. You should now be able to use bold and italics. Please continue to use the one-line format (don’t press Enter in the middle of an entry) for regular entries and plain poetic form for songs and poems. It looks like the space between your entries won’t disappear like it has been on Sub lately – so that’s good!

Looks like I can save the blind judging. I should be able to download all the records of a table and then copy only the text field of the records, to sort and edit them. So your names will be totally invisible to me until the end of the process.

The entire Washington Post is converting to Google Forms and Microsoft Forms, so we’re all learning about ways to refine forms. For example, for now I’m asking you to just write your name and address; there is no way to use autofill.

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Let me know about your experiences with this form and feel free to ask about features I could add. Fingers crossed for this week!

Speaking of printable…

One ink entry last week – the competition was for poems with only one vowel – brought two outraged complaints from readers; it’s a good illustration of why some of our humor works better online than in print. The poem consists of three short lines, 17 syllables: a haiku of only E by Chris Doyle, in the wake of anti-Semitic rants and tweets by Kanye West, who now goes by Ye.

News is always news, Sez, “Every Jew is screwing me.” The less yes, the better.

I had to convince an editor that Invite used the term “screw” many times, especially in a non-sexual sense. But that wasn’t the appeal.

The first, after the print edition, arrived on Sunday:

Please withdraw the invitation or the Kanye West section.

No person on the planet should think of him in any context other than anti-Semitism. And there is NO reason to joke at his expense.


“This is very anti-Semitic-. My family is very upset. “Every Jew is screwing me.” Apologies to everyone at POST and Pat Myers and Chris Doyle. [wife and husband’s names] “Long-time subscribers.”

As I always do to people who write – which is, to clarify, almost never – I wrote politely, explaining that The Style Invitational condemns Kanye West, not celebrates him, that we’ve condemned nasty people from Osama bin Laden to Vladimir Putin to Pol Pot. And then I realized what the confusion must have been: these readers didn’t recognize that the “Ye” in the third line was referring to Kanye West – so the song just let him whiz by and never got the last word.

Most people who still receive the print post are over 50 years of age. Chris Doyle himself is well over 50, but he remains relevant. It should have occurred to me that some older people might not get Chris’s point, and I should have just run it online, maybe with a link to Yes.

I have not heard from any of the letter writers.

Invitation for Wednesday next week!

As we do every Thanksgiving week, we will post the Invite online next Wednesday morning (perhaps a little later than the usual 10 or 10:15), as Sunday’s portion will be written that afternoon. Since this means I have to finish Sunday’s work 24 hours early – Bob is also going on vacation and needs work early – I’ll probably be pooped by Wednesday and probably won’t make the call.

So, wishing you the happiest and happiest of Thanksgivings – remember that always fun pastime with family-generated invitation entries.


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