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Style Conversational Week 1489: Switching one switch for another

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Hi, everyone! It’s last call for RSVP to the Flushies in Potomac, Md., on Saturday, May 21, 1 to 5 (structured festivities in the middle hours). Though the forecast is for one of those D.C. hot ’n’ humid afternoons, host Steve Leifer has his indoor pool beckoning; it’s right next to the patio where we’ll be potlucking and awarding and triviagaming and parodysinging. So bring a swimsuit if you’d like. (I’ll have to see what I have in the way of swim tiaras.)

I’m especially excited that close to a dozen Losers and Style Invitational Devotees will be attending their first Flushies, or even their first Loser event. This is the Loser Community’s 26th annual awards “banquet,” and I think this one is my 20th. It goes without saying that you have to be totally vaccinated, and while we’re outside, feel free to mask up. We didn’t Flush in 2020, but last year’s event — at the same lovely home of the ultra-gracious Steve (the Loser) and Jackie (the very good sport) Leifer — went off beautifully, and no one caught anything except for a Nerf-type human brain that was tossed from Loser to Loser during the solemn award ceremonies.

If you have found your way to This Secret Page, unknown even to 99.99 percent of Washington Post staff, and are still reading, then you are indeed invited. Here’s the Evite; for the exact house address, contact me at and include “Flushies” in the subject line so I’ll notice it.

Can’t make it? Live in Nepal, Venezuela, Gaithersburg? You’re in luck (if all goes well): Loser Sarah Walsh has volunteered to live-stream the presentation/singing part of the day to the Devotees group starting about 2:30 Eastern time, and it’ll be recorded for future viewing as well. And I hope to share some clips right here in next week’s Conversational.

Swap meets*: This week’s new contest — and this week’s results

*A headline submitted by several Losers for Week 1485

It was a coincidence — or at least I didn’t consciously plan it — that both this week’s new contest, Style Invitational Week 1489, and this week’s results of Week 1485 involve rearranging elements of a word, name or title; this time you’ll rearrange the words of a movie title to make a new one, while 1485 asked the Losers to switch the positions of just two letters. But there’s another significant difference between the two contests.

For about half the entries in Week 1485 I took the unusual step of showing what the original word/name was, followed by the alteration and then the description. I avoid spelling out jokes as a rule, but in a number of cases, switching two letters (usually far apart) made it surprisingly hard to notice the original — and that transformation itself was cool. Witness Barrett Swink’s LEGO > GELO, toys that make it much safer to go barefoot in your kid’s room; and Marli Melton’s COMPUTER > ROMPUTEC, a device exclusively for dating apps. The goal is to let readers enjoy the cleverness of the transformation without making them work through it like a puzzle, but also without beating them over the head with obviousness.

Looking over the results again, I think that most of the inking entries, especially phrases, didn’t need the help, but I also don’t think it weakened the joke, and I didn’t want to go back and forth between the two types. And of course, this week’s winner, Frank Osen’s TODAY > TOADY, simply wouldn’t have worked without showing both words.

But for Week 1489, the shuffling of the words in a movie title, I am not going to show the original, just as I didn’t back in 2013 in Week 1008, and just as my predecessor, the Czar, didn’t in 2003 in Week 524. So don’t just dig up some obscure Western from 1938 that would make a funny rearranged phrase, because the reader won’t sense the transformation (and see, even if I did list this unknown title beforehand, there’s no fun in seeing it). This doesn’t mean it has to be a brand-new movie; it just has to be reasonably well known to the public.

Another thing: Given today’s franchise releases, there are lots of titles that contain opening phrases and such. You don’t have to use the technically complete title of the movie; you could say “The Phantom Menace” rather than “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace.” But you don’t get to just drop inconvenient words from the main part of the title because it didn’t work for your new name. (And of course you may use the full title.)

And yet another thing: Your humor has to derive from the rearranging of the words; if your joke works just as well with the original title, no ink.

You have lotsa guidance this time because both previous contests generated lotsa ink. The movies they’re playing off aren’t off limits for this contest, but you obviously can’t use the same jokes. Here are both sets of results. First from the 2013 contest:

Report from Week 1008, in which we asked you to rearrange the words of a movie title and describe the resulting new film:

The winner of the Inkin’ Memorial: The Kwai on the River Bridge: Barbara Walters narrates a moving story of two lovers saying goodbye above the Seine. (Roy Ashley, Washington)

2. Ralph It, Wreck!: A less-than-compassionate sidekick counsels a rock star through her latest drinking binge. (Frank Osen, Pasadena, Calif.)

3. Rich Little, Poor Girl: An aging impressionist tricks young women into blind dates by imitating Ryan Gosling, Daniel Craig, George Clooney and Justin Bieber. (Dan O’Day, Alexandria, Va., a First Offender)

4. Wonderful? It’s a Life: Grandpa Irving pooh-poohs being in the Greatest Generation. (Ellen Ryan, Rockville, Md.)

In Translation: Lost — honorable mentions [subhead by Kevin Dopart]

About 10, I Hate You Things: The story of a frazzled day-care provider. (Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

The Spider, Amazing, Man: Cheech and Chong contemplate their pet tarantula. (Jerry Birchmore, Springfield, Va.)

The Fear of Wages: A hedge fund manager has nightmares about having his income taxed like his secretary’s. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

How Stella Got Her Back Groove: Dangers of a wrinkled mattress pad. (Ellen Ryan)

Sarah Forgetting Marshall: Ms. Palin attempts to name all the black Supreme Court justices in U.S. history. (Mike Gips, Bethesda, Md.)

High Times at Ridgemont Fast: Hilarity ensues when David and Sara smuggle marijuana into Yom Kippur services. (Doug Wadler, Potomac, Md., a First Offender)

The Presidents: All Men: A 2017 film about the way things used to be. (Janelle Gibb, Rockville, Md., a First Offender) [Sigh.]

The Queen — African?: Birthers challenge Elizabeth II. (Jane Auerbach, Los Angeles)

The Mile Green: A documentary about the world’s most difficult Putt-Putt hole. (Jason Russo, Annandale, Va.)

Who’s Dinner Coming To? Guess!: Sadistic parents pit siblings against each other at mealtimes. (Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

Weeks Later, 28: Innocently enough, parents get their daughter two mice for Christmas … (Brendan Beary)

From Eternity to Here?: A Buddhist dung beetle contemplates how big a jerk he must have been in his previous life. (Christopher Lamora, Guatemala City)

Talk, Pillow!: A lonely woman wishes her most intimate partner would just love her back. (Kathye Hamilton, Annandale, Va.)

Lovers of the Last Red Hot: Two amorous moviegoers share the piece of candy stuck at the bottom of the package. (Jeff Loren, Manassas, Va.)

Paris Last in Tango: Sobbing and screaming, Hilton bombs on “Dancing With the Stars.” (Brian Allgar, Paris)

Jedi of the Return: An elite group of consumers gets full refunds on unwanted merchandise — without the original store receipts! (Bonnie Speary Devore, Gaithersburg, Md.)

Girl Wants a What?: Dad thinks he’s taking his daughter to Piercing Palace to get her ears done, but Little Princess has other ideas … (Brendan Beary)

Wants What? A Girl?: Gay dads face the reality that their figure-skater son is straight. (Pam Sweeney, Burlington, Mass.)

Austin Man: Mystery of International Powers: Rick Perry realizes he only has until 2016 to learn something about world events. (Brendan Beary)

Iron the Lady: An evil dermatologist finds a new way to rid women of wrinkles. (Tzvia Berrin-Reinstein, Boston, a First Offender)

Can’t You Take It With You?: Woman hopes to get rid of boyfriend and ugly couch all at once. (Susan Thompson, Cary, N.C.)

Dirty the Dozen: The Rugrats struggle to adapt to training pants. (Russell Beland, Fairfax, Va.)

Place Peyton to Return: The Denver Broncos shock fans by putting their quarterback on special teams. (Elizabeth Kline, Frederick, Md., a First Offender)

Do the Thing Right: After 30 years of marriage, Louise decides to give Hank some feedback on his performance. (Jeff Brechlin, Eagan, Minn.)

The Hunter Deer: Bambi changes his name to Bambo and seeks revenge. (Gary Crockett)

Sing? Sing in 20,000 Years: A documentary that answers the question “When should Kathie Lee Gifford sing?” (William C. Kennard, Arlington, Va.)

The Lightness of Being Unbearable: Self-help video on how to become less tense by telling people what you really think of them. (Barrie Collins, Long Sault, Ontario)

Me Stand By: Cookie Monster loiters outside a Pepperidge Farm factory. (Robert Schechter, Dix Hills, N.Y.)

Washington Goes to Mr. Smith: The nation’s capital is auctioned off to cut the deficit. (Rob Cohen, Potomac, Md.)

Sixty Gone in Seconds: The hall is almost full when Joe Biden starts his speech, but .?.?. (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park, Md.)

Eight Out Men: Major League Baseball is scandalized, until everyone promptly gets over it. (Nancy Schwalb, Washington)

Show the Truman!: The alleged coverup in the search for a new Nationals mascot (Craig Dykstra, Centreville, Va.)

I Shrunk the Kids’ Honey: New York Mayor Bloomberg starts limiting container sizes for ALL sweet consumables. (Trevor Kerr, Chesapeake, Va.)

Kids, I Shrunk the Honey: One family manages just fine on unsweetened tea. (James Kruger, Butha-Buthe, Lesotho, a First Offender)

50 Dates First: Sally starts to wonder if she might be waiting a little too long before “putting out.” (William Verkuilen, Brooklyn Park, Minn.)

Good Hunting, Will: Prince Charles sends his son to Dick Cheney’s ranch for a long weekend. (Andrew Ballard, London)

And Last: Dog the Wag: The never-ending pursuit of a Style Invitational Loser by his obsessed fans. (The Famed Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn, Va.)

Plus a couple from the year-end do-over contest:

Sheba, Come Back Little: A man sends his spouse to a fat farm. (Howard Walderman, Columbia, Md.)

Club Dallas Buyers: When a Black Friday riot breaks out, Texas mall cops take matters into their own hands. (Mark Raffman)

And from the Czar in 2003, his last year of Czarring (note that this one also includes books):

Results from Week 524, in which you were asked to scramble the words of any book or movie, and come up with a new product.

An extraordinary week; great entries, and in great numbers. Good ideas too popular to reward with prizes: Ferris Bueller’s Off-Day (a boring movie); Mr. Washington Goes to Smith (the father of our country as a cross-dresser); The Rye in the Catcher (a documentary on alcoholism in sports), and The Wrath of Grapes (various vegetal revenge scenarios).

Sixth Runner-Up: “The Brief Pelican”: Impressed with the success of the Aflac Duck, the Hanes underwear company signs a new mascot. (Gene McMath, Reston)

Fifth Runner-Up: “Kampf Mein”: And other German-Chinese recipes. (Bob Wallace, Reston)

Fourth Runner-Up: “Space A: 2001 Odyssey”: Student filmmakers park a two-year-old Honda minivan in Daniel Snyder’s reserved spot at FedEx Field and recount the action as it unfolds. (Malcolm Fleschner, San Mateo, Calif.)

Third Runner-Up: “You Are 54: Where Car?”: A senior moment strikes in a parking garage. (Julie Thomas and Will Cramer, Herndon; Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.) [This is one of my favorite entries ever — it just cracks me up every time.]

Second Runner-Up: “French the Lieutenant’s Woman”: The enlisted man’s guide to courts-martial. (Frank Mullen III, Aledo, Ill.)

First Runner-Up: “Who the Man Shot Liberty Valance?”: In this sequel, Superfly Valance arrives from Chicago to avenge his brother’s death. (Tom Kreitzberg, Silver Spring)

And the winner of the log containing a diorama containing a plastic fawn:

“What? Did Daddy Do You in the War?” A young girl learns of her father’s overseas affair when a Korean woman comes looking for him. (Russell Beland, Springfield)

Love Thing: A Many-Splendored “Is”: Bill Clinton’s guide through the pitfalls of romance and semantics. (Mary Ann Henningsen, Hayward, Calif.)

Dogs’ Reservoir: Documentary on house pets and their fascination with drinking from the toilet. (Kevin Doherty, Manassas Park)

Heat Body: Episode 1 in the suspenseful trilogy “Reviving Ted Williams.” Coming soon: “Episode 2: Attach Head.” (Jeff Kraus, Ashburn)

The Red Man with One Shoe: The story of Nikita Khruschchev. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

OK Gunfight at the Corral: One thumb up for this B-movie western. (Tom Kreitzberg, Silver Spring)

Enemy Behind-Lines: A workout book to eliminate butt wrinkles. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Asphalt the Jungle: Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” becomes a feature film. (Stephen Dudzik, Olney)

Powers of Austin Man: International Mystery: How the governor of Texas became president of the United States. (Brian Lochrie and Jennie Reiff, Lake Forest, Calif.)

Private-Saving Ryan: The touching story of a man who decided to wait till marriage. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Ted’s Excellent Bill and Adventure: A day in the life of a senator from Massachusetts who passes an important piece of legislation AND scores with an intern. (Art Grinath, Takoma Park)

Wrong! She Done HIM!: A Clinton apologist reviews the Monica affair. (Chris Doyle, Forsyth, Mo.)

F.J.K.: In this documentary, disappointed Harry Potter fans complain about the author. (David Vacca, Washington) [I’m surprised they let this into the paper 19 years ago.]

You Were Always Afraid to Know About Everything to Ask, But Wanted Sex: A teenage angst coming-of-age sequel. (William Spencer, Exeter, N.H.)

Out? No Way!: A biopic on the life of Rock Hudson. (Glen Crawford, Germantown)

From Dawn Till Dusk: The most boring vampire picture ever. (Steven J. Allen, Manassas)

Dalmatians 101: Everything you wanted to know about these fascinating dogs. In black and white. (Marcia Asquith, Washington)

The Lightness of Being Unbearable: The Richard Simmons story. (Drew Knoblauch, Falls Church)

The Virtues of Book: Bill Bennett’s guide to Vegas gambling. (Chris Doyle, Forsyth, Mo.) [This story had just broken about President George W. Bush’s secretary of education and the author of the best-selling “Book of Virtues”]

The Man Who Mistook His Hat for a Wife: The sequel to “Portnoy’s Complaint.” (Jonathan Kaye, Washington)

Big Wedding, My Fat Greek!: The behind-the-scenes story of Jackie’s ultimatum to Onassis. (Judith Cottrill, New York)

The Titanic Raise: Dick Grasso’s guide to negotiating your salary. (Carl Northrop, Fairfax)

Life: It’s a-Wonderful: The Lawrence Welk Story. (Joe Cackler, Falls Church) [Joe was a high school student! He learned about Lawrence Welk from an aunt or grandma.]

Stupid With I.M.: A sociological study on how computer chatting is ruining our children’s minds. (Kelli Midgley-Biggs, Columbia)

She-Him Done Wrong: The true story of a botched sex change operation. (Steven L. Harris, Mountain View, Calif.) [Well, that’s an entry we wouldn’t run these days.)

Pizza Mystic: It’s the mushrooms. (Barbara Turner, Takoma Park)

Phantom Wars Episode Menace the One-Star: A brigadier general tries to avoid becoming the scapegoat for America’s failure to find the weapons of mass destruction. (David Vacca, Washington)

The Earnest Being of Importance: John Ashcroft’s life and times. (Jeff Brechlin, Potomac Falls)

The Too Much Man: Who Knew! A jockey continually surprises his dates. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Black at Bad Rock Day: A young African American tries to make sense of Ozzfest 2003. (Tom Witte, Gaithersburg)

Can Me If You Catch: Charlie the Tuna taunts the Old Man in the Sea. (Nick and Chris Sibilla, Reston; Michael Gips, Bethesda)

Left? My Foot! The Democratic presidential candidates squabble over who’s the most liberal. (Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

Escape From the Apes of the Planet: A single gal struggles with the dating scene. (Brendan Beary, Great Mills, Md.)

Blue Devil in a Dress: High jinks ensue when the Duke basketball team fields a transvestite power forward. (David Vacca, Washington)

Bride of the Father: The unauthorized biography of Soon-Yi Previn. (Larry Cynkin, Kensington)

Formatting: From this week’s entry form:

“Please begin each entry with the name of your rearranged movie, followed by your description on the same line (i.e., don’t hit the Enter key in the middle of an entry). This will let the Empress sort similar entries together. You DON’T have to include the original title because if it’s not clear to me in your entry, I won’t use it anyway. (So it’s not a good idea to play on obscure titles.)”

So how about today’s ink! So much to choose from among about 1,500 entries for the week. In virtually all cases, the original and switched words were related in some way. So I didn’t use, say, BOOKKEEPER > KOOK BEEPER in an entry about QAnon that had nothing to do with bookkeeping. Some people didn’t make an exact switch of positions between words; in THE EASTER BUNNY > THE TEASER BUNNY (it hides empty plastic eggs), the T moves to the front but the E doesn’t move to where the T was. A couple of people just scrambled the letters into total anagrams.

I don’t know how to check this factoid, short of looking at the results of every week since we’ve named our third and fourth Hall of Famers in 2002, but I’m thinking this very well could be the first Losers’ Circle filled by four Style Invitational Hall of Fame members. Together, Frank Osen, Tom Witte (of the 2002 HoF), Kevin Dopart and Duncan Stevens account for a ridiculous vat of Style Invitational ink — close to 5,000 blots among them. Call it a witload.

Frank Osen gets his second Clowning Achievement winner — he scored the first-ever Clowner in Week 1409 — but his 27th Invite win for TODAY > TOADY: It’s always at the top of Kevin McCarthy’s desk calendar. Frank lives in Southern California, and while I don’t think that the House for-now-minority leader is his own congressman in Pasadena, he’s close enough to wince.

What Pleased Ponch: Ace Copy Editor Ponch Garcia, filling in for vacationing AGAIN Ace Copy Editor Doug Norwood, cited a bunch of honorable mentions for his faves this week: Beverley’s Sharp’s DIMWIT > MIDWIT, “someone who’s not quite as dumb as you thought” Don Norum’s RUBBISH > BURBISH, “the faintest possible praise for a housing development”; Gary Crockett’s MY BIG AFT GREEK WEDDING, featuring Kim Kardashian; Chris Doyle’s TENFLIX, “a severely downsized movie streaming service, and Frank Mann’s IDIOT > IDIOT (”I switched the I’s!”). Frank’s entry was one of several that did the switch-the-same-letters joke, but he picked the best word.

And the Scarlet Letter: Preeety clever, but I don’t think printable in the Invite: ELECTORAL COLLEGE > CLEETORAL COLLEGE: Men with this education will get the popular vote. A tip of the hood to Craig Dykstra.

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