July 20, 2010

Roget and Me

In my search for the just the right word, I often turn to Roget’s Thesaurus, which is a great resource but has the potential to distract me. For example:

Look up “sat”. See “Satan” at top of page. Find synonyms and antonyms for “the devil”. Notice "Beelzebub".

Am reminded of the Washington Post's Mensa Invitational reworking of the word and search old emails until I find it: Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

Re-read the rest (**see below) and have a good laugh. Return to thesaurus. See Loki under subheading “fallen angels”. Hey, wasn’t that the spirit that possessed Jim Carrey in “The Mask”?

By now, I’ve forgotten why I opened Roget’s in the first place. And I wonder why my word count for the day is so low!

**The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational asks readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing of one letter, and supply a new definition. The 2005 winners were:
*Cashtration: The act of buying a house, which renders  the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
 *Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and a butthead.
 *Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
 *Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
 *Bozone: The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating.
 *Caterpallor: The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.
 *Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
 *Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
 *Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
 *Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.
 *Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease (This one got extra credit.)
 *Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
 *Decafalon: The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
 *Glibido: All talk and no action.
 *Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
 *Arachnoleptic fit: The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.


  1. ROFL!!!! These are hysterical, Kathryn. I can't even pick my favorite, but intaxication, sarchasm and ignoranus are right up there.

    And I love your title. How could someone who loves words not be distracted by Roget's? :)

  2. You are hilarious!! That sounds exactly like what happens to me!!

    And those definitions are too funny! Smart people, those mensa-ites! :)

  3. The new definitions are lovely!

  4. Actually, there isn't any "Mensa Invitational," but The Washington Post does have a wonderfully clever humor contest called The Style Invitational. And two Invitational contests from 1998 are the sources of many of the neologisms in the list above. (But not all: For example, "decafalon" isn't a one-letter change from "decathlon," is it? Or "caterpallor"?)

    Much better to see the the current Invitational -- every week at washingtonpost.com/styleinvitational. We've had more than 600 contests since the ones above! The Style Invitational is published every Saturday in The Post's Style (features) section, and every Friday afternoon at about 3:30 Eastern time. There are neologism contests regularly, but also lots of other sources of humor as well.

    For example, here are some of the top winners of our June 26 contest to change the title of a movie by one letter and describe the new "plot":

    Four Weldings and a Funeral: A man attaches a set of rocket engines to his Chevy and momentarily achieves his dream of driving a flying car. (Gary Crockett, Chevy Chase, Md.)

    Golfdinger: Elin Nordegren offers tips on club selection when addressing a difficult lie. (Mark Eckenwiler, Washington)

    The Blair Itch Project: Amateur filmmakers realize that before shooting in the woods, they should have learned what poison ivy looks like. (Deborah Gilbert, Rixeyville, Va.)

    Watch Me if You Can: Betty White plays an octogenarian pole dancer. (Judith Cottrill, New York)

    See the rest of the winners and learn how to enter the current contest at washingtonpost.com/styleinvitational. Or you can become a fan of "Washington Post Style" on Facebook (go to facebook.com/wapostyle ) and you'll get a link to the Invitational when it's posted. I hope you become a regular reader and maybe even a regular entrant.

    Best, The Empress of The Style Invitational

    The Washington Post

  5. VR: Yep, those are my favorites, too.

    Heidi: At least Roget's is a classy distraction.

    Mystica: Glad you liked them.

    Empress: Never realized the email was a hoax until your response, and didn't look at it carefully enough to discover all the words didn't follows the "one letter change" rule. Still funny, though. Thanks for the clarification.

  6. These are hilarious, Kathryn! I can't decide which I find funnier Ignoranus or Sarchasm.

  7. Stephanie: I suspect one goes hand in hand with the other. ;-)


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