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Making up English Words

Posted by Claudio on December 20, 2010 in English Language |

For years an email has been circulating about the Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational which includes a very clever list of words made by changing common words.  It’s a hoax, because The Washington Post doesn’t really have such an invitational. Nevertheless, it’s a funny list and I enjoy it every time I see it. It has even inspired the website WashingtonPostsMensaInvitational.com which is collecting and publishing new submissions.

Since I have just received this e-mail for the n-th time today, I thought I put it up here as an inspiration for English teachers. It does make a fun presentation for your truly advanced English students. Depending on the age of your students, you may want to omit some of the entries. Then, have your students come up with their own list of modified words and their meaning. Laughter in your classroom will be guaranteed!

Here is the full e-mail:

The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are the winners:

  1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
  2. Ignoranus : A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
  3. Intaxicaton : Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
  4. Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
  5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
  6. Foreploy : Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid..
  7. Giraffiti : Vandalism spray-painted very, very high
  8. Sarchasm : The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
  9. Inoculatte : To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
  10. Osteopornosis : A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
  11. 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.
  12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
  13. Glibido : All talk and no action.
  14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
  15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a  spider web.
  16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
  17. Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

And the winners are:

  1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.
  2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.
  3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
  4. Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.
  5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.
  6. Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.
  7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.
  8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.
  9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.
  10. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.
  11. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.
  12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
  13. Pokemon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.
  14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
  15. Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
  16. Circumvent, n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men

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2 Comments

  • True, there isn’t a “Mensa Invitational,” but it’s not a hoax, either — 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, and lots of other sources of humor as well.

    For example, we asked readers recently to coin a new word or term that was a palindrome (it’s spelled the same backward and forward). Here are some of the top winners (results printed Oct. 16):

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

    EGADAGE: “Heck,” “darn,” etc. (Jeff Contompasis, Ashburn)

    NAMETAG-GATEMAN: The conference organizer who won’t let you enter until you’ve ruined your jacket with adhesive paper. (Dion Black, Washington)

    AMENEMA: Blessed relief. (Anne Morgan, Fairfax, a First Offender)

    DROWSYSWORD: Impotence. (Roy Ashley, Washington)

    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

    • Claudio says:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave this reply, Empress. Your clarification is greatly appreciated and the real invitational, The Style Invitational, is way cool! I have “liked” your Facebook page and look forward to future posts.

      Thanks again and Happy Holidays!

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