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For Harold, Early-Morning Neologism Win

by Bob Levey

He bucked big odds, did Harold Ginsberg of Kensington. He had never entered our monthly neologism contest before. Nor does he own any pets. So he doesn't speak to pets in silly, squeaky voices.

But Harold's secret weapon was his habit of rising early. It led him to this column over breakfast, which led him to our make-up-a-word winner' s circle.

The March challenge, to which Harold and about 3,000 fellow word creators responded, was:

Oooooooooh, you're my baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaby! Heeeeeeere, honey sweetness snookums! The way people talk to pets is unlike the way they talk to anyone or anything else. The cutesy, sing-songy voice that people use to address pets is called...

Harold's winning entry:

Petois.

As if you couldn't tell, that's a neat adaptation of "patois," or crude dialect. As soon as I saw Harold's entry, I began to mumble "winner" (in a crude dialect, to be sure). I was still mumbling "winner" when the pile had shrunk to zero.

Yet Harold won only because his two sons, 4-year-old Michael and 2-year-old William, have made sleeping late an impossibility.

His entry was filed just before 8 a.m the day the contest appeared. Twenty-four fellow contestants filed the same entry within 48 hours. Four of them filed within 35 minutes of Harold.

If this keeps up, our contest will be a question of who has the fastest server, not the sharpest wit. However, our rules are clear: first to Bob's desk, first to the blue ribbon. Harold hacked first, so he laughs last.

Our winner is an assistant corporation counsel for the District of Columbia. He came to Washington to go to law school at Georgetown University and expected to return to his native New York afterward. But he has caught the capital bug – and the D.C. government bug.

Harold has worked as a trial lawyer for the city ever since law school. He spent three years trying abuse and neglect cases. Ever since, he has done civil work.

He chose La Colline for his victory lunch because he and his wife, Mindy Burke, had been meaning to try it for a special occasion. Put a check next to that task – and next to Harold's victory meal. He downed chicken noodle soup, ravioli, red wine and a chocolate dessert that I can't pronounce, much less digest.

A kingly feast for a kingly neologism. Congratulations!

Almosts and Nearlies for March were:

Pawsetto: Julie Zielaskiewicz.

Contralpo: Former champ Cathy Smith Caviness of Clifton.

Furnacular: Former champ Tom Witte of Gaithersburg, Barb Tanner of Ashburn and Susan West of Northwest Washington.

Animewling: M. Lee Bragg.

Spot-o-voce: Recent champ Sidney Secular of Silver Spring, Neil Shawen of Falls Church, Jan Verrey and Ruth Berman.

Rovernacular: Last month's champ, Loren Booda of Arlington.

Pawffery: Jan Verrey again.

Pawlaver: Jan Verrey yet again, along with Karen Kenworthy.

Doggerel: Robin Buchanan of Arnold, Al Lavender of Potomac, Saul Singer of Silver Spring, the team of Karen Ross and Noam Bernstein, Dan Freedman and (with a slightly different form) Ted Preisser.

Caninanity: Zora Margolis and Catherine Langrehr.

Fido-latry: Mike Bober of Arlington, Allison Butts of Gaithersburg, Sheva Farkas of Silver Spring, Spencer Gale and Catherine Langrehr again.

Bark-ticulation: Rick Cogswell of Chantilly.

Squeakingese: Rosemary Hidalgo of Falls Church.

Falspetto: Carl Schwan of Great Falls was the first of 43 who submitted it.

Paw-ly-faun-y: Mary Hornsby of Normandy Park, Wash.

Furbiage: Amy Michels.

Critter-patter: The team of Laurie Welch and Claire Teitelbaum.

Petzo-soprano: Former champ Marlene B. Cohen of Columbia and Mitchell Goldman.

Petdrooleum: Bill Mandle of Silver Spring.

Petwaddle: Eugene Carroll.

Fidoting: Liz White of Alexandria.

Voxpuppylie: Jack Carey of Bethesda, Ellen Loghran and Karen Kenworthy again.

Poochy Cooing: Betty Edge of Vienna and Karen Kenworthy yet again.

Catcophony: Wade Maldonado of Leonardtown.

And Collaratura: Carole Lyons of Arlington.

You're making this look easy, gang. Nice work. Let's see if the hum of your engines is as smooth as you confront the April challenge. It is:

"Back in 1943..." the veteran wife begins. "...We took a trip to Sheboygan," her veteran husband concludes. The ability of longtime spouses to finish each other's sentences is called... (Click to see winning entries)

First prize remains as constant as an old marriage: a free lunch, at a restaurant of the winner's choice, in or sensibly near Washington.

Contest rules: You may enter as often as you like, on one piece of paper or several. Joint entries are welcome. So are entries submitted by fax (202-334-5150) or e-mail (leveyb@washpost.com). Entries must bear day and evening phone numbers, including area code(s). All entries become my property. Entries will not be accepted by phone or returned. In case of duplicate winning entries, I'll choose the one I receive first.

Please mail entries to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071. Entries for the April contest must be received by April 30.

© 2002 Bob Levey (leveyb@washpost.com).
This article is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.


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