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Sneakers Point Geri Toward Neologism Glory

by Bob Levey

Oh, how I love it when life imitates art. But in Geri Faron's bedroom one recent evening, neologism-creation imitated life.

Geri had just gotten home from work, where she logs an average of eight miles a day on her feet. She took off her sneakers. They have Velcro fasteners.

One of the fasteners stuck to the carpet. Geri r-r-r-r-ripped it free.

Then and only then did she pick up the newspaper and take a look at the July instalment of Levey's monthly neologism contest. Bingo, a brainstorm "just came to me, just like that," she said. When it came to me the next morning, by fax, I immediately said: "Winner!"

The July challenge, to which Geri and approximately 3,000 fellow word maker-uppers responded, was:

The sound that you make when you pull two strips of Velcro apart is called...

Geri's winning coinage:

A velch.

No, you probably never have thought about it. But if you close your eyes and focus, the r-r-r-r-ripping sound of Velcro separation really does sound like a Velcro-ized belch. It may not be our prettiest winner ever, but it's one of the most apt.

Our winner lives in Fort Washington. She's a Jill of all trades for Andrews LeFleur Florist in Camp Springs. She does the books, sweeps the floors, delivers bouquets, takes orders on the phone, whatever needs finishing.

Geri has lived in nearby Prince George's County since she moved there from New York at the age of 5. A graduate of Crossland High School, Geri did office work for lawyers, real estate developers, architects, lobbyists and trade associations in downtown Washington for more than 25 years. She has been a florist for the last two.

Like so many of our winners over the centuries, Geri is a dyed-in-the-wool "wordie." She does the crossword puzzle every day, in ink.

"Sure, I goof up, all the time," she said, over her victory lunch of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and carrot shavings at M&S Grill. "But I just write over it."

You write over errors in ink?

"If I used pencil, now that would be a mess," she said.

The work of a crisp mind, wouldn't you agree? After reading her neologism, I'd say it's a sure thing.

Congratulations to Geri for a fine word. And many thanks to Jane McKain of Crownsville, Betty Y. Edge of Alexandria, Sam Mecum of Lancaster, Pa., and former champ Cathy Smith Caviness of Clifton, who submitted the same word as Geri, only later. By our rules, Geri and only Geri takes home the blue ribbon.

Almosts and Nearlies for July were:

Ripppppture: Phil Frankenfeld of Northwest Washington and Kerry Bzdyk of Round Hill.

Severwince: Karen Kenworthy.

Dissewnance: Jan Verrey.

Raspture: Karen Kenworthy again.

Seizura: Ms. Kenworthy again.

Riparation: Carolyn Mitchell of Columbia first, then many, many others.

Rip-Pull Effect: Edith and Alan Stein of Silver Spring and Peter V. Norden of New York City.

Velcry: Karen Kenworthy yet again.

Adhissy Fit: John Held.

In the same gaseous spirit as the winner, Fiberp: Nancy Ferris of Alexandria.

Split Scream: Mary Hornsby of Normandy Park, Wash.

Arrivedershriek: Mary Hornsby again.

Velcroan: Former champ Janet M. Gritz of Silver Spring.

Desnatchment: Alisha Pennix.

Seam-phonia: Mike Goldberg of North Potomac.

Velcrip: Nami Huggins of Fairfax, then 14 others a little later.

Ripapar-ar-ar-tee-ee: Clarence M. Johnson of Beltsville.

Claspberry: Nancy Ferris again.

Raspody: Nancy Ferris a third time, followed by battalions of identical submissions from others.

And Raspsewdy: Recent champ Sidney Secular of Silver Spring, followed by even more battalions.

Nice wordsmithing, gang. Let's see if more of the same awaits as you train your brains on the August challenge. It is:

The waitress brings you your dinner. As she sets the plate before you, she warns you not to touch it because it's verr-r-ry hot. But as soon as she leaves, you touch the plate anyway (usually much to your regret). The habit of touching a plate you've been warned not to touch is called... (Click to see winning entries)

First place is even hotter than a plate that's just come out of a microwave: a free lunch, at a restaurant of the winner's choice, in or sensibly near Washington. Levey will be along for the ride to make sure you don't touch your plate at the wrong moment.

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 August contest must be received by Aug. 30.

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


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