Since 1993, The Style Invitational, Washington Post’s leading word column, has been entertaining the masses with its clever and humorous writing contests. One of the challenges invited readers to take a word; add, subtract, or alter a letter; and supply the new term with a definition. To this day, the newspaper giant continues to receive new entries, leaving many staff members feeling pleasantly confused. I mean, nobody has confirmed that they’ve been pleasantly confused but considering how hilarious the original contenders were, I can only imagine the words the people of today have thought up. Let’s take a look at the some of the original submissions from 1998, shall we?
Sarchasm (n.): the gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the recipient who doesn’t get it
Have you ever seized an opportunity to make a snarky comeback on the Internet, only to have your joke fall flat on somebody who couldn’t recognize your sarcasm? The invisible, often uncomfortable distance that forms between you and your friend as a result of poorly translated sass is one that everyone can recognize. Tom Witte certainly did when he submitted this word to the contest, which landed the top spot among hundreds of applicants and granted future Internet users a term for one of their daily struggles.
Doltergeist (n.): a spirit that decides to haunt someplace stupid, such as your septic tank
I wish I could tell you why, out of all the fascinating and informative experiences I’ve had in my life, my brain chooses to retain ones that lack practical uses, like an encyclopedic knowledge of Danny Phantom villains, but I simply can’t. Instead, I can tell you that “The Box Ghost” was one of my favorites, because I found it fascinating that he chose to haunt boxes, out of all things in the world. David Genser must have had the same thought because he invented the word doltergeist to describe a dopey or “dolty” poltergeist.
Contratempts (n.): the resentment permanent workers feel toward the fill-in workers
Temps don’t have the most exciting jobs on the planet (unlike these people). Like substitute teachers or one-hit wonders, they accept positions with the understanding that eventually, they will have to move on. While this can, understandably, foster a certain bitterness in the hearts of temps, it can also trigger resentment in permanent workers, who aren’t granted the same sort of flexibility that temporary workers have. That, ladies and gentlemen, is contratempts.
Inoculatte (v.): to take coffee intravenously when you are running late
First came espresso. Then came Red Bull. Next come coffee IVs and caffeine patches, because in this coffee-addicted world, simply drinking a cup a day isn’t enough to help us survive this thing we call life. Now that we have a word for it, inoculatte, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes reality.
Goodzilla (n.): a giant lizard that puts out forest fires by stomping on them
Some villains are just misunderstood, and Godzilla, I think, is one of them. He never asked to be born a humongous, slimy monster after all and, with the right guidance, he might have even been able to put his strength to good use. That’s where Goodzilla comes in, the imaginary alter-ego of everyone’s favorite dinosaur that tries to save the world rather than destroy it.
Burglesque (n.): a poorly planned break-in
AKA, anything with these guys:
Karmageddon (n.): 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.
I don’t know who Meg Sullivan, the inventor of this word, is, but anyone who describes Armageddon as a “serious bummer” is someone I want to meet. However, as delightful as this definition is, it is also kind of vague. If I were to supply a new definition, I’d say that karmageddon is the result of too much negative karma that hits you all at once, making the situation you’re in feel like the end of the world.
Dopeler Effect (n.): the tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly
“It seemed like a good idea at the time” is almost always a result of the Dopeler Effect, which usually strikes under pressure or when you’ve had one too many martinis. Spontaneous people struggle with the Dopeler Effect all the time, not because they’re necessarily dopes, but because any idea can sound good if you’ve only put two seconds of thought into it.
Hindprint (n.): indentation made by a couch potato
You know you’ve been watching Netflix for too long when you get up to pursue a social life and the outline of your butt lingers on your selected seat cushion. Dave Zarrow perfectly describes this problem with his word hindprint. If you need an easier way to remember it, just think: it’s like a handprint, but for your behind.
This is where I would usually ask for your thoughts on the above words, but I have a better idea. What other words can you make by altering, adding, or subtracting a letter? Put them here and not in the Washington Post’s mailbox because they probably have enough unwarranted entries as it is.
Featured image via FatLucas.com.