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'Carkiss' Makes Her a Winning Wordsmith

by Bob Levey

"I'm really a good driver," said Rebecca Jackson's voice, as we shook hands goodbye. Her face said, "Please don't make me look bad in the newspaper."

How could I, when Rebecca is such an accomplished word-coiner? She has just proven it by carting off first prize in the February version of our monthly neologism contest.

The challenge, to which Rebecca and about 3,000 fellow wordsmiths responded, was:

They are ugly, black and plentiful – those scrape marks left on pillars in underground parking garages by drivers who aren't quite as deft at maneuvering a car as they might think. The scrape marks are called...

Rebecca's winning answer:


That's a cute "turn" on "carcasses," which is what cars threaten to become when their drivers sideswipe pillars. My neologism radar knew "carkisses" was a winner right away.

Corey Gass, of Arlington, Les Ralston, of Northwest Washington, and Mark Brown Perry knew it, too. They filed the same entry, but later than Rebecca. By our rules, she and she alone stands in the winner's circle.

Our February champ is a marketing consultant. Although she is only 33, she has dabbled in several different employment ponds, having done time in law and advertising before settling on her current field. She has spent the last three years as a consultant to the Association of Electric Cooperatives in Arlington.

Rebecca grew up in Fairfax and graduated from Chantilly High School. She's married to Larry Tanenbaum, and she's the mother of Alexis (4) and Ross (2).

Perhaps most pertinently, Rebecca once left a carkiss.

She was maneuvering through a parking lot in the family's Explorer when she mashed a side-view mirror against a pillar. It dangled from a wire all the way home – and it left a major league dark smudge on the pillar.

The mirror cost $254 to fix, but the incident indirectly won her a victory lunch of seared tuna and black coffee at D.C. Coast. Sympathy for the first; congratulations for the second.

Almosts and Nearlies for February were:

Carbungles: Jim Kyser, of Dumfries, then dozens more.

Bumperrs: Dennis Millner, of Manassas.

Autoglyphs: Hans Kurt Buettner, of Fairfax and (with a similar form) Martin A. Healey, of Manassas.

Pingerpaintings: Susan Mayer, of Kigali, Rwanda.

Bop Art: Becky Reickel, of Walkersville, Md.

Ebonicks: Lynn Main, of Bethesda, and Joseph Ferry, of Erdenheim, Pa.

Stigmauto: Mary Frances Ryan.

Detrautos: Vandana Madhavan, of Charlottesville.

Vericlose Stains: Dave Buckley.

SUVeneers: Jonathan Levine and Joseph Ferry again.

Dingerprints: Jacqueline Duby, of Bethesda, Marshall Soltz and Susan Mayer again.

Carpillaries: Linda Potts, of Oak Hill, Va.

Scuffiti: Shannon Cole, of Alexandria, and Greg Dobbins, of Arlington.

Carsignoma: Glenn Halterman, of Provo, Utah.

Abrakesions: Rosalind Hopenfeld, of Rockville.

Cartusions: Former champs Melissa Yorks and Joe Bangiolo, with the help of Lois Bangiolo, all of Gaithersburg.

BLAMishes: Former champ Jayne Townend.

Faux-parks: Howard Harrell.

Can't-er-pillars: Former champ Janet M. Gritz, of Silver Spring.

Steeringweals: Nick Flokos, of McLean.

Berth Marks: Former champ Zane Schauer, of Annapolis, Sam Mecum, of Lancaster, Pa., and Peter Mclintock.

Steeringdoo: David Torrealba, of Northwest Washington.

Axledentals: Phyllis Vestal.

Columnities: Ralph Kuehne, of Frederick, Md., and (with a similar form) Cyndi Reeser.

Pole Faults: Leigh Giza, of Centreville.

Steerrhoids: Jamie King, of Bowie.

Carpaintry: Sue Routhier.

Carnishes: Bob Milner.

Mark-O-Pole-O's: George Justice, then a dozen more.

Incompedents: Former champ Jean K. Gill, of Oak Hill.

And Rubbernicking: Mark and Sharon Gilder, of Gaithersburg, ahead of six others.

Excellent, neologists! Now that you're warmed up (and the weather is, too), let's take aim at the March challenge, which is:

Regardless of age and marital status, every male does it. When he's introduced to an attractive woman, he sucks in his gut and puffs out his chest. This deeply rooted reflex is called... (Click to see winning entries)

First prize is just as deeply rooted. It's a free lunch, at a restaurant of the winner's choice, in or sanely 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) and e-mail ( 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 March contest must be received by March 31.

© 2000 Bob Levey (
This article is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

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