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'Tumfoolery': Karen's Neologism Winner

by Bob Levey

She said her husband never does it – and he was sitting right there to nod his agreement.

Nevertheless, Karen E. Holt has cleverly described a physical reflex for which men are famous. For that, she reigns as queen of our March neologism contest.

Each month, we invite readers to create a word to describe a given situation. The March challenge, which Karen and about 3,000 fellow coiners tried to meet, was:

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...

Karen's winning coinage:


Of course, that's a cute twist on "tomfoolery," which is a fair way to describe every male mating maneuver.

Luckily for Karen, she didn't tarry on the way to her e-mail account. The same entry was submitted less than six hours later by Rich Koffman, of Bethesda. Under our rules, victory goes to Karen. To your battle station earlier next time, Rich.

Our winner is director of the office of equal opportunity programs at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

She holds both a law degree and a PhD (in political science). A native of Paducah, Ky., she began her working life as a park ranger and naturalist. She has since worked as a lawyer, a teacher and now as an administrator. Her husband, John Gittleman, is a biology professor at U-Va.

Karen and John did time in Washington from 1983 to 1985, when she served as a lawyer at the Justice Department. As we sat down to her victory dinner, at Kinkead's, she said it was nice to see that some things in Washington never change. Levey is still hacking away, as he was then, and the neologism contest is still afloat, as it was then.

How else could Old Gray Hairs respond? He tucked in his tummy, pushed out his chest and said, "Thanks very much."

Congratulations to a worthy winner. More congrats to this month's gallery of Almosts and Nearlies:

Galisthenics: Fran DiLorenzo, of Springfield.

Inflatuation: John Crowley, of Brandywine.

Abpoplexy: Gayle Bach-Watson, of Mount Airy.

Embellyshment: Joseph A. Pappano, then about 30 more just like it.

Tumuppance: Former champ Everett Rice, of Columbia, and Andy Hait, of College Park.

Glandstanding: Zora Margolis.

Machosuction: Sally Schwob.

Dementia Peacocks: Len Greenberg, of Sterling.

Abs Solution: Stuart Rochester, of Burtonsville, Joseph Ferry, of Erdenheim, Pa., and Susan Turner.

Showvinism: Dennis Clary, then at least two dozen just like his.

Guyrations: Dennis Millner, of Manassas.

Homme Improvement: Maria Norton.

Meetchismo: Alan D. Lichtman, of North Bethesda.

Stagflation: Anne Palmer.

Strutegy: Edmundo Ortuzar.

Pecstacle: Jean D. Stewart, of Northwest Washington.

Pecaging: Greg Godowsky.

Egobics: Marvin Gast, of Arlington.

Hemancipation: Former champ Jayne Townend.

Waist Management: Doug Stemper.

Viewbris: Former champ Tom Witte, of Gaithersburg.

Lieposuction: Beth Benson, of Lanham, Clarence M. Johnson, of Beltsville, and the team of Camille and Charlie Scarborough.

Manity: Vast throngs. Poncho Harris was first.

Self-Conchestness: Becky Reickel, of Walkersville, Md.

Wishboarding: Phil Frankenfeld, of Northwest Washington.

Menopose: Gloria Spear, of Springfield, and Joyce Pueblo.

Optummism: Ernie Hanmer, of Cambridge, Md.

Big-Guylement: Kelly Erno.

Reabportionment: Jamie King, of Bowie.

And Chiccup: Mark Moretti, of Alexandria.

Really strong, gang. Let's test that strength anew with the April challenge, which was suggested by Janet Schoening, of Olney:

The first child born into most families ends up with a meticulously kept and thorough baby photo book. Siblings that follow never do as well. This phenomenon is called... (Click to see winning entries)

First prize remains as constant as skimpy photo albums for younger brothers and sisters: 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) 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 April contest must be received by April 28.

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

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