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Joe the Punster Wins Neologism Contest

by Bob Levey

Joseph Ferry is the youngest of seven brothers. The family grew up in a town house in North Philadelphia, and as you might expect, the dinner table was a scene of debate, conjecture, fantasy, feuds, you name it.

"I credit my upbringing in that Algonquin Round Table milieu," said Joe, as he chowed down on a sumptuous victory lunch at La Colline. What he meant was that those dinners of long ago are what made him a neologism winner.

Like 3,000 fellow wordsmiths, Joe tried his hand at the July version of our monthly make- up-a-word contest. He and the others faced this challenge:

The new spouse of your former spouse is your...

Joe's winning entry:


What a cute merger of "asunder" (which is what happened to Marriage One) and "understudy" (which is what Spouse One is sure to consider Spouse Two)! I knew it was a winner as soon as I saw it.

So did Joe, according to Joe. "I just had a feeling," he told me, after riding Amtrak down from his home in Erdenheim, Pa., to claim his prize.

Our winner is a lawyer who specializes in litigation. He graduated from Notre Dame, served with the military in Korea, ran his own insurance agency and became a lawyer at age 40. Throughout it all, he has been a punster – a key quality for winning this contest.

One of Joe's favorites: His mother-in-law had her hair done by the same man for 30 years. One day, the stylist called to cancel their standing weekly appointment. The mother-in-law asked Joe what she should do.

"I'd give him a permanent wave," Joe said.

Of such bons mots are neologistic victories made. Congratulations to a worthy winner.

Almosts and Nearlies for July were:

Bedfollow: Dan Traub.

Newrewed: Former champ Karen E. Holt, of Charlottesville.

Second Beau-nana: Clarence M. Johnson, of Beltsville.

NemMrs. (and similar forms): Mary E. Hukill, of Annandale, Tom Judy, of Northwest Washington, Anne Sullivan and Loretta Farb.

Sexcessor (and similar forms): Dan Winograd, of Reston, first, then several more just like his.

Retwed: Kate Ferry, of Erdenheim, Pa.

Spousestitute: Samuel M. Mecum, of Lancaster, Pa.

Secondeary: Sandra Jean Lee.

Significant Druther: Former champ Tom Witte, of Gaithersburg.

Recyclamate: Martin Cristopher, of Orangeburg, N.Y., and Joseph L. Healy, of Silver Spring.

Escapegoat: Former champ Nancy Sias, of Carroll Valley, Pa.

Exed-of-Kin: Jacquelin E. Masotti, of Nellysford, Va.

Altar Re-go: Wendy Jordan first, then a cast of thousands (all right, dozens).

Ex-Phile: Last month's champ, Jim Doss, of Northwest Washington.

Condolee: John Chapman.

Next-of-Him: Suzanne Gesin, of Arlington.

Stolemate: Mary Sexton.

Other-in-Law: Gene Cowgill, of Gaithersburg.

Nagstitute: Andy Bramnick.

Loathe-ario: Andrew Spitzler.

Numansurpator: P.J. Siegel, of Greenbelt.

Salvation!: The team of Carren Oler and Rita Pancik.

Err Apparent: Andrew Hartness, of Gaithersburg.

Relief Hitcher: Stephen Fama, of New Cumberland, Pa., Gary Hunt, of New Market, Md., and Mike Springirth, of Olney.

Sucker-in-Law (Once Removed): Jeffrey W. Stehr, of College Park.

Newfoundman: George Justice.

PreMarital's Hex: Darla Sova.

Exfollyant: Phil Frankenfeld, of Northwest Washington.

'Nother-in-Law: Neal Miller, of Portland, Ore.

I-Do-Plicate: Laura Cocozzella.

Replacemate: Jared Asmus, of Orem, Utah, then 11 more just the same.

Snubstitute: Theresa Root.

Alimoanee: Nanci A. Burns.

And finally, Savior: Alex Gershman.

Very strong, gang. Let's see how you hold up in the heat of August as you consider this month's challenge. It's based on a suggestion by Ray Howe, of Bethesda:

Bill Clinton is not technically a lame duck president, because his successor hasn't been elected. So Mr. Clinton should correctly be called a... (Click to see winning entries)

First prize is better than spending the night in the Lincoln Bedroom: a free lunch, at a restaurant of the winner's choice, in or sensibly close to 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 August contest must be received by Aug. 31.

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

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