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To the Early Bird, the Neologism Worm

by Bob Levey

She has been married for 19 years, and neither she nor her husband has ever forgotten their anniversary. So that can't be the source of her inspiration. What was, Lynda Gattozzi?

"She is just clever," comes a voice from across the table in the lunchroom at National Cathedral School. It's a teacher-colleague, one of several who have rooted for Lynda as she regularly entered Levey's monthly neologism contest.

After several near misses, Lynda has stepped up from bridesmaid to bride.

Like about 3,000 fellow make-up-a-word fans, Lynda tried her hand at the April challenge, which was:

You have been married for eons, and you have always faithfully remembered your wedding anniversary. But one year, you forget. The next morning, when your spouse explains what a hopeless tuna fish you are, the guilt you feel is called...

Lynda's winning entry:


That's a delicious merger of "dear" and "dereliction." The coinage neatly describes the act of forgetfulness that all too many marrieds know all too well.

Longtime entrants Edith and Alan Stein, of Silver Spring, submitted the same entry, but two weeks after Lynda. A faster trip to the fax machine next time, please, Steins.

Our winner is the special assistant to Stuart Work, director of the middle school at NCS. Her idea for a victory lunch was just as novel as her winning entry.

She suggested that Levey break bread with her and the middle school faculty while 140 seventh- and eighth-graders did the same.

This brainstorm brought chicken into Ro-bare's belly and smiles to the faces of The Washington Post's accountants, in approximately equal measure. Never before has a neologism victory lunch cost absolutely nothing.

(Note to accounting: Levey and winner will make up for it next month – never fear).

Lynda's boss denies any role in her wordsmithing success. "All the ideas I've ever had about neologisms are pathetically feeble," Work said. Lynda's are anything but.

Our winner grew up in Cleveland and came to Washington 30 years ago. Her sons, Max and Hank Murphey, are both in high school. The family lives in Bethesda.

Lynda has written about 100 children's books. An early riser, she often faxes neologism entries into Levey's waiting tray as dawn is breaking. As a student of this contest, she knows that early birds have a way of catching worms.

This time, Lynda waited until she got to work to fax her entry. But there's no quarreling with success – or with excellence. Well done!

Almosts and Nearlies for April were:

Matremorse: Laura W. Morgan, of Charlottesville.

Anniversorry: Sandra Lee, of Northeast Washington, first, then 32 more just like hers.

Husbangst: Zora Margolis.

Anniwrecksia: Marie Draper.

Bridegloom: former champ Marlene B. Cohen, of Columbia, Keith Kirkland and Suzanne Gesin, of Arlington.

Dissorryentation: Victoria Sloan.

Nope-tuals: Bill Mohan.

Missedwifery: James B. Rouse.

Naptuals: Carole Tauber, of Rockville.

Mea Culprit: Jean Stewart, of Northwest Washington.

Male-o-culpa: Former champ Jim Doss.

Weddedereliction: Penny Goodman.

Matrimortification: Roger Hammons, of North Potomac.

Shegrin: former champ Hank Wallace, of Northwest Washington.

Forget-Me-Knot: large throngs. Fred Whitehouse, of Rockville, was first.

Ohnoversary: Tiffany Gobbi.

Annui: former champ Cathy Smith Caviness, of Clifton.

Annaislehation: former champ Susan Eaton, of Taos, N.M.

Madtrimony: The team of Anita Stevens and Gary Schlee.

Pangtime: Al Toner, of Arlington.

Bumble Pie: Sidney Secular, of Silver Spring.

Limbeau: former champ Tom Witte, of Gaithersburg.

And Ruebelation: former champ Joe Ferry, of Erdenheim, Pa.

The May challenge:

Near most cash registers these days, there's a tray containing pennies. You're supposed to take one if you need one and leave one if you get one back in change. What do you call a person who always takes a penny out but never puts one in? (Click to see winning entries)

I'd offer a penny for your thoughts, but first prize is worth far more: 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) or 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 May contest must be received by May 31.

© 2001 Bob Levey (
This article is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

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