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Elizabeth Nails That 'Telemarketer Tone'

by Bob Levey

Lately, the pesky telemarketer who bugs Elizabeth Marancik has been named Ms. Cleo. "She offers two free tarot card readings," Elizabeth explained, with a wry smile. And yes, Ms. Cleo's telephone voice is full of " fibrato."

What's that? All it is, dear friends, is the winning entry in our July neologism contest.

Like about 3,000 of her fellow wordsmiths, Elizabeth took aim at the July version of our monthly make-up-a-word contest. The challenge was:

The phone rings (during the middle of dinner, as usual). Surprise, surprise, it's a telemarketer. He has been instructed to be polite to you, so he begins by asking how you're doing this fine evening. The patently insincere tone of voice he uses to ask this question is called...

"Fibrato" described it perfectly, I thought. The telemarketer smarm- voice always tells fibs. And it always vibrates slightly, with sheer phoniness. Every other coinage looked second best to these eyes.

Our winner writes software for medical laboratories from her home in Montgomery Village. Her employers are based in New Hampshire, and she has met them only three times. Elizabeth is a dyed-in-the-wool telecommuter, and she said she expects to continue.

"Parts of it I really like," she said, over a victory lunch of shrimp at Andalucia in Bethesda. "There's a lot of flexibility. You can go to long lunches. People leave you alone."

Levey wasn't about to leave Elizabeth alone after seeing such a neat entry. Congratulations!

Almosts and Nearlies for July were:

Shamiliarity: Laura S. Baker, of Jefferson, Md.

Hawkum: Former champ Hank Wallace, of Northwest Washington.

Slickophantic: Al Toner, of Arlington.

Snarketing: Jennifer Lynn.

Cloytus Interruptus: Terry Gormley.

Falsello: Carolyn Bassing first, then 11 more just like hers.

Telefawning: Yvonne Pover, then no fewer than 35 copycats.

Peddlepushy: Karen and Patrick Woolley, of Arlington.

Hyphawkricy: Darci Field, of Fort Meade.

Presunction: John Hanson.

Shamicable: Sally Stokes, of Silver Spring.

Softsoaprano: Alfredo Caputo, of Rockville.

Syruptitious: Kelly Erno, of Silver Spring, Jacqueline Q. Bylsma, of Poolesville, Judy Metz, of Falls Church, Al Pedersen Jr., of Vienna, and Carole S. Lyons, of Arlington.

Crock 'n' Spiel: Former champ Joe Ferry, of Erdenheim, Pa.

Phonhomie: Joe Ferry once more.

Obsequipitch: Colleen McGuire, of Arlington.

Bogusto: M. Lee Bragg, of Chevy Chase.

Brown Noising: Valerie A. Chambers, of Indian Head.

Lie-L-Tone: Recent champ Lynda Gattozzi, of Bethesda.

Sell-u-tation: Sidney Secular, of Silver Spring.

Shallowm: Sidney Secular again.

Supperfuge: Jack Elliott, of McLean, and the team of Edith and Alan Stein, of Silver Spring.

Tell-lie-marketing: The sister team of Sandra McCullough and Gloria Jackson.

Hello-tosis: David Safran.

Pseudo Voce: Marty Neely, of Fairfax Station.

Greedings!: Howard Harrell, of North Potomac.

Bunctuous: Bob Perry.

Fauxlitesse: Laura M. McShane.

Boritone: Tim Armstrong, of Upper Marlboro.

Bull Marketing: Marilyn K. Moore, then 10 others.

Spincerity: John Manley.

Sellacious: Elizabeth Miller.

Patronicing: Lisa McCallister, of Olney.

Vox Pitch-u-lie: Bob Wilson, of Indian Head.

Sellubriousness: Eloise W. McDowell, of Damascus.

Fauxnics: Linn Palmer.

Ola-ageonous: Phil Frankenfeld, of Northwest Washington.

And Bilkissimo: Former champ Tom Witte, of Gaithersburg.

Truly excellent, gang. But it's getting to be a habit.

Let's see how you do with the August challenge, which is:

Your plane has been bumping through bad weather for several long minutes. You can't see a thing but clouds. Suddenly, the plane bursts into sunlight. That reassuring moment is called... (Click to see winning entries)

First prize is as constant as bumpy flights: a free lunch, at a restaurant of the winner's choice, in Washington or sensibly close.

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.

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

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