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No More 'Did Bob Call?' for Neologist Jim

by Bob Levey

Every month for nearly 18 years, Dr. E. James Lieberman, of Potomac, has been blithely confident.

"Did Bob Levey call?" he will regularly ask his wife, Carol. For many years, the answer has been no, even though Jim always figured that he had entered a stone-cold winning entry in Levey's monthly neologism contest.

The answer to "Did Bob Levey call?" is now yes.

Jim Lieberman reigns as king of the August edition of our make-up-a-word contest. He captured the crown with one of the best coinages I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

The challenge, answered by Jim and about 3,000 fellow word enthusiasts, was:

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...

Jim's winning entry:


That's a great play on "reassurance," built around the word "azure," which is the color of the sky that nervous fliers suddenly burst into. It didn't take me long to pick up the phone and make the phone call that Jim Lieberman had long been awaiting.

Our winner has practiced psychiatry in Washington for four decades. He is also a clinical professor in the medical school at George Washington University. But he has an exceptional credential as a "word guy," too. He is the former president of the Esperanto Society.

Esperanto is a 114-year-old language whose adherents hope it will be adopted around the globe. The idea is to reduce nationalistic tensions and to increase and improve communication.

The language is based in Latin. When spoken, it sounds most like Italian, garnished with Yiddish, Slavic and German. For example, "mathematiko" is "mathematics" in Esperanto. "Kato" is cat. "Jes" is yes.

Esperanto hasn't exactly taken the world by storm, but don't blame Jim or me. In May 1978, a vastly younger Bob Levey wrote a column about Jim and his efforts to promote Esperanto. Now, 23 years later, Jim has proved that he doesn't do half bad in English, either.

"Esperanto is really the world's biggest word game," Jim said, over his victory lunch of apple and curry soup and goat cheese strudel at Vidalia. His experience with that language may have given him an edge in our contest. But so might some of his psychiatric patients.

Jim regularly treats people with phobias, especially those who suffer from a fear of flying. Is he a nervous flier himself?

Jim shook his head. When bumps happen, "it's just weather," he told me.

But "reazurence" is not just any old neologism entry. Congratulations to a very deserving winner.

Almosts and Nearlies for August were:

Cirrenity: Clarence M. Johnson, of Beltsville, and Fred Felker, of North Bethesda.

Resunrection: Former champ Jayne Townend.

Solaluyah: Miriam Weintraub.

Unperturbulence: Paul Whittemore.

Betterflies: Carole Lyons, of Arlington.

Raylief: Former champ Anne S. Rowan, of Northwest Washington.

Nervana: Nancy Miller, Sidney Secular, of Silver Spring, and Daniel E. Wyant, of Laurel.

TWAhoo!!: Don Gatling, of Gaithersburg.

Exaltitude: Don Gatling again.

Skylelujah: Margaret Buco.

Turbulaxation: Mike Minzes, of Springfield, and Katherine Walsh, of Rockville.

Phewbilation: Edith and Alan Stein, of Silver Spring.

Phew!silage: Kirsten Lundeberg.

Yawquilibrium: Jan Verrey.

Paniccea: John Held.

Rolleviation: Nancy Miller again.

Uptimism: Sarah Gaymon first, then several others.

Blessing in Dis-Skies: Former champ Julie Cunningham.

De Light! De Light!: John Held again.

Apres-hension: Sally Stokes, of Silver Spring, and Kenneth Kachigian, of Northwest Washington.

Airphoria: Peter Pover, of Arlington.

Bealtitude: Art Shaffer, of Springfield.

Eusoria: V. Eisemon.

Bluephoria: Recent champ Lynda Gattozzi, of Bethesda.

Consollation: Gay Nanda, of Reston.

And Calmplacency: Richard Jaffe, of North Potomac.

Excellent work, troops. Let's see if you can dredge up more of the same as we head into the fall. Here's the September challenge:

A four-letter word for "aid." A five-letter word for "dwelling." You had picked up this crossword puzzle with high hopes. But after about 15 seconds, you began to realize that it's easy – far too easy. This kind of no-challenge crossword is called a... (Click to see winning entries)

As always, first prize is a five-letter word for "midday repast." That caloric blowout is free, and it'll be eaten 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 September contest must be received by Sept. 28.

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

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