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A Linguist Grabs the Neologistic Brass Ring

by Bob Levey

She tries to do the crossword puzzle every day. Until her daughter arrived four years ago, she read "a lot of" novels. She has two degrees in German, and she spent two years studying Swedish. Somewhere in all that word familiarity, a champion was forged.

So it seemed to me, anyway, as I studied the entries for our April neologism contest. By the time I'd read all 3,000 coinages, I thought Wendy C. Leyes of Chevy Chase was a clear winner.

This was the April challenge, faced by Wendy and her fellow word maker-uppers:

"Back in 1943..." the veteran wife begins. "...We took a trip to Sheboygan," her veteran husband concludes. The ability of longtime spouses to finish each other's sentences is called...

Wendy's winning entry:

Pair-speak-acity.

That takes the grand old word "perspicacity," or the quality of having keen judgment, and gives it a new and highly appropriate spin. Who could better appreciate someone's good judgment than a spouse who finishes sentences – without missing a beat? It was a subtle entry, but boy, was it solid.

Douglas A. Wood came close to 15 minutes of fame himself. He submitted "Pairspicacity." But Wendy's version evoked the notion of speaking. That produced a blue ribbon.

Our winner is that rarity: born and bred in Washington. She attended Key Elementary School, Gordon Junior High, Western High School and American University. For the last 19 years, she has been membership manager of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. She and her husband, Chris, are the parents of Lauren.

Do the Leyeses finish each other's sentences? When I asked that, over our victory lunch at Gerard's on McPherson Square, Chris said: "Very rarely." Wendy said: "Sometimes." But they've been married only 12 years. Give them time.

By the way, be careful of Lauren in the Pair-speak-acity derby. Wendy says her daughter already knows her own phone number. Will she soon finish her parents' sentences? "It's probably just a matter of time," giggled Wendy. Top marks to her for a top-drawer neologism.

Almosts and Nearlies for April were:

Wedlockstep: An e-mailer named Puss.n.Boots.

Maritelepathy: Dian McDonald of Alexandria, Dan and Sandy Ullman, Sherilyn Krell and Marty Longan.

Com-patter-ability: Martin I. Goldenberg of Gaithersburg and Sidney Sellman.

Kintuition: Jan Verrey.

Connubanality: The team of Herman N. Cohen and Carolyn Grillo.

Connubication: Mary Jane Kelley and (with a slightly different form) Razel Solow of Charlottesville.

Couplicity: John and Mary Held first, then a dozen more shortly afterward.

We-S.P.: Former champ Roger Gilkeson, of Northwest Washington.

Solidearity: Edith and Alan Stein of Silver Spring.

Sharevoyance: Iris Cann.

Sweethearticulation: Karen Kenworthy.

Pairoting: Betty Y. Edge first, then two dozen more, many of whom used two R's.

Pairvoyance: The most popular entry of the month. Marty Madden of Clarksville was first.

Patter Familias: Lorraine Randecker of Falls Church, Bob Spretnak of Henderson, Nev., Paul Scham and Carol A. Schwartz.

Marrative: Former champ Hank Wallace of Northwest Washington, who hereby makes his 50th appearance (!) as either a neologism champ or an almost- and-nearly. Congratulations!

Synctax: Karen Kenworthy again.

Twinergy: Former champ Tom Witte of Gaithersburg.

Punc2ation: Former champ Cathy Smith Caviness of Clifton.

Conjugalease: Bill and Kathy Childs of Alexandria, who've been hitched for 30 years.

Mate-a-tete: Sharon Davoren of Centreville.

ESPousal: Erin Lyall first, but she had lots of company within the next couple of days.

Spousmosis: Recent champ Jennifer Sklarew of Arlington and Michelle A. Arcari.

Vox-Coupuli: Karen Kenworthy yet again.

Convowsation: Anna Barron Billingsley of Fredericksburg.

Kincrony: Recent champ Loren Booda of Arlington.

Spousal I-knew-itty: Manny Smith of Silver Spring.

Sharrative: Ann Finch-Johnston.

Coblabberation: Betty McDonough of Ocean Pines, Md., and (with a slightly different form) Jean H. Carter of McLean.

Dearscourse: Zora Margolis.

Echosystem: Al Toner of Arlington.

And Convergesation: Lily Liu of Northwest Washington.

Excellent, gang (but what's new?). Let's see how you fare with the May challenge, which is:

Jane Doe marries Ken Smith. She decides, from that moment forward, to be known as Jane Doe Smith (three words, no hyphens). But the world won't let Jane Doe Smith happen. Everywhere she goes, Jane gets "scrunched" into Jane Smith, for the sake of brevity and speed. This "scrunching" of Jane's middle name is called... (Click to see winning entries)

First prize never gets scrunched. It's 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) or e-mail (leveyb@washpost.com). 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 May must be received by May 31.

© 2002 Bob Levey (leveyb@washpost.com).
This article is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.


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