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He Took His Sweet Time, but Jim's a Winner

by Bob Levey

For 19 years, early birds have captured the gold medal in Levey's monthly neologism contest. This month, we crown an unusually late bird: James L. Fisher.

Our June make-up-a-word challenge was published on June 10. The rules say that in case of ties, the earliest brainstorm wins. So wires always hum on Game Day, often before dawn.

Jim Fisher didn't let any hop-to-it stuff bug him. He submitted an entry on June 26, just two days before the deadline. It captured top honors.

The June challenge, to which Jim and about 3,000 fellow neologists responded, was:

Your cleaning lady is expected within an hour – thank heavens, because your place is a wreck. But what do you do right before she arrives? You pick up, straighten up, wash a few dishes. Cleaning up before the cleaning lady arrives to clean up is called...

Jim's winning word:


That's a super-apt play on "premedication," which you do to ward off a looming problem in the world of health. I'd say premaidicating to ward off the looming arrival of a cleaning lady is in the same spirit.

Our winner is a senior engineer for Mitretek Systems. But that's just what his business card says. Jim Fisher is actually a guy who mulls and chews and ponders and stews.

"I started thinking about" the challenge four days after it appeared, said Jim, between bites of his victory lunch at Sweetwater Tavern. "Then I let it percolate."

For 10 more days!

He didn't make up his mind until June 24. He didn't e-mail his brainstorm until the 26th. But slow and steady won the race this time. No tortoise would be surprised.

Our winner grew up in McMurray, Pa., near Pittsburgh. He holds three advanced degrees from Carnegie Mellon University. He deserves a fourth, in Advanced Forebearance, since he commutes by car, via the notorious Beltway, from his home in Gaithersburg to his office in Falls Church.

"It has honed my Christian personality," Jim quipped.

Patricia Fisher said her husband is "so much fun – not what you' d think somebody in his position would be... That's why I married him [six years ago]. It's like coming home to a party every day."

Also to an epidemic of what Pat calls "man piles."

These are stacks, created and maintained by Jim, that are all over the Fisher family abode. One stack contains technical magazines. One contains bills. A third contains junk mail. And so on. The mag stack is as high as a desktop.

The Fishers don't premaidicate because they don't have a maid. "She' d run screaming out of the house," Pat said.

Jim offers the classic pack-rat defense: "I know what's in all the piles." A good thing – and a good thing we found out what sat inside Jim' s head for most of June. Nice word. Nice job.

Almosts and Nearlies for June were:

Premaiditation: More than 50 of you offered this one. L.J. Bury was first.

Scrubterfuge: Judith W. Wood first, then 11 more.

Prespicacity: Geoff Crawley.

Predisposeition: Former champ Cathy Smith Caviness of Clifton.

Antesoapation: Clarence M. Johnson of Beltsville.

Pre-emptying: Marge Stark of Chevy Chase, then eight others.

Pre-tending: Lansing Joralemon of Northwest Washington, then eight others.

Predustination: Another popular choice. Betty Lou Summers was first among 12.

Hooverture: Karen Kenworthy.

Antecleanax: Sam Mecum of Lancaster, Pa.

Vaintenance: Carole S. Lyons of Arlington.

Presweepment: Tricia Booker of Paris, Va.

Stoopidity: P.J. Siegel of Greenbelt.

Approximaiding: Former champ Roger Gilkeson of Northwest Washington.

Preemptive Swipe: Suzanne Newell of Arlington, Mary Hornsby of Normandy Park, Wash., and Susan Jacobsen.

Ajaxngst: Karen Kenworthy again.

Floorplay: Jim Taylor of Alexandria.

Spicinspanity: Wade Mayonado of Leonardtown, Md.

Domessmissity: Caryn Ginsberg of Arlington.

Pres-tidy-gitation: Mitchell Goldman.

Hideying Up: Dora Bell of Alexandria.

Preenemption: David W. Saxton of La Plata.

Swabsession: Roz Hopenfeld.

And Shampoobris: Former champ Tom Witte of Gaithersburg.

Makes me want to drop to my knees and shout, gang (maybe I'd do the floors while I'm down there). Let's see if more of the same skill lurks as you train your wits on the July challenge. It is:

The sound that you make when you pull two strips of Velcro apart is called... (Click to see winning entries)

There's nothing wrenching about first prize in this contest. 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) 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 July contest must be received by July 31.

© 2002 Bob Levey (
This article is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

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