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From His Past Warnings, a Neologism Win

by Bob Levey

Jonathan Hutson confesses that he used to do it all the time when he worked as a waiter at a French restaurant near Chicago.

A plate would be extremely hot. He'd warn the diner not to touch it. The diner would do so anyway, to the everlasting regret of his fingers.

So it's no mystery that our August neologism challenge inspired Jonathan to file his first entry, and it's no mystery that he won the brass ring. Beginner's luck on the one hand, combined with experience on the other, is a tough combination to beat.

The challenge that Jonathan and about 3,000 fellow wordsmiths took a whack at was:

The waitress brings you your dinner. As she sets the plate before you, she warns you not to touch it because it's ver-r-r-ry hot. But as soon as she leaves, you touch the plate anyway (usually much to your regret). The habit of touching a plate you've been warned not to touch is called...

Jonathan's winning coinage:


That's a sweet confection of "plate" and "masochism," joined together into a send-up of "sadomasochism." It was such a good entry that I had to set it down before I burned my fingers. We've had good winners over the centuries, but I consider this one of the best.

Our winner has a master's degree in French from Michigan State University and a law degree from New York University. He also spent some time as a newspaper editor and reporter (bless his heart).

He has been in Washington for about two years. He's communications director at a nonprofit in Northwest Washington called Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. The group seeks to break public-spirited legal ground in the areas of civil rights, the environment and consumer rights. No, sorry, they don't do french-fried-finger cases.

To judge from our victory lunch at La Colline, Jonathan doesn't have much to worry about on that score. His celebratory repast consisted of cold smoked trout, a cold nicoise salad and a cold glass of sparkling water. Not a hot plate in the bunch.

More power to our 38-year-old victor, who vows to enter again. Thanks for a great winner.

Almosts and Nearlies for August were:

Thermadopia: Harold Schneiberg of Chevy Chase.

Dishtrust: Jerry Kayten of Chevy Chase first, then 11 more.

Dishbelief: Richard Jaffe of North Potomac first, then 14 more.

Impetu-ouch-ity: Zora Margolis.

Defryance: Gay Nanda of Reston, Karen Kenworthy, Lois Rapp and Sara Read of Rockville.

Stubburness (and similar forms): Former champs Linda Gattozzi of Bethesda and Anne S. Rowan of Northwest Washington, Paul Crystal of Arlington, Mike Cavin of Vienna, Charles McCool, Patricia L. Turner, Hannah Mosser, Brooke Thaler and Sara Read again.

Blistidigitation: Joe Jenkins of Greenbelt.

Dishobeyance (and similar forms): Recent champ Sidney Secular of Silver Spring, then 20 more.

Curihotsity (and similar forms, notably Curiouchity) : Al Toner of Arlington, then 15 others.

Feu-paw: Roberta Rubenstein.

Stewpidity: Billy Malloy of Fairfax (who would like the world to know that he's only 14), Mary C. Brunet of Silver Spring, Richard S. Saunders, Donna Hickman and Dave Scalzi.

Skeptdishism: Former champ Tom Witte of Gaithersburg and the team of Edith and Alan Stein of Silver Spring.

Dishquietude: Deborah Feigenson.

Platal Attraction: Jim Taylor of Alexandria and the team of Ned Farrar and Tammi Coles.

Checkplate: Sara A. West of Northwest Washington.

Dish-singe-nuousness: Mary E. Hornsby of Normandy Park, Wash.

Chardor: Tom Witte again.

Haburnt: Nancy Ferris of Woodbridge.

Singe-souciance: Jan Verrey.

Reaffiremation: Lynn Haase.

Chaudacity: Rich Koffman of Bethesda.

Heatonism: Mitchell Goldman.

Fajitalism: Former champ James Doss.

Epicurious: Irene Eichner of Silver Spring.

Verifrying: John Held.

Dishcretion: Many-time champ Susan Eaton of Taos, N.M.

And Ow-bliviousness: Former champ Joe Ferry of Erdenheim, Pa.

A veritable treasure trove, gang. Let's see how you fare when you take aim at the September challenge, which is:

A child asks one of his parents a question. The answer he gets is a resounding no. But rather than accept the verdict, the child immediately finds the other parent and asks the same question. This try-your-luck-again maneuver is called... (Click to see winning entries)

As always, first prize is plenty resounding, too. It's a free lunch, at a restaurant of the winner's choice, in or 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 e-mail ( or fax (202-334-5150). 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. 30.

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

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