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'Verbothity' Makes a Wordsmithing Winner

by Bob Levey

When she sits down to write children's poetry, "it just comes to me, " explained Jo Ann Hay. It worked pretty much the same way in the land of neologisms.

As she does most months, Jo Ann sat down to take a whack at the November version of our monthly make-up-a-word contest. From somewhere in left field, a victorious brainstorm arrived.

The November challenge, to which Jo Ann and about 3,000 fellow wordsmiths responded, was:

Ink pen, spending money, sailing ship... What do you call these two-word redundancies that seem to clog the language?

Jo Ann's winning coinage:


That's a fine merger of "verbosity" and "both," thought this jury of one. When it came time to award the blue ribbon, Jo Ann's invention was a standout.

Zora Margolis of Northwest Washington and Carolyn Kelly Lindell of Alexandria evidently thought so, too. They submitted the same word, but later than Jo Ann. Under our rules, they get a pat on the back, but no first prize and no free lunch. Please keep trying, Zora and Carolyn.

Our November winner was born and brought up in Strongsville, Ohio, near Cleveland. She's a graduate of Bowling Green University, and she has lived in the Washington area since the late 1970s.

She has worked for many years as a substitute elementary school teacher in public and Catholic schools near her home in Fairfax Station. She and her husband, Gerald, have a 24-year-old daughter, Jennifer.

Jo Ann says she doesn't have a secret to her neologism success, although "I've always felt very creative with words." Perhaps it's her habit of reading three newspapers every day, she thinks. In any case, she pronounced herself very pleased with her victory lunch of a seafood salad at Le Canard in Vienna.

Can Jo Ann sell her poetry? "I'm hoping to get published somewhere, " she told me. If you belong to the when-it-rains-it-pours school, her luck just got better, didn't it?

I wish her more of it as she pursues publishers. Meanwhile, congratulations to her for a clever entry.

Almosts and Nearlies for November were:

Dittonyms: Neil Shawen of Falls Church.

Over-biage: Jim McKain of Great Mills, Md., and W.J. Mountain.

Overbosity: Richard Jaffe of North Potomac.

Lexiclones: Jim Taylor of Alexandria.

Twidioms: Peter Young of Charlotte.

Verballooning: Karen Kenworthy.

Orgytory: Karen Kenworthy again.

Resaidivism: Karen Kenworthy yet again, then six others.

Pairmutation: Roz Hopenfeld of Rockville.

Twomors: Former champ Tom Witte of Gaithersburg.

Wearyiterate: Hannah Fisher.

Pairaducks: Former champ John O'Byrne of Dublin.

Redoneduncies: Nancy Stange.

Repetidiom: Former champ Jack Bailer of Camp Springs, Erin Johnson of Northeast Washington and Paul Wernet.

Faux Pair: Jack Bailer again.

Verbellishment: John Held.

Padds: Nick Flokos of McLean.

Pairrots: Jan Verrey first, then 11 others just like it.

Foolyweds: Jan Verrey again.

Gratwoity: Jan Verrey yet again.

Twotology: Dan and Carol Wyant of Laurel and James Calder.

Duhplicates: Former champ Jayne Townend.

Xeroxymoron: Steve Bienstock.

Twordiness: Mary Hornsby of Normandy Park, Wash.

Bivocals: Michele Leshan.

Combologna: Former champ Sidney Secular of Silver Spring.

Pairlaver: Sidney Secular again.

Bon-Bon Mots: Marla Baker.

Garbosity: Carole Ashkinaze of Silver Spring.

Duperfluity: Aileen Childers.

Yechoes: Al Toner of Arlington.

Renouns: Chris Sonnenberg.

Binamials: Roberta S. Cerio.

And Duelogisms: Sue Dietrich.

Very nice, gang (but I'm used to saying that). Let's see how you do with the December challenge. It is:

He likes to go to auctions and bid, bid, bid 'em up. But he only drives the eventual winning bidder to a higher level. Somehow, he never gets stuck with the item. This "bumper-but-never-buyer" at auctions is called a... (Click to see winning entries)

First prize is as grand and as glorious as ever: a free lunch, 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 December contest must be received by Dec. 31.

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

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