Tweaking words for fun and nonprofit


In need once more for a real belly laugh, I open an e-mail from my friend Tom Sawyer titled Some First Rate Giggles, results of the Washington Post’s Style Invitational contest. Readers were asked to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting or changing only one letter, and supply a new definition.

And some of the winners are: Bozone (n) The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future. Giraffiti (n) Vandalism spray-painted very, very high. Hipatitis (n) Terminal coolness.

Extra credit for an additionally altered definition word goes to another medical term: Osteopornosis (n) A degenerate disease.

Certainly the favorite of brilliant satirists like Al Martinez would have to be: Sarchasm (n) The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it. I’ve occasionally seen this myself, particularly when straying into the murky realm of religion or politics.

Also the product of true sarcastic genius is the supremely simple: Glibido (v) All talk and no action. Dopeler effect (n) The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

And easily the pick of the litter, that is, literature: Ignoranus (n) A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

My hat’s off to the winners and even the runners up. This is not as easy as it seems. I tried it and in a fit of frustrated wordsmithing could come up with only these paltry submissions: Assinane (adj.) Describes a dumb idea whose main feature is redundancy. Probably the product of an ignoranus. Madvent (n) Our conspicuous consumer society’s run up to Christmas Junk. Sighence (n) The subversion of studies in ecology, biology, etc. Or the way things don’t work. Okay, so I had to change two letters. It’s hard work, you know. Electmoral (adj.) Self-description of voters in the red states. Abnominee (n) Suggested appointment to the bench or federal agencies. Flabinet (n) The President’s inflated group of sycophants. Oops. Changed two letters again. Twice.

Badvice (n) A flabinet secretary’s unwelcome opinions. Untelligence (n) Raw or unvetted information from robots and dissidents. Devolution (n) Creation science or Darwinian demise. I think this may already be a word but what the hell. Hottawa (n) What the world’s coldest capital city will be called if the globe continues warming. That is, if one believes the badvice of sighentists.

And, Tah-Dah! My best effort: Cowgoy (n) The Jewish version of All Hat No Cattle.

I warned you this was hard work.