Weekend Word Wrap: satire

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The great Roman poet Horace wrote: satura tota nostra est -- satire is completely our own. And while all those classic Roman satires can't be ignored, (I'm thinking of a few by Juvenal, for example), my personal favorite is still Voltaire's Candide, written in the 1750s. Highly critical of Leibnizian optimism (the best of all possible worlds? really?), Voltaire also picks religion apart—clearly way, way ahead of his time. Recently I went back and reread Candide (just because it had been far too long) and was inspired—for reasons I still don't quite understand—to write this little satirical ditty on the demise of newspapers. And while there isn't really room for the usual Wrap interactiveness, feel free to recommend your own favorite satirical piece in the comments below.

I should also add that the loyal Wrap reader will notice a lot of inspiration culled from the last year's worth of posts here.

All the Words That Are Fit to Print

by David K. Israel

We, the printed words you find in your daily newspapers, are well aware of the articles that have been written about the impending demise of our empire. How could we not? Like the slave who has to dig his own burial pit, you've printed insult to injury, forcing us to tell such stories against our own will.

But before the curtain falls on us, in addition to thanking those readers among you who will faithfully continue on until the final print edition is delivered to your door, we'd like to take a moment and honor our brethren—the words we feel are most deserving of praise and recognition. And though we are deeply disappointed with C-SPAN for not televising this awards ceremony as they promised, we, of course, understand that, in the grand scheme of things, roasts, which help raise money for EAAS (the Effect/Affect Awareness Society), certainly take precedence.

Let this memo, then, serve as a list of highlights for those of you who were unable to attend the momentous evening, hosted by the granddaddy of us all, The New York Times, and held in their sizeable, yet intimate office supply closet. (Special thanks to Post-it for reminding everyone and helping to set that up!)

The evening's master of ceremonies was, of course, emcee. Though no Robin Williams or Billy Crystal, emcee was comedian enough when the occasion called for it, plenty affable, and handled the responsibility of running the show with aplomb.

Words were awarded across a whole host of different categories, building up from minor merits and citations, like Article We'll Miss Most: the, to Most Common Typos: there, their, and they're. The first important award given out was for the Word Containing the Longest String of Consecutive Rs: Brrrr, which walked away with the prize after giving a rather cold acceptance speech.

We newsprint words apparently have something in common with James Joyce, as we voted cuspidor the Most Beautiful Word. This got a big rise from the audience, as its synonym, spittoon, was nominated for Ugliest Word. But that one, however, was won by aasvogel.

Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, in Boston, failed to take the award for Longest Name of a Place, but did take home awards for Most Frequent Appearance of a Single Letter, with 17 Gs, and Most Difficult Word to Pronounce Correctly, edging out asterix and comfterble. Just kidding! That would, of course, be asterisk and comfortable.

The Most Musical Word went to the eight-letter baggaged, which although clearly not the most mellifluous when spoken, does sound rather beautiful when played on a piano. And while on the subject of tuneful words, the Rookie of the Year award went to underdog ringxiety, a newly coined word that expresses the confusion experienced by a group of people when a cell phone rings.

Not to come off as name droppy, but Joyce gets another mention as his word, tattarrattat, took the prize for Longest Palindrome. And while in the "backward" category, the Most Obvious Reversible Word award was, of course, given to Dennis/sinned.

Schmaltzed beat out two other 10-letter words starting with "sc", scraunched and scroonched, to take the award for Longest Monosyllabic Word, but many believe this is only because of the unremitting lobbying efforts by groups from The Forward and The Jewish Week. If so, they certainly got a triple word score in the Funniest Sounding Word category, getting an equal number of votes for all three winning words: noodnik, schmegegi, and schpilkes.

Though many fell asleep during the exceedingly insipid, not to mention long acceptance speech, the Last Word award, did, indeed, go to zzz, initiating a discussion among us as to whether or not stricter limits on the lengths of acknowledgements and thank yous should have been enforced.

Comeback Words of the Century were given to dilligrout and pettifogger and lastly, there was our Lifetime Achievement award, given to the now retired, blutterbunged, which once meant "confounded, or overcome with surprise"—something we newsprint words will continue to feel, along with profound sadness, as we're replaced by our online cousins.

As we bid each other our final farewells, may we go out with our letters held high—both capitals and lower case—spelled correctly, with our dignity in tact, recapitulating one last refrain of our favorite chorus:

From sea to sea, all over this great land
May the smudge of newsprint forever stain the hand!

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June 7, 2007 - 11:55pm
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