Dear Umbra,

So, what were the results of the “pollutocrat” contest? I recall seeing several web postings by editors to “watch out” for this term, as if the rest of a letter’s content was somehow invalid if it was written as part of a contest. Sad. Did someone win or not?

Parma, Ohio

Dearest Kevin,

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I get hundreds of email letters every month, and can answer only eight (give or take). My job forces me to cruelly ignore the bulk of my readers. I am benumbed to the resultant emotional turmoil. In other words, I could have ignored this email and pretended that the Second Great Pollutocrat Contest (the first, you might recall, resulted in the coining of that magnificent word) was never begun. I will not. A brave research associate faces both success and failure with calm resolve.

Basically, the Pollutocrats Must Not Prevail Letter to the Editor Contest was — how to put this delicately? — well, let us just say that it was an idea whose time had not yet come. To recap: The purpose of the contest was to honor “pollutocrat” coiner Alice “Brainiac” Veley, as well as to firmly embed the new word in the popular lexicon as a way to describe environmentally insensitive boneheads. The winner of the contest would be the person who managed to publish the most letters to the editor containing references to “pollutocrats.” The reward was to be an old sports trophy, artfully refurbished by moi.

There were problems. Editors tend to remove odd words when publishing letters to the editor. And, as you noted, a few news agencies got wind of the contest and rejected related letters. And, I just don’t think it caught on. My deepest apologies to all those whose pens and souls became caught up in this endeavor.

To those of you who adore a good contest as much as I, fear not. Only the cold grave will stop the endless churnings of the Contest-O-Matic that is my tormented mind.

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