Mad Men and Mad Libs

My friend Tom (aka, “The Blogfodder”) was on a roll today.

First, in the middle of a casual conversation, he pointed out the word “sonsy” in the dictionary. He does stuff like that. Which is why I make an effort to stop by his desk as often as possible.

Then he sent me an article whose conclusion was that Irish men are “the joint ugliest in the world.” My retort: Those who would join are actually the ugliest in the world. I’d rather spend 100 nights with an Irishman who can sing a tune or spin a tale than a single night with some self-important, conceited peacock. (So there!)

Finally, Tom sent me the heartbreaking news that Leonard B. Stern had died. “Who’s Leonard Stern?” I can almost hear you asking. I’ll admit that I didn’t know his name either, until today. But he was one of the most formative writers of my youth: Leonard Stern was the genius behind Mad Libs.

I have fond memories of playing Mad Libs with my sisters in the back of my parents’ station wagon. It made the road trips seem much shorter, and a few times we laughed so hard that we … well, never mind. The important thing is that Mad Libs helped introduce me to the joys of playing with language.

Thirty years later, I’m a writer. So it seems fitting tonight to dedicate a Mad Men-style Mad Lib to the memory of Leonard Stern.

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a professional writer?

Here’s your chance to find out. First, grab yourself a piece of paper and jot down the first word that comes to mind for each of the following:

Name of a school
Name of a language
Plural noun
Plural noun
A liquid
A number
Name of an appliance
Gerund (-ing form of verb)
Body part
Plural noun
Emotional state
Clothing item

Got your list? Great. Now, plug your words into this document:

I hope that hilarity will ensue. (But if not, please read the “Attempted humor” clause of my legal disclosure.)

And on a personal note to my friend Tom: Thank you for brightening yet another day. You are definitely my favorite Irishman.

Until tomorrow …


  1. OMG I have to save this one and do it tomorrow when I’m not drinking, LOL. Then again…

    A friend of mine at Facebook also mentioned the passing of Mr. Stern, and I was heartbroken and got to reminiscing about the hours and hours my sisters and I spent with those little Mad Libs booklets and a pen. I wish we had saved them all, because they gave us such laughs. Such a simple, yet ingenious idea. And a good English/Writing lesson, to boot.

    • Oh, Lis … how I wish we lived closer to each other. We’d get into so much trouble together: I wrote this post *while* I was drinking! LOL!

      But seriously. It’s sad, isn’t it, to mark the passing of someone who made so many people laugh over so many years. I wish there were a way to award the really good folks a few extra years. Alas, I don’t make the rules …

  2. Address To A Haggis (Robert Burns)

    Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
    Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
    Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
    Painch, tripe, or thairm:
    Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
    As lang’s my arm.

    …and so on it goes.

    I attended a writing class once where the teacher asked to start writing a story (in class) on any topic we liked; then she proceeded to give us, one by one, several minutes apart, a list of words that we had to incorporate into the story. It was possibly the most fun I have had writing.

    • Why am I not surprised to see you quoting my beloved Rabbie Burns? We have many, *many* interests in common, Mr. XpatScot! (Though I’ll admit that haggis isn’t my favorite, no matter how poetic. But then, I’ve only had the canned kind …)

      And I love your story about your writing class. What a brilliant idea! As you probably learned that day, writing is three-quarters inspiration and one-quarter dictation. That’s why I’m so grateful for my muses: Without them, I may very well have nothing to say.

      Speaking of muses … You’ve become one of mine. I’ve been perusing your photos on Flickr. And for once, words fail me. Thenk ye uncoly. Guid cheerio the nou!

  3. Hi H, I’m so looking forward to sitting down with this when I have half a moment. The past few days have been swallowed up somehow, and I barely have time to do more than read through, last thing at night and feeling brain dead…but loved your ‘surf’ topics (still hyperventilating from the bike race!) and am musing over your last one on the homeless guy, and our similar attitudes. Much to compare if only I had time and energy. My own last post was completely lacking in inspiration – so many things I want to write about but no mental energy to do it at present. Meanwhile you keep on posting entertaining stuff day after day – don’t know how you do it, but thank you! πŸ™‚ (Off to bed now.)

    • Hello, DB! So good to hear from you β€” and thanks for your kind words, as always. Although I have no idea what you’re prattling on about, saying that you’re uninspired and all: The image you posted today is one of the most drop-dead gorgeous things I’ve seen in a long time. Absolutely stunning! More, please!!

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