Name That Scandal: And the Winner Is …

Chatterbox has harnessed the vast power of the Net in search of a handy, irresistible name for the Lewinsky-Tripp-Willey-Clinton scandal, and Chatterbox’s pathetic little hard drive now overflows with the results–more than 215 responses, containing no less than 209 distinct suggestions. All we can say is, For God’s sake, stop! The contest is over!

Explicitly disobeying Chatterbox’s instructions, many entries contained the despised “-gate” suffix, including the three most popular entries–“Fornigate” (23 submissions), “Tailgate” (13), and “Zippergate” (12). Despite the insubordination, Chatterbox actually likes each of these; “Fornigate” may well wind up the name that wins out in popular usage. But somehow we can’t see the New York Times adopting it. So Chatterbox will pass over these excellent entries, taking the advice of contest entrant Jonathan Weisberg to look for a name that might at least conceivably wind up in a high-school history book. Plus, Chatterbox doesn’t want to have to buy the 23 copies of Leaves of Grass it would take to reward the Fornigate brigade.

Several other entries also fail the “history book” test. “Whitefluid” is too dirty for anyone except Slate’s Scott Shuger to use, as are “Pussygate,” “Billygoat,” “Deep Throat,” “Starr 69,” and one of Chattterbox’s favorites, “Come-a-lot,” with its evocative, ironic historical reference. (Some Chatterbox readers seem to have spent a bit too much time going through the X-rated bins down at the video store.) The same goes for “Moby Dick,” despite the useful allusion to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s Ahab-like pursuit of proof of the president’s sinfulness. Chatterbox also likes “Incredible Sucking Sound,” but doesn’t want to annoy Ross Perot. Anyway, wasn’t it a “giant sucking sound”?

“Daughtergate” is cute but ugly. “Interncourse” doesn’t exactly flow easily off the tongue, while “Wag the Intern” rests too heavily on an ephemeral pop-culture reference that will be lost on future generations. “Potus Interruptus” is pretty good, but too long for convenient headline usage. The same goes for “Intern Explorer,” which might also attract unwanted scrutiny from the Department of Justice’s antitrust division. Chatterbox likes “The Johnson Presidency,” “Sexpot Dome,” and “Nookiegate,” the last so reminiscent of New York Observer writer Philip Weiss’ prescient admonition to the press: “Follow the nookie.” But no.

Some of the entries are too awful to actually list here. Here is a list of them: “Ejacugate,” “Whit ‘n’ tits,” “Suck ‘n’ duck,” “Fellation Conflagration,” “Clintonlingus,” and “Spewinsky.” One reader offered “Lobster Thermidor,” which required a long explanation (you don’t want to know). Chatterbox was puzzled by another entry: “Screw You.” One or two brilliant entries may have been lost because they were MIME. (Chatterbox is non-MIME, though it doesn’t make a big deal of it.)

Numerous entries played on the names of the special prosecutor (“Starr-gate,” “Starr Chamber,” “Starr Trek,” “Starr Grazing”) and the scandal’s mad secret taper (“Trippwire,” “Tripplash”). “Starr Tripp” combines both names nicely. But Chatterbox believes neither Starr nor Linda Tripp will go down in history as the scandal’s central figures–although “Trippwire,” submitted by at least four readers, actually packs quite a bit of info about the scandal into a small package.

That leaves a few slightly more anodyne but serviceable (sorry) entries. Both “The Clintern Scandal” and “The Clintern Affair” will do fine. “The Lewinsky Affair” fits in with the American tradition of naming scandals after unlucky people or objects, and it sounds great in French. But Chatterbox prefers “Flytrap.” It’s short. It makes at least a bit of a joke. It can accommodate the possibility that Clinton yielded to temptation as well as the (not completely incompatible) possibility that the whole thing was a vicious setup. And it was only submitted by one reader, as far as Chatterbox can tell.

So Chatterbox wanders off into El Nino in search of the sole remaining copy of Leaves of Grass in the National Capital Area to send to “Susan” at Index Publishing Group in San Diego. Congratulations. Thanks as well to all who dared to share their good and, more courageously, their bad ideas.