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Al Kamen, The Washington Post, Published August 23 2013

Washington shows its humor with 'You're so 'This Town' if ... ' contest

WASHINGTON — When a politician spits out the word "Washington," it's generally understood to be an insult, a stand-in for all sorts of ills like corruption, gridlock and arrogance.

Not that those who utter the word with contempt are entirely wrong about the fair city of Washington. But those are broad characterizations. People who live and breathe inside-the-Beltway culture understand its nuances.

That's why we created the Loop's "You are so 'This Town' if . . ." contest, in which we asked you to finish that sentence in a way that only the city's familiars can — inspired by the book "This Town," by Mark Leibovich, which captured the milieu of a certain class of official Washington, a crowd that thrives on cocktail parties and cable TV hits.

Turns out, Loop fans are well acquainted with the quirks and the lingua franca of "this town." We got loads of great entries, including plenty from some very bold names (it's so very "this town" of us to mention that, isn't it?), inspired, perhaps, by the promise of a coveted Loop T-shirt, or perhaps just by the inevitable August boredom so familiar in this town.

Leibovich himself gamely submitted an entry, although we didn't think it was fair to name him a winner. You are so Washington, he said, if

. . . you are caught anywhere around this town wearing a coveted Loop T-Shirt.

We take that as a compliment.

With an illustrious panel of guest judges, including our colleagues Rosalind S. Helderman, Ann Gerhart, David A. Fahrenthold and Karen Tumulty, we sifted through some great entries to come up with 10 winners and 10 honorable mentions. First, a big thanks to our judges and to all the Loop fans who entered.

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And now, the winners:

. . . you know the difference between the deputy assistant secretary and the assistant deputy secretary. — Ridge Loux, retired attorney for AT&T

. . . you think of serving a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan as a good career move.

. . . when your daughter runs for class president at school, you offer to help with "opposition research" and have a frank talk about when and how to "go negative." — both from Barry Piatt, former Senate staffer.

. . . you know that Bob Barnett and Bob Bennett are two different people AND you know which is which. — Shira Modell, attorney at the Federal Trade Commission

. . . you show up for a live shot with your own earpiece. — Chris Black, ghostwriter, former Boston Globe reporter and CNN correspondent

. . . purchase a grave site and when relaying the story, somebody tells you that Tim Russert is buried there and wants to know if the grave is near his. — a Senate Democratic chief of staff

. . . you want Politico to write less substance and more horse race. — Mike Doyle, reporter for McClatchy newspapers

. . . you have in your office a framed copy of the Senate roll-call sheet for a bill that you helped pass (or, if you're a Republican, helped defeat)._ Jay Branegan, staffer, Natural Resources Defense Council

. . . you find the ads on WTOP comprehensible and informative. — Mary Binseel, retired Army researcher

. . . on any given day you have a better than 50 percent chance of being either a co-worker or former co-worker of Diane Rehm's guest. — Susan Vavrick, senior editor, Digital News, NPR

And the honorable mentions:

. . . you plan your vacations for the only times Congress is not in session. — Les Megyeri, retiree

. . . in August, you aren't in this town. — Brent Cogswell, retired shuttle driver

. . . you put your C-SPAN coffee mug in the fine-china cabinet. — Mike Doyle

. . . you're still talking to Leibovich. — Steven Honigman, attorney

. . . you can speak a complete sentence in three-letter acronyms (TLAs). — Gabe Soll, government contracts attorney

. . . you shop at the annual State Department book sale._ Robert Carleton, retiree

. . . you've ever been late for anything because of a presidential motorcade. — Donald Judd, news associate, CBS News

. . . you win the coveted Loop T-shirt but can't wear it in public because it would identify you as a source. — anonymous (who, the Loop confirms, is in fact a rather loose-lipped and well-placed tipster.)

And a few extra honorable mentions . . . in the category of most insider-y reference:

. . . you think getting in DoD's Early Bird equates to a PR victory. (And you're even more 'This Town' if you know who to call to keep a story OUT of the Early Bird. — George Wright, deputy director, media relations, Army Public Affairs

For sheer distance, a special honorable mention goes to Marc Sievers, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, who took a break from what we can only imagine was a stressful day to send us this entry:

. . . you speed up on the Beltway when you see someone trying to change lanes ahead of you.

His entry from such a troubled, faraway place makes us remember that no matter how much we may snark about this town, it's still a pretty great place to be.

Congratulations to the winners.

With Washington Post staff writer Emily Heil