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Contest winners mince words

Two weeks ago we declared "parse" the Word of the Year because it has become a familiar part of the American lexicon, and because parsing people's public statements _ searching them for their hidden meanings _ has become a national obsession.

(Allow us to parse that sentence: We wrote about the word because we heard a lot of people using it and called it Word of the Year because it was mid-December and we needed a hook for the story.)

We also announced a contest. We printed quotations from three public figures and asked you to parse just one of them _ that is, to tell us what the person was really saying.

We received hundreds of entries. (Nineteen.) Most entrants, including the winner, parsed this statement by Hillary Clinton: "I'm very proud of what our president has been able to achieve, not only in this country but around the world, to lift up the lives of families and children."

We'll begin with the runners-up, both extremely clever. It pains us that we cannot name them winners. (For their efforts they'll receive the near-satisfaction of being second best.)

Second runner-up: "I'm very surprised that my husband has found the time to lift up anything other than his interns' skirts." _ Mike Pachik, Clearwater

First runner-up: "Am I not the noblest little cookie-baker of them all?" _ Victoria Vogel, Tarpon Springs

And the winner is: "Bubba is sleeping in Buddy's house tonight." _ Walt Shields, Seminole.

Shields will receive Life's Big Instruction Book, an 882-page hardcover book full of indispensable information. (So the cover says. We haven't opened it.)

_ MIKE WILSON, Times Staff Writer

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