Monday, August 25, 2008

The Garden Path, the Road to Hell, etc.

The Path Strewn with Flowers,
Martin Gwilt-Jolley (1859-c.1914)
As always, our English language provides pitfalls for the inattentive and the unwary.
The following examples -- supposedly ripped from newspaper headlines -- illustrate how easy it is for even perfectly competent writers to blow it bigtime. After all, there's only one letter between idiom and idiot.

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers.
Perhaps apprehend -- though not as succinct and simple -- might have been a better choice after all.
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant.
Another case of extreme prejudice?
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges.
New uses for duct tape. It does come in attractive colours, but wouldn't the standard gray be more appropriate?
Miners Refuse to Work After Death.
Zombies are also unionized, apparently.
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks.
According to Long Pig Productions, LLC., a division of Cannibal Kingdom.
Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half.
In Texas, with chainsaws, I assume.
Panda Mating Fails: Veterinarian Takes Over.
A perv in black and white.
Hospitals Sued by 7 Foot Doctors.
I wonder if they all play basketball.
Man Struck by Lightning: Faces Battery Charge.
He probably IS the battery charge.
If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last A While.
Duh 1.
Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures.
Duh 2.
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says.
Duh 3. Ya think?

And there's the familiar classic:
Typhoon rips through Cemetery: Hundreds Dead.

Just one more thing we can screw up in our writing. I hope you've caught all yours. I'm afraid to look at mine.

Oh, and this is Book Roast Week.


BernardL said...

LOL! Thanks for the Monday morning laugh, Bernita. :)

haunted author said...

Yes- Thanks for the giggle this morning!

Ric said...

Things like this are why Jay Leno's Headlines segment is so popular - which I have sorely missed while the Olympics have been on.

And your commentary is delightful.

writtenwyrdd said...

One of the funniest things I've read in a while. You couldn't make this stuff up. Or at least I couldn't.

I can recall also some funny names for people in certain jobs. Like an osteopath that was called Bonecrusher. A dentist named Payne.

And then there are the rather amusing British names I discovered while on tour in England a few years back, Makepiss being one that made me snort.

Lana Gramlich said...

I've had these (& others,) on my defunct homepage for 10 years now. Always good for a laugh!

Dave F. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave F. said...

Headlines need to say something that attracts in only the few words that fit over the column. That's it.

This Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says is an improvement. Several of my friends are pilots and they have fought over the years to stop newsmen from making conclusions about plane crashes in their stories. Things like "Little plane hits big plane" is usually not what happened in the sky. But that's beside the point.

Newspaper editors have to say things in less than 8 to 10 words, so each word has to carry a heavy load. Think about that. How fast does the human eye read seven words? Much less than a second. And yet, those headlines convey instantly the meaning of the article in brief. Talk about heavy workloads. Each of those seven words supports 50 to 100 words in the article.

A book that dense is called literary.

We struggle with 250 to 400 word queries for 100,000 words. That's 400 to 250 words for each word in the query. (I worked on those numbers) WHICH MEANS that writing queries is harder than writing headlines. And you wondered why it was so hard?

PS - I fixed some typos.

StarvingWriteNow said...


What great headlines!

laughingwolf said...

great fun, bernita! :O lol

while writing/editing a monthly newsletter for a huge international company, i, luckily, never goofed... at least not in heads or cuts ;)

Bernita said...

A guy keeps sending me these things, Bernard.

We need these giggles sometimes, Haunted.

Thank you, dear Ric.

Written, found a fellow who kicked out the rear window of a police cruiser in Pickering, ON. His name was Mule.

Always, Lana.

Yes, Dave, I know the restrictions that newspaper editors work under. Really I do. I've written newspaper copy.
But we're allowed our forays into acute literalism.

The one about running down jaywalkers is my favourite, Beth.Makes me think someone wrote it deliberately.

Cutlines can be hilarious too, Lw.

Robyn said...

ROFL! My favorite is Big Ugly housewife reports robbery.

Apparently there is a town named Big Ugly.;)

Bernita said...

OOoooh, Robyn! That one would smart without a sense of humour.

writtenwyrdd said...

"His name was Mule."

Of course NOTHING beats the infamous Lorena Bobbit.

Charles Gramlich said...

Now that was a wonderful chuckle for a dreary Monday morning.

Bernita said...

And then there was some fellow who leaped from the Eiffel Tower, Written. Unfortunately he landed on a school girl. Her surname name was Blot.

Charles, here's another:
New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group.
Should we believe the first group wasn't fat enough?

raine said...

Panda Mating Fails: Veterinarian Takes Over.

Well, they ARE awfully cute...

Thanks for the morning smile, Bernita. :-)

Travis Erwin said...

I've read these before but your comments made it funny all over again.

The Anti-Wife said...

Just the laugh I needed to start another Monday morning at work! Thanks!

writtenwyrdd said...

Blot? *groans* The irony!

ChrisEldin said...

Ditto---Thanks for the morning laugh!!!

Bernita said...

Glad they gave you all a smile.

Whirlochre said...

Harking back to an earlier post about coincidences, I've just this morning had a flyer dropped through my letterbox advertising the services of Genuine Lady Gardeners. Sure makes a change from all those transvestites plying their trade.

And my childhood dentist?

Why, Mr Nummy, of course.

And my dance teacher?

Mrs Shufflebotham.

MissWrite said...

I have tears streaming down my face. Laughing so hard never hurt so good. Thanks, really needed that.

Bernita said...

Or to separate the "ladies" from those other sluts, Whirl.

Happy chortles, Tami!

Anonymous said...


Gabriele C. said...


Robyn, Big Ugly isn't that bad, imagine living in a town called Cock or Big Dick. (We have German versions of that.)

Bernita said...

Now Jason.Get up off the floor, dear.

Do they call residents phallustines, Gabriele?

laughingwolf said...

indeed so... ;) lol

Suzanne Perazzini said...

What great headlines. I've copied and pasted these and passed them around the office. Thanks.

Sarah Hina said...

Priceless, Bernita!

My favorite was the panda/veterinarian one. Now there is a man who's committed to his job...

Steve Malley said...

The work was hard this morning and I needed these jollies. THANKS!!

Bernita said...

I feel a sort of horrified hilarity.

Chumplet said...

I catch headlines like that from our own newspaper all the time.

Bernita said...

Every paper/news source makes them, Sandra, usually trusting the reader to get the idiom or the ellipsis.

spyscribbler said...

Ohmigosh, hilarious! I would be SO embarrassed!

Bernita said...

Occupational hazard, Natasha!

sexy said...