Commentary: Funny Headlines
By Jim Schuh
At our house, we’re making a feeble attempt at “downsizing.”
You know what that means – finding stuff you forgot you had and getting rid of it. “Downsizing” is what you do when you’re old. It involves all that things you saved or accumulated – to give your kids or maybe to return to when you’re retired and “have more time.”
We have lots of storage boxes and containers and my wife pulled out two of them for me to inspect and presumably toss out what’s in them. One of the folders contained pages I’d torn from issues of the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), a publication I’ve subscribed to for decades. The pages reproduced headlines and stories that most newspapers and magazines wished they had not published.
I decided I could toss this folder, but not before I went back and looked at the flawed headlines and shared some with you. Many have a double meaning. Some have typographical errors. You’ll see what I mean. For years, CJR published “The Lower Case” on the inside back page of its magazine each month.
Here’ a good one to start with – “Former man dies in California.” Another – “Police unit to help rape victims.” Or “Police kill man with ax.”
Fake news isn’t something recent. Back in 1973, a New England newspaper informed readers, “We invent your comments and criticisms. Please address them to Letters to the Editor.”
How about “Pair charged with battery” or “Skeleton tied to missing diplomat?” 43 years ago, the Milwaukee Journal informed readers, “Doctor reports snag in study of Vietnam E.” Verb placement produced this dilly: “Stillwater parolee indicted for killing flees.” There probably was no good way to produce a decent headline for this story – ”Teen-age prostitution problem is mounting.”
A head-scratcher? “Death causes loneliness, feelings of isolation.” A missing letter changes the entire meaning – “Playboy Enterprises estimates that removing oriental pants from its offices will save $27,000 a year,” and “Council spits on shade tree appointment.”
From Los Angeles, “Capital punishment bill called ‘death oriented.’” After reading the following account from United Press International, you wouldn’t blame local kids for not wanting to attend class – “The president of Bangor’s student teacher association has told the legislative Education Committee a questionnaire distributed to Bangor teachers showed that many used capital punishment in maintaining order in their classrooms.” Or this: “Shouting match ends teacher’s hearing.” Still on the subject of education – “Difference between night and day found on tour of Torrington schools.” And this comforting thought; “School board agrees to discuss education.”
We always knew the dangers of working in law enforcement, but never suspected this: “Youngstown police on duty getting smaller.” And this: “City to add 12 foot cops.”
Most living in these parts wouldn’t want to relocate to our nation’s capital and apparently, it’s worse there than we thought: “Admitted killer of 4 women gets 90 years in Washington.” But we’re happy to learn, “Woman better after being thrown from high-rise,” and “Mother, son better after fatal crash.”
A troubling geographical headline told readers, “Caribbean islands drift to left.” How do you read this? “Aging expert joins university faculty.” Or “New housing for elderly not yet dead.”
Some headline errors are fun – “Drunk gets three months in violin case.” “Cambodians move arms.”
“Sterilization solves problems for pets, owners.” “4 indicted into military hall of honor.” “Squad helps dog bite victim.” Back from the dead? “Stiff opposition expected to casketless funeral plan.” “Ban on soliciting dead in Trotwood.”
Here’s one we could have done without: “Child’s stool great for use in garden.” Or “Legalized outhouses aired by legislature.” What kind of pets do people have? “The Assembly passed and sent to the Senate a bill requiring dog owners in New York City to clean up after their pets, on penalty of a $100 fine. The bill also applies to Buffalo.” “DNR hunt survey to question dogs.”
I’m not sure about shopping at this place – “Kid’s pajamas to be removed by Woolworth.”
A no-brainer – “Bankrupt association termed in poor shape.” Or “Cold wave linked to temperatures.”
This report appeared in a Seattle newspaper: “Our workshop is an attempt to set up an old biddy system to encourage those women who made it the hard way to help the younger women who are trying to move up.”
We know of President Trump’s dissatisfaction with some European leaders and nations, but this headline from 1977 was prescient: “U.S. to fire Europe into stationary orbit.” Back in 1974, the Associated Press told us, “Rhode Island Senator John Pastore says the navy has almost completely wiped out Massachusetts and Rhode Island.” I’m glad they’ve come back.
A Texas paper told readers “Ease the pain – Senate passes gas bill.” I was sorry to learn that “Ancient tribe faces new extinction.” Did you know that the “CIA reportedly sought to destroy domestic flies?”
Nature’s sharper than we thought: “Stolen painting found by tree.” ”Branch Avenue bridge to be fixed before fall.”
The Oshkosh paper told us about a Green Bay football coach – “Devine feels Packers behind last year.” Good heavens – “Gov. Moore meets miners’ demand; two pickets shot.”
I’m not sure these doctors accomplished what they set out to do – “Physicians hope to reduce newborn morality.”
Don’t you just love new technology? The New York Times once reported, “A completely automated typesetting system developed and put into operation nwith the cooperation of the typographical union w asdemonstr eteydsterday b yThe Composing Room, Inc., a printing company…”
The head of the Catholic Church was kind soul when it came to make a new saint better looking – “Pope beautifies nun.” Or this: “A priest marries his mother.”
I’ve only scratched the surface of my stash of goofy headlines. I think I’d better keep these relics and look for something else to part with.