Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The P.U. on Puns, Part 2

Back to the "pun ban" just once more: Nicole Stockdale did yeoman work, going directly to the source of the ban. And Language Log chimes in with a careful explication of what constitutes a pun and what does not.

At the Chicago Tribune, Eric Zorn's blog, topped by a punny headline, examines the issue, too, and provokes these comments:

Such a ban would have prohibited the Sunday Tribune headline "Carpe Diem on the Illinois River," a terrific way into James Janega's engaging story about commercial fishermen making the most of the river's Asian carp explosion.

I'm all for banning bad headlines, with or without puns. But word play well done is a treat for the reader, and editor.

Ann Marie Lipinski

Reminds me of a small town newspaper on the Western Slope of Colorado in the 70s. We were all hippies and ran a loose ship.

One day a car went over a mountainside, and a tow truck was summoned to pull it out. Ooops, the tow truck went down the same mountainside. Big mess!

Call out one of the big wreckers. Take picture of big wrecker pulling up two battered vehicles. Place picture on page one.

The headline (written by someone far more talented that I): "Oh what a tangled wreck we weave, when we consipire to retrieve."

Paul Borzo

The key with using puns as headlines is whether they are clever or groaners, and I think too many times, editors can't tell the difference, or to put it more chartiably, don't share the same taste in them as I do. A recent example of one that was actually neither clever nor a groaner, but a head-scratcher until you got several paragraphs into the story and then misused the key term in question was "Garland a groupie." This was one that made absolutely no sense headlining a story on a White Sox game that Jon Garland pitched until you got to a quote well into it where someone said words to the effect of "Garland had been pitching badly lately while the rest of the starters had been pitching well, so he was anxious to pitch well like them, so he could feel more like part of the group." Get it--he wanted to feel like a part of the group? Let's call him a groupie. Even though a groupie generally refers to a fan who pursues a star athlete or musician for the purpose of having sex with that star. That had to be one of the worst headlines I'd seen in a long time.

Dave Juhl

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