One of the more challenging tasks a newspaper editor must face is the writing of the headline. He or she is charged with putting words in a predetermined space that will reflect the gist of the story, but at the same time catch the eye and make the peruser want to read what follows.
Not always an easy chore. And sometimes things just go wrong. Jay Leno has, of course, dined out on unintentionally ‘bad’ and often equally unintentionally bawdy or suggestive heads. Meanwhile, the harried editor, working on a deadline, is usually oblivious as to what the words will look like in the cold light of the next dawn when the paper appears on some poor schmuck’s doorstep.
“Look at this, Martha! I’m not going to put up with that sort of filth. Call them up and cancel our subscription!”
By the way, word to the wise, a cancelled subscription doesn’t really hurt a newspaper very much. Furthermore, pissed-off readers tend to return eventually. What really hurts is if a big advertiser cancels and account. A paper is, after all, a business, not really a social service.
But, mistakes do, as I said, happen. The thought came to me as I posted a particularly badly stated and open to huge misinterpretation headline on Facebook this morning, and in my commentary I mentioned one of my own ill-considered heads. I actually won a ‘blooper’ award for that one at a convention.
What I used as a headline, which pertained to the raising up of the world’s largest hockey stick on an arena in the Vancouver Island town of Duncan, was “Giant stick nears erection”. Nuff sed? And potentially painful, too.
As follows will be a few more examples of some gaffes found in our local papers, including a further one written by me. I can’t lay claim to the others.
One time we ran a contest in which people living in various neighborhoods were invited to nominate somebody nearby for a ‘Good Neighbor’ award. You know, neighbors that helped out in times of trouble, and so forth.
The contest had run for a number of weeks, in each issue and I reached the point where heads were becoming uninspired. So, I thought I’d opt for a Shakespearian tone for a particular issue and wrote: “Why not enter thy neighbor?” Not until it appeared did I realize this could be interpreted in a few ways, some more charming than others.
The final two appeared in advertisements and caused a certain amount of consternation in the advertisers.
One was an ad for women’s undergarments, panties to be precise, and the ad headline read badly because it was supposed to state something to the effect of “The panties that count”. Unfortunately the finished ad omitted the letter ‘o’ in the word ‘count’.
Another one was for a fast-food outlet known as Rosie’s Pantry, and they ran an ad for ‘Box lunches at Rose’s Panty.’ Not so good.
Check Google. You can find lots more of your own from everywhere.