Unlike, say, bishops or elected officials, there is nothing inherently evil about headline writers. They usually have the word "editor" in some part of their title, though the word has become as devalued as the word "knight" in England, where every play-actor and harmonica player on the island is now addressed as "sir."
Additionally, these headline writers are often reasonably intelligent, usually retaining a wit paralleling that of, say, a chocolatier or skip tracer. Thus, much of the time, their headlines are above criticism: cogent and pertinent, if not always attention-getters. Maybe 90 percent of the time.
Oh, but that other 10 percent! How to explain their stark silliness? Some would point out that headline writers often suffer horrendous sexual identity problems, shortened vertebrae and advanced colitis. My own theory is that they occasionally insert headlines which are enigmatic, misleading or marvelously stupid just to see if anybody's noticing, a version of sailing paper planes from one jail cell to another.
Well, brothers and sisters, I for one am out there. I read your encrypted graffiti; I get it. Here are some of my favorites from the past year; keep 'em coming ...
"Husband indicted six years after death" (T-P, Sept. 6). Sir, my client unfortunately cannot be here to personally refute these cowardly accusations, but if he were ...
"Worms plunder vegetable" (T-P, Jan. 25). Duh. This is news? Yeah, and Serbs plunder Croats and lawyers plunder inheritances and China plunders Tibet.
"Salt Lake shocked: 3-legged skater banned" (Weekly World News, Feb. 4). Too bad; you should have seen how she could turn a simple "figure 8" into a dazzling "figure 81."
"Problems lead town to forget election" (Baton Rouge Advocate, Jan. 17). Now we're talking productive amnesia; any chance of us getting this disease?
"Women prefer scent of Dad" (T-P, Feb. 7). This is one of those where you might actually be better off applying that tiresome "don't go there."
"$5 million awarded in food fight" (T-P, Jan. 25). Wow. They must have been throwing Chateaubriands around the Grill Room or something.
"Above ground, living a miracle" (USA Today, Nov. 20). It's no picnic living underground, I'm confidently told.
"Queen shows off her royal tchotchkes" (T-P, Aug. 6). Oh, is there no end to these people's decadence?
"Doc's surprise breast exams need attention of licensing board" (T-P, June 26). Licensing boards for examining what? The Libertarians are right; government is way too intrusive.
"Be very wary of romance with inmate" (T-P, June 17). They hardly ever take you anywhere. On the other hand, you usually know where they are.
"Potatoes not effective deodorizers" (Hammond Daily Star, Aug. 19). However, if you put a slice of goat cheese under each arm ...
"Man in the street can be ignored" (T-P, June 11). Unless, of course, he's wearing a purple wig and has a coati mundi in one arm and a .30-caliber carbine in the other. That's hard to ignore.
"Man who blew up toilet hit with new charges" (T-P, May 13). He'll be lucky if that's the only thing he's hit with.
"Sometimes the nuts turn out to be right" (T-P, June 10). No, this was not a story about the revenue session of the Legislature.
"Winner's top priority: Junk rat-scented car" (Baton Rouge Advocate, Jan. 17). Well, that is an odd request, even of a lottery winner. Would you settle for a car that was cat-scented?
"Of swimsuits and altar boys" (T-P, Aug. 25). No, this was not in the Vatican newspaper.
"14 girls killed in fire not properly dressed" (T-P, March 18). Seems like an unnecessarily Puritan attitude to adopt at such a moment.
"Firefighter may have set fires to save people" (T-P, May 30). Save them from a long and peaceful life? Burn the village to save it?
"All used polar bears go to new homes" (USA Today, Nov. 20). I believe the term currently favored is "pre-owned."
"Pedophiles are found in various packages" (T-P, May 12). Thanks, Fed Ex guy. Lord, this is a huge package! This end up. Let's see. Oh my God, Mr. Snodgrass, you lousy son of a ...
"Priest will wed pregnant fiancé" (T-P, April 9). Who says the Catholic clergy won't do the right thing in sex scandals?
"Bowel drug approval provokes backlash" (T-P, July 13). You just wouldn't want to be there when the, uh, you know, hits the fan.
By now, astute reader, you have probably discerned what you think is a disturbing trend. You are even now silently shouting it: none of these samples of headline writing that he uses was written by a member of this newspaper's staff!
Coincidence is a marvelous thing, is it not?