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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Curious Case of Lazy Headline Writers

Please, I am begging all journalists, headline writers, bloggers--everyone--stop using "The Curious Case of...." as a headline. It is completely insane. It's not creative. And it usually doesn't even make sense.

Dictionary.com defines curious as follows:

–adjective
1. eager to learn or know; inquisitive.
2. prying; meddlesome.
3. arousing or exciting speculation, interest, or attention through being inexplicable or highly unusual; odd; strange: a curious sort of person; a curious scene.
4. Archaic.
a. made or prepared skillfully.
b. done with painstaking accuracy or attention to detail: a curious inquiry.
c. careful; fastidious.
d. marked by intricacy or subtlety

For example, here is a story titled "The Curious Case of Vince Young and the Tennessee Titans." It's about how Jeff Fischer supposedly has already promised the starting spot at QB next year to Kerry Collins. How is this curious? Is this story inquisitive? A curious inquiry? Highly unusual? Uh, no. No it's not. You know why? Because Vince Young sucks at being a quarterback in the NFL, and Kerry Collins led the Titans to the best record in the AFC.

Here's another, from Time: "The Curious Case of Gran Torino." It's about "the curious case" of a movie starring a 72-year-old man that features stark realism could do $150M at the box office, and dramatically out-selling all the movies that got picked for Oscars over it. Again, I ask: is this an inexplicable event? Is the story about an event that is highly unusual? NO! IT'S CLINT EASTWOOD! What the hell do you expect? The guy is old so people have stopped almost universally loving the guy? Nope, that's not the case. That's not the case at all. And he's in a movie that doesn't suck? Shocking.

Last one: "The Curious Case of Terrance Williams." This might be the worst one of them all. I'll let the writer take it away:

No player in college basketball is more of an enigma than Terrence Williams.

Williams loves to shoot three pointers but rarely makes them, but he's
six-seven, loves to rebound, and bang around with players six inches taller.

A player who thrills the crowds at Freedom Hall with Jordanesque dunks, yet is
just as likely to miss a wide open layup.

Wow. You're not trying to tell me that a kid who is a really good athlete doesn't have the best skills at basketball, are you? Because if that is what you're telling me, than I am flabbergasted. How could I not be? This kind of player has never existed before, especially not in college basketball! I mean, it's not like the Chicago Bulls have ever wasted two Lottery picks on players that would exactly fit this description? Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah? Those guys are absolutely not like that at all. Nope, nothing to see here with those two. There's no way that a guy like Terrance Williams has ever existed, so there's certainly no way there could be two players that fit that exact description and play for the same professional team. That's not to mention that Rick Pitino would never recruit a player like that. He has never had a tall player try to play like a guard, who could leap, but not have the best basketball skills. Not Walter McCarty. Not Antoine Walker. Nope. This is indeed a "curious case," because this situation has never been seen in the sport, let alone on a Rick Pitino-coached team.

And it's not just these three I happened to notice; if you do a Google News search of "The Curious Case of," it comes back with pages and pages of stories that use that in it's headline.

Please, copy editors: don't let your writer do this to you. It is old, it is overused, it is annoying, and it is usually not even accurate.

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Comments:
I blame this on Brad Pitt.
 
very interesting blog and a good posting !!! you must maintain your blog, its interesting !!! Nice Buddy
 
I am quite impressed and just wanted to let you know that you did a fine job on this article. However, I do have some unanswered questions that I would like to ask you. I will contact you via email so that you can clear some of these things up for me. Again, very well written article. Keep up the good work.

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