October 14, 2005

Stupid title blather for language articles

I have commented before (here) on decent articles about linguistic topics getting stupid titles stuck on them by editors who seem to have one-track minds limited to words and symbols and tongues and noises you make with your mouth. Here's another one, by Michael Erard. The topic? How the USA is gravely short of language teachers, and of course short of people who are expert in the use of foreign languages. Erard's article discusses it sensibly and seriously. The goofy editor's title? "Tongue Tied." What the hell does Erard's topic have to do with being tongue-tied? Nothing. It's as if editors reach into a small box labeled "Stupid punning titles for language articles", pick out a random slip of paper, and just paste it on without even reading it.

By the way, Jim Gordon has just reminded me that they don't do so well in dealing with articles that are not about language, either. He noticed one of today's stories in the Washington Post under the headine "Asian Bird Flu Found in Turkey". The virus was not, of course, found in a turkey. Jim says he was on the edge of referring to the headline writers as turkeys, but then he decided it would be an insult to a noble bird.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at October 14, 2005 10:48 AM