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Sometimes Mangled Words Can Be Magical



By William Thomas

The newspaper you’re holding in your hands at this moment is the culmination of a great team effort by people who love their calling.  Reporters and writers work tirelessly in a rush to meet deadlines and please their editors, as well as inform and entertain readers.  And, they make mistakes.  I collect those mistakes.  Sometimes the mistakes are more entertaining than the articles they appear in.

I got to thinking about messed-up messages that somehow miss the scrutiny of two or even three sets of eyes as I drove through a town named Athol Springs last week.  I love the slow drive that hugs the Lake Erie shoreline south from Buffalo to Erie, PA and every time I pass through Athol Springs, I shake my head in disbelief.

My mind flashed back to a classified ad in a Texas daily newspaper that read:  “Immediate opening for licensed speeth pathologist.”  I imagined the historical reporter for a local Western New York paper writing:  “Athol Springs was originally named by a somewhat cynical settler with a slight speech impediment.”

I’m guessing the kids of Athol Springs leave town within an hour of graduation.  They probably jump at the first job offer they see.  Like the help wanted ad in the Camdenton, MO paper that read:  “Singer for new rock band.  Must be male or female.”  Bit vague, but the band is most certainly an equal opportunity employer.

Sometimes the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.  In the case of a Modesto, CA paper, the historian had not been communicating with the caterer.  “A workshop on the history and future of Chinook salmon in the San Joaquin Valley’s rivers will be held in November.  Baked salmon will be served for lunch.”  That could have been much worse.  That could have been a workshop on the history and future of family pets!  And November?  Weekday or weekend?  Early or later in the month?

I’m not saying a skewed announcement can put a publication out of business, but this from the Religious News Service:  “Eternity Magazine will cease publishing with the January issue.”  How about “Ceasing publication, the final issue of Eternity Magazine will be January.”

British copywriters are by far the best, intentionally mangling newspaper reports.  From the crime sheet:  “Thieves stole a van containing bottles of hair restorer.  Police are now combing the area.”

From a more serious crime sheet:  “Two men robbed a bank today.  One is described as being seven feet tall, the other four feet six. Police are looking high and low for them.”

Amid all the supermarket ads:  “A truck carrying onions has dumped its load on the highway.  Motorists are advised to find a shoulder to cry on.”

And from Lost & Found:  “Hundreds of stray dogs disappeared yesterday.  Police say they have no leads.”

Some deliberate headlines are quite clever.  Like:  “Latin Course To Be Cancelled – No Interest Among Students Et Al.”  Sometimes you can’t be sure if they’re deliberate.  “Croupiers On Strike – Casino Management Says ‘No Big Deal’.”

And:  “Lingerie Shipment Hijacked – Thieves Give Police The Slip.”  Now, that’s no accident.

“Overweight?  Meeting 6:00 p.m. at 522 North Eighth Street, Sheboygan, Illinois.  Free.  Bring your own chair.”  Yeah, that’s definitely a mistake.

“Department of Transportation reviewed plans submitted by the no-thrills motel chain.”  Now that’s an accident.  Either the copywriter meant to say “the no-frills motel chain” or that place is located in the heart of Amish country.

Announcement in a small newspaper in Missouri concerning an aerobics class:  “Please bring a towel or mate for floor exercises.”  Error, right?  I think they were encouraging a participant to bring a ‘mat.’  If they did mean “mate,” you better bring a lawyer as well.

And from a paper in Plains, MT about a service club’s monthly meeting:  “The club president called the meeting to order and asked for a round of applesauce for the cooks.”  No one was hurt, but the dry cleaning bill was over $100.

And finally, my two favorites of all time— newspaper miscues that are almost magical.

This from a Community Life insert in a British Columbia daily:  “In last week’s edition of Community Life, a picture caption listed some unusual gourmet dishes that were enjoyed at the Central Library party for foreign students enrolled in a tutorial program for conversational English.  Mai Thai Finn is one of the students in the program and was in the center of the photo.  We incorrectly listed her name as one of the items on the menu.  Community Life regrets the error.”  Yeah, but not as much as Mai Thai Fin.

And lastly from a paper in Jamestown, NY:  “Correction.  The band “Raging Saints” base their music on Born Again Christian principles and The St. James version of the Bible.  They are not “unrepentant head-bangers” as we reported in a column last Saturday.  Our Night Life columnist regrets the error.”  Yeah, but not as much as Mai Thai Finn.


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