Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sister won’t give up on her brother serving prison time.

No, this headline is not something the Sage wrote, but something which appeared atop an article which the Sage recently read. The Sage will not mention where it originated, lest the editors of said periodical be embarassed by their oversight. However, the Sage will comment on the various meanings of this headline.

First, this has the meaning which the writer intended. As one delves deeper into the article, one reads that the subject's brother is imprisoned, and subject hopes tobring to an end that incarceration. While the brother admitted committing a crime, the family feels that the punishment meted out does not fit the crime actually committed. The Sage will not analyze here whether the punishment is just or unjust.

Second, this headline has a meaning completely opposite what was intended. The Sage read this heading to one of the Minions, whose first stated impression was similar to the Sage's own first impression. The Sage immediately pictured a woman cruelly mistreated by her brother, who has sought legal respite from her plight, only to be denied the justice she sought. Still, the woman toils on, valiantly seeking her brother's incarceration.

The Sage believes that editors would do well to read at least their headlines aloud to someone not immediately familiar with what story is being presented, to verify the listener's reaction. Perhaps a better heading might have been, "Sister won't give up on imprisoned brother." Unless the editor believes that the readership is incapable of comprehending words of three or more syllables, this would have served as a much clearer headline, with the added benefit of greater brevity.

Better luck next time, Dear Editor.


  1. Oh Sage, for the rest of us language is like a Rubiks cube, you have to shuffle the words round and round and maybe get some meaning (or perhaps it's like a lemon, keep squeezing and you'll get something out of it) (or maybe it's like music, don't bother to try to get it)

  2. True, but most of us don't make a living from using the language.

    However, the Sage never had a problem with said Cube of Rubik. If you twist it just so, the pieces pop right out for proper rearrangement!