Hed to come.

Monday, April 24th, 2006

As part of a flurry of library-book-reading after my finishing Arthur Gelb’s massive “City Room” memoir (a Christmas gift from a couple of years ago), I checked out the huge collection of New York Times front page reproductions called “Page One”—significant front pages from 1900 through 2000.

I think they were inspired by The Onion’s seminal “Our Dumb Century” or maybe it’s the other way around, but no matter.

Paging through, I was struck by how many words…especially headline words…have fallen out of use, just so much abandoned lead on a forgotten composing room floor.
“Parley” for one. And “Bloc”, “Strife”, “Truculent”, “Convoked”, “Pomp”, “Supercilious”, “Waylay”, “Spur”, “Stevedore”, “Hot-Rod”, and of course, “H-Bomb.”

I’m not sure that the all-parsing Google News page would know what to make of some of those…let alone those who parse their news from online aggregations and feeds.

You’ll also find an affirmation of the Times’ remarkably unchanging style in the abundant sprinkings of the passive voice: “Might Is Stressed”, “Rancor Continues”, “Democrats Concerned”, “Resistance Is Noted”, “Trial Data Given”, “Tactics Are Watched”, “U.S. Ties Hinted”, “Firm Grip Mapped”, and “Peace Is Sought.”

That passivity reminds me: my fellow Ohio University Post alums chuckle over the Nelsonville, Ohio paper’s simple one-column headlines to this day: “Meat Burned” (A tragic pot-roast incident on page one!) and “Snake on Square” (reptiles on the loose in downtown!). What was that paper’s name? Um, sorry, don’t remember.