Saturday, February 10, 2007

Language humor from The Onion

Since starting this blog, I've been meaning to write some posts about language humor in the Onion, America's Finest News Source, founded here in Madison. Just look at this week's issue:
The word you use to denote long sandwiches in your region is ridiculous (headline on p. 1, referring to the non-existent Opinion page 9B)
Straight-up dialect joke, if cut from a template they use a lot -- making things generic. (They sell stuff that says "The Sports Team From My Area Is Superior To The Sports Team From Your Area" and "Your favorite band sucks.")

Or their treatment of a recent usage (News in Brief, p. 2):
Troop Gradually Withdraws
BAGHDAD—According to members of his squad, 22-year-old Army Pfc. Casey Schreiner, who has been stationed in Iraq's Sunni Triangle for nearly a year and a half, is nearing completion of his psychological withdrawal from the war that constantly surrounds him. "The timetable for his exit certainly isn't optimal—we still need him to stay with us," said Cpl. Chris Oswald, adding that Schreiner began pulling out mentally little by little as members of his platoon were killed by roadside bombings, sniper shootings, and various personnel carrier and helicopter crashes. "At this rate, I think he'll be completely gone by spring." U.S. and coalition commander in Iraq Lt. Gen. David Petraeus said Schreiner is just one of thousands of troops who have experienced a phased cerebral withdrawal, adding that throughout the next year an estimated 20,000 more are expected to stage a retreat from reality.
There's been discussion lately on ADS-L and elsewhere about the use of troop for troops. Only the Onion can be this devastating with a linguistic innovation. And they've been at it for a while, back to when they were mocking the "coalition of the willing", see here.

They're just as good on science humor. Like the Aquarius horoscope this week:
Your perfectionist streak will consume you this week when you attempt to posit the world single most precise chaos theory.


Oscar Madison said...

I love the graphic! How did you do that?

The Ridger, FCD said...

"Linguistic innovation" - used by Winfield Scott in the Civil War and Eisenhower in WWII - at the very least they used "troops" to mean "individual soldiers" instead of units. "Troop" is a lot easier to deal with than "servicemember".