When I read the TechCruch story Technorati scores $7.6m more funding I was immediately struck (and highly amused by) the phrase "traffic continues not to spike."
"Clever!" I thought. That Marashall guy has a way with words.
[By the way, this has nothing to do with Technorati or their traffic. I love those guys.]
Anyway, that got me wondering why that phrase was particularly funny to me. And after a bit of thinking on the matter, I hit about the likely candidate: the surprise. The word "not" is unexpected. If you happen to be skimming the article quickly, you might not even see it. Your brain would read "traffic continues to spike" and you'd think "yeah, Technorati keeps getting more popular."
But it doesn't say that at all. It's a subtle insult hidden in plain sight. And that, for some reason, appeals to me.
I then realized that there's a whole class of expressions I occasionally encounter in journalism that bother me. A statement like "President Bush failed to XXXXX" is common to hear or read--and not just because Bush is considered to be a failure by some. It's common because it's a sneaky way to make you think that there's an expectation or a goal when there often never was.
The extreme example of such language is for me to say "I failed to hit a single telephone pole on my drive home last night." While it's a completely true (and mildly amusing) statement, it makes you think that I might have been trying to hit telephone poles. You're not entirely sure if that inability to hit telephone poles is good or bad.
It's kind of like what someone once told me about flying. Flying is the act of falling and failing to hit the ground.
Are there other examples of such language play that have particularly amused you in the past?
Posted by jzawodn at July 13, 2006 05:02 PM