Saved from a headline disaster

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Last week I handled a page containing the story of how policemen were able to arrest a rape suspect after identifying him through documents found in a wallet he dropped at the crime scene.

I laid out the page and wrote this headline for the story:

Dropped wallet leads
cops to rape suspect

It was a good thing that our copy chief, Noel “Raskolnik the Lover Boy” Villaflor, has a sharp eye and a dirty mind. He immediately spotted the double meaning and we couldn’t stop laughing at the headline.

Still haven’t spotted the double meaning? Treat rape as a verb and suspect as the object of the action. Noel rewrote the headline to read:

Dropped wallet leads
policemen to “rapist”

The escapatory – as a judge puts it – single quotes framing the rapist.

Our managing ed commented on the unusual fetish of the policemen and how one should take care not to drop wallets around them.

Several years back, an editor wrote this headline: “Man loses leg in habal accident.” The story was on an accident involving a motorcycle-for-hire unit, which is called habal-habal in Cebu. The editor, a Tagalog, didn’t know that habal is also a raunchy Cebuano word for sex. Now read the headline again and tell me what images come into your mind. I never could understand why motorcycles for hire are called habal-habal in Cebu, maybe it’s the way two or three passengers ride on a unit — a public transport daisy chain. In South Cotabato, it’s called skylabs.

These headlines, however, are nothing compared to what Banat News printed when I was still working for The Freeman. The Cebuano tabloid bannered a story on how a Japanese man accused of harassing a woman – by touching her breasts – was ordered deported.

Banat carried the story with this headline:

Hapon nanguot
totoy gi-deport

I was at the office when Juanito Jabat, publisher of The Freeman and Banat, asked editor John Rey Saavedra: “Nganong gi-deport man tawon ang totoy?” (Why were the breasts deported.?) Because of the way the lines were split, the totoy or breasts became the object of the action deport.

The headline should have read:

Hapon nanguot
totoy; gi-deport

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