Why dead men keep getting shot

“Man develops breasts from eating chicken,” said the headline of a report sent to me by a reader in China.

I was about to dismiss it as an urban legend when a journalist colleague said it actually happened. The guy lived largely on wings of hormone-filled chickens and doctors said they were the most likely cause of him having grown breasts large enough to cause his male friends to suffer from complex, confused feelings.

All of us were horrified by the story except for one guy who said that if it happened to him, he would have to keep sneaking off to “have another look”.

This led to a conversation about people’s favorite bizarre headlines. One colleague offered a recent one from the US: “Michael Jackson Impersonator Charged With Molesting Boys”. He quipped: “I can only conclude that the guy took his profession very seriously indeed.”

And of course, you can find lots of examples of amusing headlines on the internet, like “Dead Body Found At Cemetery” and the like. These tend to be from the US, but journalists elsewhere like to point out that the rest of the world has some intriguing ones, such as “Woman with arms held”, a headline from the Times of India, and this one from Canada’s Toronto Sun: “Woman’s ‘stomach bug’ actually baby”.

A good one, source forgotten, was this one: “Miners refuse to work after death”, which conjures up images of mean bosses making departed spirits dig coal. And a paper in Hong Kong had this one: “China may be using sea to hide its submarines” – as if other countries hid theirs in the clouds or tucked them upright behind trees.

Then there are the typos. A misspelt caption in a California newspaper, the Modesto News-Herald, was odd in that country but would have made sense in parts of Asia or Africa: “Here the bridal couple stood, facing the floral setting, and exchanged cows.”

Harder to explain was a misprint in the Holland Evening Sentinel of Michigan: “It took many rabbits many years to write the Talmud.” Did the writer mean “rabbis” or was this the first miracle?

The most common odd headline is “dead man shot” which comes up all the time. In the UK Guardian recently, there was “Oklahoma cop shoots dead man” and in the Daily Mail: “Cambridgeshire police shoot dead man”.

The curious thing is that a dead man WAS actually shot in Australia recently. Forensic scientists in that country discovered that the victim died just before the bullet arrived. However, the shooter was still charged with attempted murder because he THOUGHT the man was alive when he pulled the trigger. I assumed the phrase “It’s the thought that counts” was what you said when grandma gave you a horrible jumper for your birthday, but apparently it also applies in law.

That means that when Google finally releases its mind-reading machine, all males on the planet are going to be in unbelievable trouble. (They might as well jail us all now.)

On the same lines, this writer was particularly worried by a headline in the La Crosse Tribune, a US newspaper: “Wisconsin woman takes husband to police for ‘talking stupidly’.” What, that’s illegal now? Does writing silly columns count?