As an avid reader (and, slightly less frequently, aficionado) of the output of the local press, I find every now and then that there's something that just sticks in my craw -- a turn of phrase, a metaphor, a witticism -- that grates on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Until last night, the winner for me in this category has been "gangland mayhem," a phrase that intrepid Herald-Sun crime reporter John Stevenson uses all-too-frequently in his coverage of activity down at the Courthouse.
"Judge Foobar today set Al Ne'erdowell's bail at an even $1 million," Stevenson might write, "arguing that his presence on the street could intimidate witnesses cowed by the gangland mayhem evident in the heinous crime of which the defendant is accused."
I mean, what the heck is gangland mayhem, anyway? Did a whole mess of gang members go to Walt Crips-ney World and find that the Dumbo ride is playing its theme music at double-time speed? Wait, that would be gangland hilarity, never mind.
If anything, the gangland mayhem phrase conjures impressions of Al Capone and the speakeasy era, of suicide doors and booze runners.
But as of today, we have a new winner, courtesy of an Associated Press wire dispatch on the fiftieth anniversary of N.C.'s municipal annexation law:
But organizers of local anti-annexation movements who want the General Assembly to overhaul what they called the "forced" annexation law argue it has reached a mid-life crisis, and a comb-over won't hide its glaring flaws.
Thanks, AP, for bringing back truly awful memories of Schoolhouse Rock. After all, we all know that Bill doesn't have great hair. But we saw him when he was just a young, eager scrap of legislation, long before he was enacted to law and then -- and, kids, they don't show this part on Saturday morning, it's too gruesome a fate to consider -- exiled to dusty legal tomes, to be found only by law librarians and panicked law clerks.
By fifty, Bill apparently lost most of the papyrus at his top, so many shreds removed like tabs from a college union flyer ("Fridge for sale, call 555-1212"). And now poor Bill has to push the last few inches he's got left back over his shining pate, his blank cover sheet?
Seriously, could no one find a better metaphor than the comb-over? Who writes this stuff? More importantly: who edits it?
I'm sure a Google search would find the culprit, but knowing who actually published such a thing in the first place might just push me into newsroom gangland mayhem.