Thursday, February 23, 2006

Not dramatic enough for you?

Today's (OK, Wednesday's) entry in the Words Mean Stuff category:

The changing face of black theater
Plays originally focused on racism, now on more dramatic, universal themes

Here's the graf from which the hed appears to have been drawn:
The evolution of black theater has had its fair share of cycles. What originally centered on racism and oppression has grown, changed, moved on and, with plays like “Intimate Apparel,” now encompasses more universal themes and characters — just as the rotating floor moves the play forward and onto the next scene.

The hed confuses two types of adjectives. In the text, the order is cumulative (squint a little and you can see the implied one): What kind of themes? Dramatic themes. What kind of dramatic themes? More universal ones.

In the hed, they're coordinate, meaning they have equal weight and modify the target noun equally. One good test for coordinate adjectives is whether you can switch them around and get the same meaning. And this set patently fails. In the text, again, it's the themes that are more universal; all themes are equally "dramatic," in that they're all themes in the craft of drama. In the hed, the themes are two things:

1) More dramatic
2) more universal

Leading to the obvious question: What, racism isn't dramatic enough for you?

Please, don't throw words around at random. They mean stuff.

By the way: Did I miss the announcement from the news bureau? When was the Missourian city desk appointed official arbiter of a genre's fair share of cycles?


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