Copy Editors May Be the Most Polysemous

By: Wayne Robins

Headline writers, caption scribblers, and copy editors may be the most polysemous people on Earth. So concludes Valerie Collins, who has a fascinating article about journalism and acts of polysemy in the most recent edition of The Vocabula Review (http://www.vocabula.com), an erudite online journal dedicated to excellence in the English language.

But first: Polysemy? “The phenomenon of having or being open to several different meanings,” speaketh Webster. Puns and their cute cousins, paragrams, are vehicles for polysemous expression. “Sidebars, subtitles, leads, and picture captions provide … opportunities for extended punning,” Collins explains mainly in the plain (she lives in Barcelona, Spain).

“Admittedly,” she wrote, “the dividing lines between true wit, cleverness … and groan-induction are fuzzy.” It’s so much a matter of individual taste that using such tools is really in the I of the beholder.

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