Monday, August 23, 2021

Clickbait bug story from 1917

This headline from the Sept. 20, 1917, edition of the Courier-Post of Camden, New Jersey — "When Mr. Mantis met a Boogeyman" — promised much ... and delivered little. The "clickbait" headline of its day, perhaps.

The overwritten nature article by Benj. W. Courter is about a literal praying mantis that has met its match in the insect world: a katydid. They have a staredown on a leaf, and the praying mantis eventually backs down, bringing the elevated bug tension to an end and allowing them to both go on with their days. It appears that Benj just sat there and watched the entire spectacle, which he claims went on for "ten, fifteen minutes, probably more."

I can only imagine the conservation between Benj and his editor back in the Courier-Post newsroom.

"Benj, whadda ya got for me today?"

"I have a cracking narrative about a praying mantis and katydid."

[Long pause.]

"Bottom of page four! Tell 'em to punch up the headline."

Here are some lines from the article:
  • "There was a stir on a distant ragweed just as though a sephyr had fanned the delicate tracery of faded yellow florets."
  • "One claw tapped Mr. Kaydid on the very top of the his emerald-hued head."
  • "Indeed, Mr. Mantis had met a boogeyman, and there was not the least doubt but that he was as fearful as the average little boy who thinks he sees things at night."

In good news, it appears that Courter's article of 104 years ago is accurate. I did eight seconds of fact-checking online and am fully satisfied by the January 2020 Reddit post by HellfireOrpheusTod that states: "If you watch Monster Bug Wars, you'll know that mantids always lose against katydids." So there you have it. If only the Courier-Post copy desk had thought to use "Monster Bug Wars" in the headline.

No comments:

Post a Comment