Regarding That Fucking Headline

Meta commentary: The draft title of my piece this morning regarding Leander Kahney’s Wired cover story was “How Leander Kahney Got Everything Wrong by Being a Jackass” — a simple play on the title of Kahney’s original piece. When I finished, I didn’t think it was punchy enough. I use “jackass” frequently, and this was an exceptional bit of jackassery: nonsensical, shrill, and on the cover of a prominent magazine.

So I changed “Jackass” to “Fucking Jackass”, which expressed my thoughts aptly, and then published the piece. But it didn’t sit right. My concern over using fucking in the headline wasn’t squeamishness in the face of strong profanity, but rather that it might come across as slightly unhinged. So I re-read the entire piece again, and Kahney’s “Apple is irredeemably evil” line struck me yet again, and I realized irredeemable would make for a fine intensive in the headline, and add the satisfying click of a reference to Kahney’s own words.

So I changed “fucking” to “irredeemable” and re-published, about 30 minutes after the piece went live. A few readers who noticed the change emailed to say they liked “fucking” better, and, well, I aim to please, so I changed it back before calling it a night. When I woke up, I had emails from people who noticed that change and who preferred “irredeemable”. My gut feeling is that “irredeemable” makes for the better headline, so I’ve changed it back, this time for good.1

Tomorrow: 750 words on whether I should have used a dash rather than a colon after “jackassery” in the first paragraph above.

  1. And, yes, I considered “irredeemable fucking jackass”, but rejected it on the basis that it sounds awkward to my ear. ↩︎