Writing a Reformed Clich for Print

Our paper carried the notice last week that Mr. Herman Jones is a defective in the police force. This was a typographical error. Mr. Jones, of course, is a detective on the police farce.

—The Ootlewah Times (Tennessee)

Most newspaper bloopers, known as typos, fall in this category, but you can also write a reformed cliché for print.

In the summer of 1985, two Czechoslovakian tennis stars, Ivan Lendl and Hana Mandlikova, respectively won the US Open men's and women's tennis championships. The fact that they were both Czech gave writers of photo captions, cartoons, headlines, and newscasts a field day in homonym witticisms.

Imagine you are a newspaper or newsmagazine editor. You've got a photo of the two winners, each holding a US Open trophy and a check for $170,000. Your assignment is to come up with a photo caption or headline. You choose to do a reformed homonym. It's an obvious choice.

Step One

First write down all the homonyms associated with the sound of Czech. A sample list would include all those connected with bank checks:

bounced check bad check good check rubber check cashed check deposited check big check paid check returned check endorsed check cancelled check the check is in the mail

But the word check has many other meanings. It's used in chess to check and checkmate an opponent. There's the game of checkers and the cliché "check and double check." In ice hockey one player body checks an opponent. In a roll call, one checks off names with a check mark. You can ask for separate checks in a restaurant. And when you've completed this list, be sure to check it out completely!

Step Two

Now substitute the word Czech in all the above expressions and determine if the caption or headline syncs with the specific picture described above. How many different ones can you come up with? This assignment is for quantity. There should be five to ten possibilities from the above list, for instance, "Czech-mated" or "cashed Czechs." Only after you've examined many possibilities should you select the best one.

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