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Credit where credit is due

Rummaging around in the Internet the other day, I came across some mentions of a famous headline.

The way to make a headline famous, of course, is to make it fabulously bad. DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN comes readily to mind.

The headline of ill fame in this case rested above an article on the food page about home canning and preserving:

You can put pickles up yourself

On the Internet, citations identify The Washington Post as the paper that carried this headline. Now I know and admire many colleagues on the copy desk at The Post, and the paper does very well in its little way. But You can put pickles up yourself is, according to what I have been told for two decades, a Baltimore Sun headline, and a Richard Reeves column (also available on the Internet) agrees.

John Plunkett, a former assistant managing editor at The Sun, has the impression that the headline ran in the 1950s, beyond the reach of our electronic archive. The able Carol Julian of our library staff made a diligent search through clip files and microfilm without success. But she has more substantial work to do.

Actually, I ought to have more substantial work to do, management scum though I am. But I stand here in defense of my paper’s honor, and I issue this challenge:

I claim You can put pickles up yourself for The Sun, and if you say otherwise, prove me wrong.

Posted by John McIntyre at 9:26 AM | | Comments (4)


Uh . . . congratulations? And as for what we can do with pickles, thank you, no.

I searched the Washington Post archives back to 1877 and found no instances of "put pickles up."

Only a few days ago, CNN.COM's homepage featured the headline ATOMIC BOMB SURVIVORS SHARE HORROR STORIES under its "Entertainment" section.

Clicking on the link, the story's full headline helped to put it in a better context: ATOMIC BOMB SURVIVORS SHARE STORIES IN HBO FILM.

My dad used to claim that his friend (and *Baltimore Sun* copy editor) Zeke Porter wrote that headline for a *Sun* article on home canning, but he phrased it as: "Putting Pickles Up Yourself"

Izzat apocryphal?

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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