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Even Michele Bachmann deserves better than this

If you please, headline writers of America, no more headlines about Michele Bachmann that include the word overdrive. Every time you do this, you betray the inadequacies of pun headlines.

Bachman-Turner Overdrive was a band that had a certain vogue in the 1970s. As far as I know—I see little point in keeping up—they may still be touring the Canadian provinces, but linking them to the current Republican candidate for the presidency is fatuous, for reasons that I will explain.

1. Punning on people’s names is juvenile. It’s schoolyard humor.

2. So far as I can tell, there is no connection whatever between the candidate and the band. An effective play on words works like a metaphor, bringing into relief some essential likeness. There isn’t one here.

3. It’s not 1976 any more. So maybe you could explain cleverness is making a pun on the names of a current candidate and a superannuated musician most active more than thirty years ago. No? I thought not.


Posted by John McIntyre at 4:46 PM | | Comments (8)


Regarding point #2, is there a name for such pointless puns?

Our local alt-weekly, for example, ran a story about people who get by without cars. Online, the hed was "Carless Whisper." Had the subjects in the story been embarrassed to speak about their lack of a car, then the hed would have worked. But it was just a gratuitous reference to an old pop song.

I seem to see this misfired puns more and more, although maybe I'm just paying more attention. Maybe these are just bad puns, but it seems like there ought to be a name for this particular genre of false cleverness.

How about hang nails? Are you for or against?

I guess I'll have to scrap my headline for Ron Paul George and Ringo.

If it's any consolation, SEO has joined the fight against pun headlines.

Prof. McI., I agree that using "overdrive", ad nausea, alluding to the '70s Canadian 'Northern' rock band, Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO), is pretty lame, to the point of 'sophomoronic'. Beating a dead pun, as it were.

Some 'boomers' w/ a nostalgic bent for '60s/ '70s rambling hard rock would likely recall the talented "Takin' Care of Business"/ "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" Winnipeg-based motley Canadian crew, but I would contend that for most of today's twenty-thirty-forty-somethings this feeble punning would have fallen mostly on deaf ears. BTO who?

If the media were to dredge up a Perry Como, or the more contemporary bubble-gummy sexpot, Katy Perry, pun re/ recent GOP presidential hopeful, Texas good-old-boy Gov. Rick Perry, we know we're basically forever doomed to banality.

Next thing we know, presidential aspirant, Michele Bachmann, out on the hustings, will be co-opting The Guess Who's signature tune, "American Woman"------another Canadian roots rock 'n roll band hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba in the '60s, w/ close creative ties to BTO.

She's already ticked off veteran rocker Tom Petty, whose lawyers issued a cease-and-desist order a while back for Bachmann using one of his popular 'Heartbreaker' numbers at her public meet-and-greet 'events', without his permission.

And the political beat goes on.


As it happens, Randy Bachman and Fred Turner reunited only last year, and currently perform and record as Bachman & Turner. Apparently, even they feel that "overdrive" is overused.

J. D. Considine,

IMHO, like many long-in-the-tooth, once widely acclaimed, now bordering on ancient hard-edge rock-and-rollers, former BTO stalwarts Randy Bachman and Fred Turner are clearly operating on residual fumes fueled by a fanatic 'boomer' generation's longing for their brand of good old-time rock & roll.

I guess if 'The Stones' can still make it work after all these decades, then kudos to Bachman and Turner for their recent comeback, sans the "Overdrive' moniker.

I recall the Canadian one-hit-wonder, singer-songwriter Dan Hill, who struck late-1970s Billboard Top-40 pay-dirt w/ his catchy love ballad, "Sometimes When We Touch", and was immediately being touted as perhaps the next Canadian musical wunderkind a la Gordon Lightfoot, or Neil Young.

Sadly, it didn't quite happen for Mr. Hill, whose career quickly languished in the doldrums for decades, to the point where the Canadian media began mercilessly labeling him w/ the moniker, "Down Hill".

Ironically, a litany of high-profile singers covered his smash hit, "Sometimes When We Touch", including Old Blue Eyes Sinatra, and Tina Turner. To this day royalties from this emotionally compelling number continue to enrich Dan Hill's personal coffers.

Now in his late 50s, Hill still tours on a limited basis, performing, and recording, mainly in his native Canada, hoping to catch lightening in a bottle just one more time.

A little birdie told me that he might be opening for Bachman and Turner at the
Muskeg Lodge & Spa in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan this fall.......... not. HA!


Alex McCrae,

I'm not sure what Dan Hill has to do with any of this, but he was not a one-hit-wonder. He had two Top-10 hits in the States, the second being "Can't We Try" from 1987, nine years after "Sometimes When We Touch." In all, he placed five singles on the Billboard Hot 100, and has won five Junos.

For what it's worth, the Canadian media no longer sneers at him. In fact, the most recent stories about him in the Globe and Mail have been quite flattering.

J.D. Considine,

Touché, monsieur!

You are quite correct re/ all of the many musical exploits, sundry kudos, and awards of Dan Hill beyond his earlier mega-success w/ his "Sometimes When We Touch". My off-hand 'one-hit-wonder' appellation was perhaps unfair, and admittedly factually inaccurate, as you've indicated.

And further, your closing point about more recent media critical coverage of Hill's life and work being largely "flattering" can not be denied.

As a Canadian expat having lived, and worked in L.A. for over three decades, I still subscribe to MaClean's magazine, Canada's closest weekly news-magazine to Time in the U.S. I still miss ye olde sod.

I do, in fact, recall reading a very touching, yet rather disturbingly chilling, lengthly MaClean's article a few years back, I believe authored by Dan Hill himself, about his bright, but slightly rebellious adolescent son's chumming w/ a handful of unsavory local Toronto street gang toughs, who would hang out in and around the Hill residence, for hours on end, much to the displeasure of Mr. Hill.

Tensions over his son's continually hanging w/ these unsavory gangster-types escalated to the point where one of these more in-your-face gang thugs actually threatened to kill Mr. Hill. He made the threat directly to Hill's face, and Hill took the prospect of his untimely demise rather seriously.

As I vaguely recall, this particular threatening individual was subsequently murdered in some intercine (sp. ?) gang dustup.

Eventually, Hill's boy completely dissociated himself from the gang element, and things got back to a degree of normalcy between father and son.

I came away from this article w/ a greater admiration, and appreciation for Dan Hill. Not as the Canadian singer-tunesmith who perhaps didn't quite fulfill
his full musical potential, (yet did pretty OK, nonetheless), but as a proactive, caring dad who didn't give up on a son who could have easily taken the path to the dark side, and squandered all that promise, and innate talent.

Fame is usually fleeting, yet family is forever. (Hmm......... I feel a country lyric comin' on. HA!)

J.D. thanks for calling me out on this one. You clearly have done your homework.


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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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