2010 Leonard Cohen World Tour Puts Europe, Australia, Cambodia At Risk Of Hallelujah Headlines
Yesterday’s post, Leonard Cohen Concert Clothes Cliche Compendium,1 called to mind an altogether pertinent December 2008 Heck Of A Guy entry, Holiday Hope – Hallelujah Headline Hiatus, in which the seasonal longing for Peace on Earth, good will to men was manifested in the ardent, altruistic desire that writers, reporters, bloggers, editors, and the like eschew the too-easy use of the superfluous exclamatory “Hallelujah” in headlines referencing Leonard Cohen – a wish that remains, alas, unrequited.
Excerpts from Holiday Hope – Hallelujah Headline Hiatus follow:
On 18 December 2008, The London Telegraph ran a story titled Hallelujah – 20 facts about Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah
This evoked in me several responses … My major reaction, however, was exasperation. This was the 33,759th article about Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah to appear in the past three weeks. That, of course, is fine and dandy. Too many articles about a Leonard Cohen song? That’s crazy talk.
No, the cause of my frustration was that “Hallelujah – 20 facts about Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah” was the 33,754th article about Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah to appear in the past three weeks using what I have termed the Exclamatory Hallelujah Heading.
In the case of “Hallelujah – 20 facts about Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah,” the first “Hallelujah” is the exclamatory Hallelujah. The “Hallelujah” following “Leonard Cohen’s,” on the other hand, is an identifier-Hallelujah, referring directly to the name of the song.
A fundamental distinction exists between the the identifier-Hallelujah and the exclamatory Hallelujah: Referring to “Hallelujah” (the name of the song) could be pertinent and perhaps essential in the title of an article about that song.
The exclamatory Hallelujah, however, is not essential. It is, at best, ornamental and, more typically, it is only a cheap means to a cheap headline. Recent examples of the exclamatory Hallelujah heading template include
- Hallelujah! Alexandra triumphs on X Factor
- Hallelujah! The competition’s wide open,
- The X Factor and Leonard Cohen? Hallelujah!
Sharp-eyed viewers will have already noted that these three cases are also exemplars of a subclass of the exclamatory Hallelujah heading category. An exclamation mark immediately punctuating a titular Hallelujah is not only a pathognomonic indicator of an exclamatory Hallelujah heading but also qualifies the construction as an excessive exclamatory Hallelujah heading (E2H2). Ongoing readers may be aware of my antipathy toward the profligate proliferation of exclamation marks as outlined in my seminal essay, Exclamation Marks – Pervasive Perversity Or Provocative Punctuation Peccadillo?. As one might extrapolate, I am not a fan of the excessive exclamatory Hallelujah heading.2
The Evil That Lurks Within The Exclamatory Hallelujah heading
Reporters and bloggers who protest that a headline with an exclamatory Hallelujah is altogether appropriate to the content of a given article miss this key point:
Readers deserve better than clichés, whether or not
the clichés are are on point, factually correct, suitable, …
I once read a piece proffering the mock proposal that sportswriters be limited each year to no more than two headlines that employ team-name specific clichés of the “Indians Scalp Yankees” or “Bears Claw Packers” ilk.3 The premise is the same: Readers deserve better.
I am acutely aware of the need to cobble together a pithy headline because of an impending deadline or because the lack of a title is the only thing preventing those 1,233 semi-cogently arranged words squirreled away in a WordPress database residing in a tiny speck on a hard drive at the web host’s headquarters from being transformed into a full fledged publication.
And, I am certainly aware of the temptation Leonard Cohen song titles present for the erstwhile headline writer.
But, come on now – isn’t slipping that exclamatory Hallelujah into the heading just a little too easy, just a little beneath your dignity as a writer?
Well, even if it’s not, it should be. So, suck it up. Write a better heading. Find another verse of the song to twist to your needs. Look in a thesaurus. Ask for help. In this case, don’t be too proud to beg. Pull a random word from the dictionary. If you work in a newsroom, place a profanity where the headline should be so your editor will be forced to come up with a heading.
Fight for journalistic integrity. Do not succumb to the exclamatory Hallelujah heading.
The Exclamatory Hallelujah Heading Plague Persists
This campaign to win the hearts and minds of headline writers by appealing to their integrity, professionalism, and self-esteem has proven spectacularly unsuccessful. The following non-exhaustive list of headings was discouragingly easy to accumulate using Google’s allintitle: search operator.
- Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen Comes To Nashville
- Cohen Return Has Fans Saying `Hallelujah’
- Hallelujah! Leonard Cohen Coming to Seattle in April
- Hallelujah! Leonard Cohen’s in Belfast
- Hallelujah! Leonard Cohen in Auckland
- Hallelujah — Leonard Cohen In New York
- Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen’s Coming [To New Zealand]
- Leonard Cohen Produces A New Album – Hallelujah, Indeed!!
- Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen in Hall of Fame
- Hallelujah! New Leonard Cohen Double Live Album Coming!
- Glastonbury Says ‘Hallelujah’ To Leonard Cohen
- Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen to Play the Beacon
- Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen to play concert at Mercedes Benz World
- Hallelujah! Leonard Cohen sells out insanely fast
- Hallelujah! Leonard Cohen’s Israeli triumph
- Hallelujah! Leonard Cohen’s here
- Hallelujah for Leonard Cohen | San Francisco
- Hallelujah! Leonard Cohen’s home for sale
- Leonard Cohen is playing in Dublin in June, Hallelujah!
- Hallelujah! Leonard Cohen Rocks Durham
- Hallelujah! More Leonard Cohen For Sydney
Heck Of A Guy has not surrendered. Our lobbyists, for example, are even now negotiating with legislators to protect the citizenry by levying an Excessive Hallelujah Usage Tax to discourage writers from reflexively invoking the dreaded exclamatory Hallelujah. That effort is being coordinated with the development of a 10 Step Program for the Hallelujah-habituated. In addition, our software development section is hard at work on a program which would automatically recognize and delete exclamatory Hallelujahs.
Until those endeavors bear fruit, however, I can only counsel fans to be ever-vigilant in order to protect themselves and their loved ones from this scourge._____________________
- With the 2010 leg of the Leonard Cohen World Tour impending, journalists will soon be faced with the challenge of reviewing the singer-songwriter’s concerts. To ease that burden, Heck Of A Guy has set about organizing the Leonard Cohen Concert Cliche Compendium to establish guidelines for reporting on Cohen’s performances. [↩]
- One notes in passing that Leonard Cohen’s lyrics for “Hallelujah” contains no exclamation marks. [↩]
- I cannot find a citation for this dandy sports article. I would be appreciative should a viewer forward the reference my way. [↩]