— All of these Headlines exhibit the Same Fallacy —

Topic definition

The fallacy exhibited by these funny headlines can also have tragic effects as it can lead to sometimes fatal misunderstandings. These sorts of misunderstandings have been a central plot device in many old stories, such as in the play “MacBeth”. Also, at least one of these funny headlines contains a second fallacy (see number 18)

1. Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
2. Joint Committee Investigates Marijuana Use
3. Prostitutes Appeal to Pope
4. Enraged Cow Injures Farmer With Ax
5. Tiger Woods plays with own balls, Nike says
6. Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge
7. Blind woman gets new kidney from dad she hasn’t seen in years
8. Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
9. Two Sisters Reunited After 18 Years at Checkout Counter
10. Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
11. Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half
12. Iraqi Head Seeks Arms
13. Kicking Baby Considered to Be Healthy
14. Never Withhold Herpes Infection from Loved One
15. Stolen Painting Found by Tree
16. Actual Headline: Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
17. Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case
18. If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It May Last a While
19. Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
20. New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group

Flagged fallacies

amphiboly by John B. Brown


All of these headlines have an inadvertent second meaning, in these cases, funny ones. But amphiboly has been a staple of many old stories- MacBeth being inspired to kill Duncan by the amphibolic statements of the three witches, for example. The purposeful, or inadvertent, use of amphiboly has caused confusion and confounded reasoning for a very long time. Careful use of language is essential for good reasoning.