Quote: “Ex-cop and ex-con help sexy customs agent indict money launderer. Two fine performances, both by cars.” TV listing for 2 Fast 2 Furious in the New York Times.
Figure of Speech: paraprosdokian (para-pros-DOK-ian), the surprise ending. Also chleuasmos (clu-AS-mos), damning through faint praise. Also epiphonema (e-pih-pho-NEE-ma), the memorable summary.
Slate astutely judges the Times’s TV listings to be the paper’s best writing. (Review of Before and After: “New England couple’s son charged with murder. Needs more in between.”) We especially love the Times’s capsule on 2 Fast 2 Furious, because it achieves a trifecta of figures. The paraprosdokian starts with a bland clause or cliche (“Two fine performances…”), then hits you upside the head with an unexpected follow-up (“both by cars.”) The chleuasmos (“taunt”) slings an insult via ironic flattery; it damns through faint praise of cars.
Finally, the epiphonema captures an argument in a short, pithy summary. Nostalgists lament the decline in readers’ attention spans, but the ancients were crazy about the witty one-liner. They would have loved the Four Word Film Review. (Superman Returns: “Superman stalks Lane family.” The Devil Wears Prada: “Wolf in Streep’s clothing.”)
How about a site that summarizes political issues in four words? (Stem cells: Amoebas, or midget humans?) Oh, wait. The media already do that.
Snappy Answer: New York Times: Lousy reporting, great TV.