Is there a specific term for when you combine two unrelated terms in a headline in order to grab attention?

For example:

Bolivian Kick Boxer Meets US Marine


Kickboxer Meets a Marine (1)

The high level concept here is pretty simple: two people fight; see who wins.

My question is about when you dig a little deeper. It's pretty obvious that two unrelated terms are being compared in this headline. Kickboxing is a form of martial arts (hybrid of several actually), whereas the Marines is a branch of the United States Armed Forces.

Is there a term for this tactic?

More explanation follows.

Some fans of martial arts love to debate which form would win in a real fight, say Wing Chun versus Jiu-Jitsu for example.

However, the aforementioned headline is not:

  1. pitting one form of fighting against another (2)
  2. pitting a member of one branch of the U.S. military against a member of a different branch of the U.S. military
  3. pitting a member of the U.S. military against a member of the military in a different nation

In other words, it's an apples to oranges comparison.

One person in the fight is a practitioner in a certain form of martial arts, the other person is a soldier in the U.S. Marines (which means that person very tough, but for other reasons).

The goal of any headline author is to grab attention. I believe that the author of this particular headline intended to gain extra attention points by stirring emotion in some readers, particularly readers in the U.S. that would feel a sense of patriotism. Now it's not just about cheering for your favorite martial art form, instead it's about cheering for your country.

I'm trying to figure out what this headline writing tactic is called.

I hope this question wasn't too long winded. There's many other examples of this tactic, but I think this one conveys my point well. Perhaps this is more of a marketing or psychological question, so feel free to let me know if I should ask on another site.

(1) There happens to be a viral video going around with this headline today

(2) I do realize that the "Marine Corps Martial Arts Program" is a form of fighting also, but I'm pretty sure that's not what the author of the headline meant.

closed as too localized by J.R., MetaEd, Kris, JSBձոգչ, Daniel Nov 27 '12 at 19:16

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  • What makes you think there' a special word for this other than 'clever' or 'provocative'? – Mitch Nov 26 '12 at 22:18
  • That's a valid point Mitch, but this is a very easily definable tactic that is fairly commonly used (in a negative way in my opinion). I'm hoping there's a name for it. – JohnB Nov 26 '12 at 22:20
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    Why "particularly reader in the U.S. that would feel a sense of patriotism" and not "particularly readers in Bolivia that would feel a sense of patriotism"? Aren't Bolivians patriotic too? – Jay Nov 26 '12 at 22:21
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    Hmm, I don't see how the two things are unrelated in context. Yes, "kick boxer" and "U.S. Marine" are not strictly comparable terms. But there's apparently going to be a martial arts competition, and one of the participants acquired his skills by participation in Bolivian kick boxing circles, and the other acquired his skills through training or experience with the U.S. Marines. Unless the marine was specifically skilled in a named martial art, or the Bolivian was a member of an organization associated with fighting, I don't know how it would be a more natural to describe the competition. – Jay Nov 26 '12 at 22:27
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    The headline makes use of a contrasting pair, a technique commonly resorted to in media to lure the audience deeper into the message. dictionary.reverso.net/english-definition/contrasting%20pair In other words, as @FumbleFingers has pointed, just juxtaposition, which, when done well, startles, intrigues, surprises or otherwise "makes you look twice", as it were. – Autoresponder Nov 27 '12 at 8:03

I suppose you could call the idea you're driving at "incongruity", or maybe "juxtaposition".

As I said in my comment above, I don't think that really applies to the example you gave. Just because two things are not strictly of the same type does not necessarily make it odd or provocative to match them up.

I suppose "Bolivian fights American" would be strictly parallel.

"Kick boxer fights karate champ", ditto.

"Bolivian kick boxer fights man who wears green shirts" would be odd, because there's no obvious connection between shirt color and fighting, though I'd expect in such a case that if I read the story the significance of the shirt color would become clear.

(I guess in a similar vein, I've often been struck by movie descriptions that say things like, "A soldier, an archaeologist, and a blonde search for treasure in the Amazon." Like, these capsule descriptions often seem to refer to men by occupation but women by a physical attribute. How comes it's never, "A bald man, a tall guy, and an accountant search, etc", with the last being a woman?)

  • In this case, the author "juxtaposed" the headline in order to alter reader's perception of the video that he cropped. In other examples, as you made the case, comparing two unrelated concepts might simply be odd. However, in this case, it was an intentional tactic. – JohnB Nov 26 '12 at 22:53

Are you looking for the term "yellow press" or "sensationalism"?

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