Moby Dick Law of Journalese

A little-known (that means the reporter just learned something he or she hopes most people haven’t heard about): The Moby Dick Law of Journalese. Reporters at New England newspapers (what’s left of them) must regularly use Moby Dick as a metaphor. This is to show that the reporters remembered something from American Lit 101. The law is especially enforced in coastal newspapers, even though Herman Melville wrote “Moby Dick” in Pittsfield, in the Berkshires, 150 miles from the sea and the whaling city of New Bedford.

Illustration: The Moby Dick Law of Journalese was applied twice in the same edition of the Boston Globe, Sept. 5, 2019:

Joan Venocchi, in a column headed: “Deja vu all over again: City Hall corruption,” about a Boston city hall hack pleading guilty to taking a $50,000 bribe. ($25,000 in cash, $25,000 in a check! Now there’s a real pro!). Ms. Venocchi recalls former Governor Bill Weld’s rise to fame when he was a federal prosecutor going after Boston pols in the early 1980s, and his “Captain Ahab-like obsession with [Mayor Kevin] White.”

Sports columnist Christopher L. Gasper, in a column headed, “More is better with NFL playoff teams,” writes: “It’s no secret that NFL owners want to stuff more meaningful football into the current league calendar…The white whale for ownership is an 18-game regular season.”

Of course, all Globe readers clearly remember Captain Ahab and his obsession with the white whale.

File under: Call me Ishmael.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *