cover of book

Porcupine, Picayune, & Post: How Newspapers Get Their Names
by Jim Bernhard
University of Missouri Press, 2007
Cloth: 978-0-8262-1748-6 | eISBN: 978-0-8262-6601-9
Library of Congress Classification PN4888.T58B47 2007
Dewey Decimal Classification 071.3


Why a Gazette? When one stops to think about it, Times or News is easy to understand, but why do some newspapers have strange names such as Jimplecute or Bazoo? And not to be picayune, but why Picayune?

            Word sleuth Jim Bernhard stopped to consider such questions and began a quest that resulted in the only book-length account of the history of newspaper titles. Cataloging names from the most common to the most bizarre, Porcupine, Picayune, & Post explores the history and etymology of newspapers’ names—names that, by their very peculiarity, cry out for explanation.

Bernhard focuses on printed general-interest English-language dailies and weeklies, from the Choteau (Montana) Acantha to the Moab (Utah) Zephyr, with everything in between—including the Gondolier of Venice, Florida, and the Iconoclast of Crawford, Texas. He explains why there are more Heralds, Journals, Posts, and Tribunes than you can shake a typestick at. He also goes beyond America’s borders to consider such oddities as the Banbury Cake in England and the Gawler Bunyip in Australia.

            As Bernhard shows, the reasons for newspaper names vary: sometimes their origins are political or historical, sometimes personal or simply whimsical. Many names have lost their original purposes over time but were chosen with care to symbolize a philosophy or mission or else were created by word association with the paper’s location or community role.

This book is bursting with little-known facts that will delight anyone who picks up a daily paper: how the Oil City Derrick in Pennsylvania got its name from a seventeenth-century English hangman, why a Londoner printed a newspaper on calico and named it the Handkerchief, and what meaning lurks behind the Unterrified Democrat of Linn, Missouri. There’s even a chapter on noteworthy fictional newspapers, from Superman’s Daily Planet to Lake Wobegon’s Herald-Star.

            With the naming of newspapers fast becoming a lost art, Porcupine, Picayune, & Post tells what’s behind the banners we see each day but probably never stop to think about. Thanks to Bernhard, we may never see them in the same way again. 

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