Questionable wordplay of the week

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"Trial set of Johnny Depp dog case in Australia", AFP 12/15/2015:

Johnny Depp's wife Amber Heard will face trial in Australia in April for allegedly smuggling two dogs into the country in a case dubbed the "war on terrier", a court ruled Tuesday.

Heard is facing two counts of knowingly importing a prohibited product in breach of the Quarantine Act.

It's not clear to me who invented the phrase — Sky News had it on 12/14 ("Date Set For Amber Heard 'War On Terrier' Trial"), but that story also uses an agentless passive to avoid giving specific credit:

The case was dubbed the "war on terrier" after the actress was accused of failing to declare the animals and put them in quarantine.

And in fact there are mentions of the phrase more than six months ago, e.g. Ariel Bogle, "John Oliver escalates Australia's 'war on terrier', issues death threat against koala joey", Mashable 5/18/2015. Apologies for having missed the whole thing — I was in France at the time, where the affair somehow didn't hit the news.

Way back in 2007, the Economist was clearly guilty of coining "the war on terroir":

FOR the beleaguered winemakers of France, threats come in many guises. One French grower complained that each bottle of New World wine that lands in Europe is a “bomb targeted at the heart of our rich European culture”. But few things agitate French winemakers more than other winemakers' unspeakable irreverence towards the terroir, the mix of soil and climate found in the place where a vine is grown. The strength of feeling is so great that the country even has its own breed of, er, terroiristes. A group of masked, militant French winemakers has attacked foreign tankers of wine, bricked up a public building and caused small explosions at supermarkets.

And there's a Les Barker poetry-reading CD The War on Terrier from 2004. He's also responsible for CDs  Up the Creek Without  a Poodle and Dogologues, and books of poetry with titles such as Alexander Greyhound Bell, Bark Odes, The Beagle has Landed, Collieflowers, Corgi and Bess, Labrador Rigby, and The Borzoi's Back in Town, suggesting a theme if not an obsession.


  1. Bill Burns said,

    December 21, 2015 @ 4:27 pm

    Les Barker's obession with dogs is understandable if nominative determinism is anything to go by.

  2. Neal Goldfarb said,

    December 21, 2015 @ 5:21 pm

    No, I don't think so. But maybe you'd be on to something if his first name were "Moore".

  3. peter said,

    December 21, 2015 @ 5:26 pm

    I'm still puzzled by what it was that Mr Depp's wife Amber heard.

  4. Jerry Friedman said,

    December 21, 2015 @ 5:27 pm

    peter: I hope that means you can tell me what a "trial set" is.

  5. Bill Burns said,

    December 21, 2015 @ 5:38 pm

    In Britain "Les" is pronounced "Lez" (more or less).

  6. AntC said,

    December 21, 2015 @ 6:06 pm

    Apologies for having missed the whole thing …

    Strewth! It was all over the Antipodean media for weeks while Depp was in Oz shooting.

    The Oz tabloids were falling over themselves with outrage. Down under (I'm in NZ) we take bio security very seriously. Who knows what pests these mutts might have brought in with them?

  7. Benji C said,

    December 21, 2015 @ 9:33 pm

    There was a related pun on the British quiz show QI back in 2004. When asked the question "What goes 'woof woof boom'?" one of the contestants answered "A terrier-ist."

    It happens about 15 seconds into this clip:

    According to IMDb, the original airdate of that episode was Oct. 15, 2004:

  8. Viseguy said,

    December 21, 2015 @ 9:52 pm

    Could almost be a cryptic crossword clue:
    "Trial set of Johnny Depp dog case in Australia", Amber Heard (3, 2, 7)

  9. Stan Carey said,

    December 22, 2015 @ 5:15 am

    There's an indie rock band from Iowa called Warren Terror.

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