Sraddling a warmer pitch?

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John McCormick and Lisa Lerer. "Romney Sraddles Warmer Pitch With Obama Attacks in Tampa", Bloomberg Businessweek 8//27/2012:

This is a typo worthy of the legendary Grauniad, all too rare in these days of rampant spelling correction.

The thing is, I can't figure out what the headline should mean after the error is corrected.  Is it "Romney straddles warmer pitch"? This evokes several unsavory or implausible images. "Romney saddles warmer pitch"? That's even more puzzling.

The "warmer pitch" is probably the attempt to "humanize" Mr. Romney. Or maybe it's the effort to attack Mr. Obama.

The convention’s new opening night may present the greatest challenge with Ann Romney’s address aimed at women and independent voters, as tough-talking governors — New Jersey’s Chris Christie the foremost — expected to rally the party’s faithful with attacks on the president. The candidate’s wife, in her speech tomorrow, will try to humanize her husband, introducing him as a loving spouse and father of five.

But why is he (or she) straddling (or saddling) either or both of these themes? If it's straddle, in the sense that the OED glosses as "To stand or lie across or on both sides of (something)", then the two sides of the straddle are presumably humanizing Mr. Romney and attacking his opponent. And maybe the first side of that straddled pitch is warmer in the sense of being more "cordial or tender", while the second is warmer in the sense of more strongly "pressing hard on or harassing the foe". That works, but it's a style of interpretation more suited to reading Wallace Stevens than to sussing out newswire headlines.

Anyhow, the story made it to the top of the the U.S. news category in Google News:

So apparently Google's algorithms calculate that pitch-sraddling sums up what's about to happen in Tampa.

Update — it occurs to me that maybe the headline writer thinks of "straddle X with Y" as meaning "combine X with Y" or "balance X with Y", or "straddle between X and Y". Some plausible examples from the web:

[link] A prominent actress who’s currently straddling masala films with meaty projects directed by ‘realistic’ directors was allegedly busted snorting ‘white powder’ with the glamorous wife of a studio head in the ladies room of Mumbai’s chic Oriental restaurant recently.

[link] This issue highlights PHA's complex role of straddling public sector responsibilities with private sector expectations.

[link] The chasm between the old world and the new reality is now quite large and also quite distinct. In this way, there is a huge polarity present, and thus, while we still continue to straddle one reality with another, we may indeed feel bi-polar.

For a Bloomberg headline writer, this may be a figurative extension of the financial term straddle, though investment-speak doesn't commonly seem to use the construction "straddle X with Y" in this way.

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18 Comments »

  1. tk said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 6:35 am

    After reading the article, "straddles"–as 'on each/both side(s)', 'between' — seems to be the best fit, as in "Romney puts a warmer pitch between Obama attacks …." (Although "Romney" saddled with "warm pitch" is equally problematic.)

  2. Henning Makholm said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 6:48 am

    I'm not sure which verb they were aiming for, but the meaning must be something like: Romney has the difficult task of doing both of "pitch himself in a warmer way to the public" and "attack Obama" at one and the same event, which by the way happens in Tampa.

    My bet is that they meant "straddle", and were trying to evoke an image of Romney standing with one leg on each side of a metaphorical line between "come across as a nice guy" and "attack the president".

  3. John O'Toole said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 7:01 am

    Probably because of the reference to that epic poem The Grauniad, but I immediately overlooked the American source of the article, and headline, and interpreted pitch in the English sense (and I'm more attuned with American English). I saw Romney, in the eyes of the article's author, standing athwart a steaming pitch/playing field. What gives, I thought. What did the Mittens do on that pitch that it's warmer right now? I was doubly flummoxed.

  4. Mkvf said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 7:30 am

    I read it as 'saddles', in the sense of ' to place under a burden or encumbrance'. He wants to pitch himself as a warmer human being, but his campaign's negative attacks on Obama saddle him with the appearance of being nasty.

  5. richard said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 7:48 am

    I don't see what the problem is. "Sraddle" is a perfectly cromulent word.

  6. TJ said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 7:59 am

    I agree with Mkvf's reading. "Saddles x with y" was the intent, in my opinion.

  7. mollymooly said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 8:18 am

    Maybe "sraddle" is a regional equivalent of "bucket" or "pail"; as in "the Vice-Presidency isn't worth a sraddle of warm pitch".

  8. jfruh said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 8:38 am

    The headline on BW has now been corrected to "straddles," but it still makes little to no sense, in my opinion.

  9. John Roth said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 8:48 am

    I'm with John O'Toole – I immediately thought it was a sports metaphor for the game of Cricket, and then noticed that it (probably) had an American source.

  10. NCSmith said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 9:19 am

    How do we know that "pitch" is spelled correctly? Maybe it was supposed to to "pith"?

  11. Dan Lufkin said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 9:30 am

    Perhaps sraddle is nautical jargon for heating up pitch to caulk seams. "The devil to pay and no pitch hot." Romney has plenty of pitch but if he daubs it on Obama, it's not hot enough to make the feathers stick.

  12. Ross Presser said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 9:30 am

    Definitely straddle. The opening paragraph uses the noun phrase "the task of balancing biography and criticism of President Barack Obama". The "warmer pitch" is the biography part, which needs to humanize Romney; the "Obama attacks" are the criticism part. Romney needs to straddle the conflict between these two purposes of the convention — successfully balance himself without falling.

    It's not a good way to describe it — "balance" in the headline would have been better.

  13. boris said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 11:36 am

    I don't think "balance" means the same thing as "straddle" because the former implies a successful and positive outcome, while the latter is more neutral or slightly negative.

  14. D.O. said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 11:37 am

    Re: Update. There is probably has to be a sense of difficulty of combining X and Y, which straddle tries to convey.

  15. SlideSF said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

    My first attempt to parse that headline was all wrong. I took "Warmer Pitch" to mean scientific predictions of global climate change, which issue Romney was "straddling" ie, "sitting on the fence".

    I read it now as his difficulty in simultaneously coming off as more human while sharpening his attacks on Obama.

  16. Ted said,

    August 27, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

    @D.O.: I think the idea here is that Romney is on the fence and is uncomfortable there, in which case the image of him straddling it is quite apt.

    I'm still not sure what to do with "pitch," though.

  17. Mr Punch said,

    August 28, 2012 @ 11:40 am

    @Ted – Of course Romney is uncomfortable on the fence – his natural tendency is to plant himself firmly on both sides.

    I also read this as cricket, initially, but it's baseball – about his "pitch" to the electorate. Nobody expects high heat from Mitt.

  18. Robert said,

    September 20, 2012 @ 3:21 am

    This is probably past its use by date but regarding pitch vs pith my stepfather and I once had an argument about the wording of Hamlet's 'enterprises of great moment'. Retiring to our preferred editions we discovered we were both correct, "pith and moment" from the First Folio and "pitch and moment" from the Quarto. I guess the sub-editor wasn't thinking of Shakespeare however or he would have Mr Romney besride the convention like a colossus.

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