Location Man

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Following up on Andy Bodle's exegesis of headlinese, we should take a look at the Florida Man meme:

Florida Man is a Twitter feed that curates news headline descriptions of bizarre domestic incidents involving a male subject residing in the state of Florida. The tweets are meant to be humorously read as if they were perpetrated by a single individual dubbed "the world's worst superhero."

Headlines beginning "Florida man" are indeed often bizarre, though not always domestic. From the current Google News index:

"Florida man causes hospital fire by smoking crack while hooked to oxygen"
"Florida Man Accidentally Kills Self While Threatening Wife's Dog"
"Florida man leads police on 90-minute chase in stolen front-end loader"
"Florida Man arrested for stealing 6.5 pounds of cow tongue from Wal-Mart"
"Florida man fakes heart attack to steal Barbie car from Wal-Mart"
"Florida man busted for cooking up meth in park restroom"
"Florida Man Plunges Through Bakery Ceiling In Failed Robbery Attempt"
"Florida man dies after falling from ropes course at shopping mall"
"Florida man accused of cutting puppy's ears off"
"Florida man steals chain saw by sticking it in his pants, police say"
"Florida man jailed for forcing his girlfriend and three children to live with dead body while he claimed the deceased woman's social security benefits"
"Florida Man pisses on living room floor during family Thanksgiving dinner"
"Florida Man Takes Saddest Mugshot Ever After Riding His Bike Drunk Through a Taco Bell Drive-Thru"

Presumably this is not because male Floridians do especially bizarre things. Rather,

  • only ordinary people (not celebrities or people holding high office) are identified in headlines as <Location Man> or <Location Woman>
  • ordinary people are featured in headlines only when they do (or experience) spectacular or bizarre things
  • bizarre things (or at least things that can be pitched that way) are more common than spectacular things

There are a fair number of similar headlines for other <Location Man> combinations:

"Airline Ticket Mix-Up Sends Maryland Man to Grenada, Not Granada, Spain"
"Maryland man admits to six 'bottle bomb' stunts at movie theaters"
"Maryland man convicted in deaths of 9 dogs left in an empty house"
"Maryland man, 68, charged with hammer attack on roommate over his dog's death"

"Pennsylvania Man Drunk Driving Golf Cart From Bar to Bar"
"PENNSYLVANIA MAN LIT JOINT, UNDRESSED, DEFECATED INSIDE POLICE STATION"
"Pennsylvania man admits to selling fake OtterBox cellphone covers in Maine"
"Toilet paper links Pennsylvania man to attempted pizza shop robbery"

"Oregon man sells girlfriend's bed — with her cat hiding inside"
"Oregon man chokes dog in drunken Christmas Eve rampage"
"Oregon man gets 10 days for breaking cat's back"
"Oregon man arrested for starting fires in woods"

"Arizona Man Trades $160K Diamond for $20 Weed"
"Arizona man used starving dog as bait to win back ex"
"Arizona man on fire walks into Taco Bell, asks for water"
"Arizona man suffers second-degree burns when iPhone 6 bends, catches fire in pocket"

And also some examples of <Location Woman>, from Florida and elsewhere:

"Florida woman busted for throwing condoms"
"Florida Woman Slaps 72-Year-Old Who Denied Her Facebook Request"
"Florida Woman Offers Van as Collateral for Alleged Hit on Husband"
"Florida woman in 'Catholic Warrior' t-shirt destroys Satanic Temple's holiday display"
"Florida Woman Dies After Doctors Remove Crack Pipe From Vagina"

"Maryland woman charged with lacing husband's medication with bug spray"
"Maryland Woman Finds Marijuana in Order of Fries"

"Pennsylvania Woman Arrested For Stealing Bag of Pretzels In Brooklyn"
"Pennsylvania woman charged with stabbing boyfriend during dispute at gasoline station"

"Oregon woman persuades judge to give her more jail time"
"Oregon woman fined $750 for noisy rooster"

"Arizona woman receives lost luggage over 20 years after flight"
"Arizona Woman Banned From Cartwheeling At Government Meetings"

Without doing a careful count, though, I do get the impression that "Florida Man" has greater headline presence than the others.



36 Comments

  1. cs said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 9:07 am

    Oregon man seems to have a thing for animal cruelty. Keep him away from Oregon woman's rooster.

  2. mgh said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 9:49 am

    I thought the original form of this meme was The Onion's "Area Man"

  3. Nathan Myers said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 9:50 am

    Still, if somebody did something bizarre enough to merit a headline, if you wrre to guess that it was Florida Man you would be far more likely to be right than Florida's population could account for. People in Florida spend more time outside, where the variety of bizarre activities is wider and the activities more visible, but that still doesn't account for the preponderance. The Church of Scientology is more or less based in Clearwater, but it's hard to say whether that counts as a cause or an example.

  4. David Morris said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 9:52 am

    In my part of the world, location man is far less imaginative: NSW man hands himself in after shooting.
    (2015 here, already!)

  5. Dave said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 9:59 am

    As a Wisconsin resident, I just had to check for my state's own superhero, and I found:

    Wisconsin man banned from all libraries on Earth.

    http://video.foxnews.com/v/2237669800001/wisconsin-man-banned-from-all-libraries-on-earth/?#sp=show-clips

    I don't even want to say why in this decorous website.

    [(myl) From my own state of origin: "Connecticut man accused of 'aggressive mopping'"; "Connecticut man wakes up to find stranger in bed with him"; "Connecticut man missing for 6 years found wandering on Long Island"; "Connecticut man charged with shooting girlfriend's pet turtle"; …]

  6. Wes Meltzer said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 10:52 am

    There's a little more behind the assertion: "Presumably this is not because male Floridians do especially bizarre things."

    It's not language-specific, but one of the reasons Florida gets the attention is that the state does have a well-earned reputation for wacky news. There's a confluence of factors (low-density, populous state means a lot of local media outlets, people have very shallow-rooted social networks, relatively high rate of crime, drug problems) but whatever the case, this is not the first instance.

    So the meme didn't just spring up out of nowhere – it may be rooted in convention elsewhere but I believe there's a Florida-centric angle. Fark has an entire section dedicated to Florida news. And the South Florida Sun-Sentinel runs a blog called "FloriDUH."

  7. rootlesscosmo said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 11:04 am

    A now-defunct Los Angeles newspaper challenged the LA Times by presenting itself as being for and about locals rather than remote news from Back East and the rest of the world. Someone suggested their archetypical headline should be "LA Dog Chases LA Cat over LA Fence."

  8. MN said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 11:44 am

    I just Googled "Massachusetts man", patron superhero of my own current home state, but the first couple pages of results are actually pretty uninteresting: they're all about people either being arrested or convicted of various things. And then there was this one:

    Massachusetts Man Charged with Digging Up Historic Grave

    I should have been primed by all the other court-related results to interpret it in the intended way. But in fact, my first mental image was more like this:

    Some sort of king-type figure (holding out a shovel): "Massachusetts Man, I command you to bring me the head of Nathaniel Silsbee*!"
    Massachusetts Man: "Yes, my liege!" (grabs shovel. Closeup of MM's determined face. Fade to black.)

    (*the 18th-century Salem resident whose grave it was)

    [(myl) Nice. But don't forget "Massachusetts man beating cancer with beer"; "Massachusetts Man Stole Car "to Grab Some Pizza""; "Massachusetts Man Arrested After Attempting to Detonate Bomb on Bathhouse"; "Massachusetts man fears his horns, '666′ forehead tattoo will make a fair trial impossible".]

  9. Faith said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 12:08 pm

    British Columbia Woman is not nearly as interesting or dumb as Florida Man:

    "British Columbia woman tests negative for Ebola"
    "BC woman wins fight to seek justice for Slocan fuel spill"
    "British Columbia woman with dementia pens open letter before killing herself"
    "British Columbia woman charged in bath salts investigation"

    (The last one, sadly, is about a drug called "bath salts," not actual bath salts.)

  10. Brett said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 12:16 pm

    I am puzzled about the meaning of "BC woman wins fight to seek justice for Slocan fuel spill." The plain meaning seems logically impossible. If British Columbia Woman is already fighting for something, and that fight represents a necessary step in the processes of achieving "justice," then she is already seeking justice, and so she cannot have won a fight to allow her to do so. Perhaps British Columbia Woman, like the Scarlet Witch, has superpowers that allow her to take logically impossible actions.

  11. J. W. Brewer said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

    To Wes Meltzer's plausible list of underlying factors that might tend to give Florida more wackiness-per-capita you need to add a form of confirmation bias – once the pattern of Florida-origin wacky news is noted (which it most definitely has been, in multiple quarters), the geographical location of a new wacky-news story is more likely to be noticed and remarked upon if it's Florida and can thus be used as a further example of the already-recognized pattern. Whereas if the same wacky thing had happened in Nebraska, the story (to the extent it "went viral" or otherwise got national play) might be more likely to remain a simple "wackiness" story rather than a "yet-more-proof-that-Nebraska-is-extra-wacky" story.

  12. Victor Mair said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

    Cf. "Burial Man: new hero?"

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=14024

    See esp the second comment.

  13. Victor Mair said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 3:15 pm

    On Florida's much greater than average wackiness quotient: that's why Dave Barry has chosen to live there — he gets most of his stories from watching Floridians.

  14. Gregory Kusnick said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 3:41 pm

    I guess now we know the source of Florida Woman's superpowers, since she died when doctors removed it.

  15. Adam Funk said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

    Well, the name reminds me of "Essex man".

  16. hector said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

    I've never been to Florida, so have no personal knowledge of its vibe, but Carl Hiaasen has made a very good living portraying it as Wackdoodle Central.

    @ Brett:

    From the story in the Globe and Mail:
    "Marilyn Burgoon couldn't believe it when the government failed to charge a company that spilled 30,000 litres of fuel in a British Columbia creek, killing fish, birds and aquatic insects.

    So she went to court, seeking judicial approval to lay charges herself."

  17. David Morris said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 4:39 pm

    @Faith. The first time I read about someone sniffing bath salts, I assumed it meant the real thing. The second time, I thought, hang on, I'd better check that.

  18. Brett said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

    @Victor Mair: I associate the "Florida is wacky" meme primarily with Barry.

  19. Paul Sand said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 5:12 pm

    "Florida teen" is also pretty common and colorful.

  20. Victor Mair said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

    From a slightly defensive colleague who hails from Florida (originally from New York City; she's also a huge Dave Barry fan):

    The media likes to portray Florida as the home of bizarre people, though I can see from this blog that Florida has plenty of competition from other areas.

    In truth, there is no "Florida" in the sense of a culturally homogenous group. It's more like a stew of different cultures that generally bubble along quite happily alongside each other. Venezuelans, Colombians, Cubans, Nicaraguans etc have separate cultures, restaurants, clothing stores. Not to mention Jews from New York; non-Jews from New York; Georgians, etc. There'a a Laotian community; a group of clannish Swiss, a German Lutheran church; a Taiwanese Baptist church…and so on.

    and I betcha many, and perhaps most, of the people Dave Barry reports on from cafe-side in Coconut Grove are tourists.

  21. Bloix said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 6:36 pm

    @Brett: Carl Hiaasen, too.

  22. Dan, ad nauseam said,

    December 31, 2014 @ 10:35 pm

    I have a friend named Jordan Mann. Thus:

    Jordan man accused of raping another foster child
    East Jordan man pleads guilty to making mobile meth lab

  23. Bob Ladd said,

    January 1, 2015 @ 5:37 am

    There's a morphological/grammatical aspect to all of this as well. In US usage, adjectival forms of state names are hardly ever used, so "Florida man" is a lot more common than "Floridian man". I have the impression that this avoidance of adjectival forms is much less prevalent in other varieties of English. This impression is initially based on years of being struck by phrases in the UK media like "the Californian state legislature", but it's backed up by informal googling just now – "South Australian man" seems to be more common than "South Australia man", and similarly with "Nova Scotian man" as opposed to "Nova Scotia man". (If you search for "Victorian weather", you get the Australian weather service, whereas "Victoria weather" gives you a forecast for British Columbia, but that's not quite a fair comparison, because one Victoria is a state while the other is a city.)

    Obviously, this applies only to place names that support reasonably productive adjectival derivation (Texan, Virginian, Victorian, Albertan, etc.). The issue doesn't arise in Massachusetts, Queensland, or New Brunswick.

    [(myl) See also "More political morphology: Democrats, Great British, and Geese", 2/19/2007; and "The Detroit Rule", 10/25/2012.]

  24. mae said,

    January 1, 2015 @ 6:22 am

    "Idaho toddler shoots and kills his mother inside Walmart"

  25. Rebecca said,

    January 1, 2015 @ 3:48 pm

    From my neck of the woods: Colorado man survives decapitation

    http://www.nbcnews.com/watch/nbc-news-channel/colorado-man-survives-decapitation-360696387780

  26. Graeme said,

    January 1, 2015 @ 3:54 pm

    Youse guys need to research 'Darwin Man'. Screening out evolutionary references and focusing on headlines from the NT News, from Australia's sparse Top End.

    He really demonstrates the Meltzerian thesis about Outdoors + Sun+ Blokes = Misadventure.

  27. profan said,

    January 1, 2015 @ 4:12 pm

    Freshly reported: Florida man decapitated mom with ax on New Year's Eve
    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/sheriff-florida-man-decapitated-mom-with-ax-on-new-years-eve/

  28. Y said,

    January 1, 2015 @ 4:45 pm

    If you pick the town name carefully, you can find things like "Concrete man: 'Give of yourself with no expectations'" or "Concrete man still missing in North Cascades" (for Concrete, WA).

  29. Francis DiBona said,

    January 2, 2015 @ 7:07 am

    Add this one from today's headlines:
    Florida man decapitates his mother.
    http://news.yahoo.com/sheriffs-office-florida-man-decapitates-mother-204529668.html

  30. Karl Narveson said,

    January 2, 2015 @ 9:21 am

    There is a town named Fertile in the alluvial plain of the Red River of the North. Hence the local newspaper could report (before there was an Internet):
    Fertile woman marries Barron man.

  31. maidhc said,

    January 2, 2015 @ 4:43 pm

    Florida man AND noun pile:

    Florida man attacks 'spiritual' girlfriend's car over dead granny sex toy dream prophecy

    Karl Narveson:
    In Illinois, there is "Normal woman marries Oblong man".

  32. Naomi S. said,

    January 3, 2015 @ 10:00 am

    Florida has unusually strict transparency laws for police departments. Because police blotters are always made public, "Florida man" gets a lot more press play over silly crimes that are not worth a press conference than "Massachusetts man" might.

  33. richardelguru said,

    January 5, 2015 @ 12:23 pm

    Freethought Blogs has another one.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2015/01/05/weirdest-story-of-2015-already/

  34. BZ said,

    January 5, 2015 @ 3:32 pm

    New Jersey man found fighting for ISIS
    New Jersey man throws intestines at cops after repeatedly stabbing himself
    New Jersey man arrested after making bizarre phone call to 911

  35. KevinM said,

    January 5, 2015 @ 3:39 pm

    Plus all those wacky news stories from Piltdown.

  36. red-diaper-baby 1942 said,

    January 6, 2015 @ 6:00 am

    What about location woman? We do crazy things too, though I'd like to think we're a bit more inventive and creative.

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