Not to leech from the misfortune of small amphibians, but this headline from MSN News caught my eye. “Exploding Toads Baffle German Scientists.” A thousand toads from Hamburg-Altona have exploded in recent weeks defying scientific explanation. The article pointed out that Altona is an upscale suburb of Hamburg. Presumably toads from lesser neighborhoods are not exploding or they are exploding but everyone understands why. A touch of weltschmerzen perhaps.
Since this is a literary blog let’s analyze the writing. The head line specifies German scientists, implying the bafflement is limited to that community. Reading between the lines it’s clear that French scientists, for instance, may or may not be baffled but haven’t received any phone calls from the Bundesrepublik. Are Danish scientists baffled? If a toad exploded in Copenhagen wouldn’t they call somebody?
How will exploding toads influence the zeitgeist? Won’t this prop up the postmodernist argument that all effort is futile? These toads came from a pond in a good neighborhood. Yet they continue to explode.
Can it happen here? Bad headline writing happens here all the time. Thus far no toads have exploded, although it did rain frogs toward the end of the movie Magnolia. The scientific community in Los Angeles seemed okay with that, something about jet streams and water spouts and mating rituals. If you know why toads explode, call a scientist in Germany. Vielen Dank.