Allusion in The Economist

Every so often I post here on how some publications (science publications, especially, but plenty of others as well) indulge in various kinds of language play in titles, captions, lead sentences, etc. They are “ludic locales”. Now on the 4th, in the Economist, in a report on Peru: “A jarring defeat: The loneliness of Ollanta Humala”, the story leads with:

To lose one prime minister might be considered a misfortune, but to lose six in less than four years in office, as Peru’s president, Ollanta Humala, has done, must be seen as carelessness.

Ah, that would be Oscar Wilde, in The Importance of Being Earnest. Lady Bracknell, in Act I, to Jack Worthing.

LADY BRACKNELL. Are your parents living?

JACK. I have lost both my parents.

LADY BRACKNELL. To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

It’s hard to restrain myself from posting huge chunks of this magnificent scene — which includes Lady Bracknell’s voice rising in incredulous octaves on “A handbag?” Dame Edith Evans here:

The exchange plays on two senses of lose: ‘to mislay’ and ‘to be deprived of by death’. On this ambiguity, see my “lose X” posting of 10/17/13.

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