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Rhyming “who phrases” from New York Times obituary headlines

Many obituary headlines follow a standard formula: “Firstname Lastname, Who You Know From That One Thing, Dies at Age.” It’s a tendency I’ve counted on before when extracting names from obituaries for FOIA The Dead, but tonight it also got me thinking about the “who phrase”: the relative clause that condenses a lifetime of context into a handful of words.

I decided to pull out the “who phrases” from about 1000 headlines over the past year, and using pronouncing, arrange them to rhyme (if not yet to meter). It’s poetry.

who made the dallas cowboys cheerleaders a global brand,
who built and ruled world soccer with firm hand,
whose radio show twanged for decades,
who fought racial barriers in building trades,
who delivered in the clutch,
who wrote adolescent novels with a personal touch,
whose b-1 bomber recast the cold war,
who fictionalized medicine’s absurdity and gore,
who promoted n.w.a. and gangsta rap,
who bridged racial gap,
who chronicled his cancer fight,
who set ‘the wicker man’ cult alight,
who embraced gonzo journalism,
who lost his prime to racism,
who led sicilian mafia clan,
who took aim at iran,
who shaped venture capitalism,
who shifted to optimism,
who wrote of colonialism and racism,
who preached pacifism,
who won a round-the-world race,
who quit in pentagon papers case,
who wrote of madness and isolation,
who helped turn wlir into a radio destination,
who helped pave way for head start,
who elevated blown glass to fine art,
whose furniture evoked sensuality,
who examined puerto rican identity,
who saw literary criticism as art,
who gave the rolling stones their start,
whose bleak fiction won the booker prize,
who shaped foreign ties,
who put the @ sign in email,
who shaped geometries on a bold scale.