Threat or menace

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The phrase "threat or menace" is commonly used in headlines to satirize an unfair prejudice.

News columnists use the phrase frequently. Examples include the LATimes.Com,[1] Forbes[2] and Wired.[3]

It may have been borrowed from the legal phrase "without threat or menace,"[4] which is one of many fixed phrases in which two nearly synonymous words are combined, such as "let or hindrance" and "cease and desist."

Early satirical uses of "threat or menace" are in Harvard Lampoon, National Lampoon and The Amazing Spider-Man.[5]

Before then, the phrase occurs in the title of an anti-drug film, Marijuana: Threat or Menace,[6] whose style suggests that it was made before 1960 and thus could have inspired the Lampoon writers; though its authenticity is in doubt.[4]

In the Lampoon[edit]

In 1968 the Harvard Lampoon published a parody of Life Magazine, which included a story called "Flying Saucers: Threat or Menace".

In July 1971 the National Lampoon's cover story was "Pornography; Threat or Menace?"[7]

In Spider-Man[edit]

In the universe of the Marvel Comics, publisher J. Jonah Jameson frequently denounces Spider-Man in his newspaper the Daily Bugle. In The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #15, published in 1981, written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Frank Miller, the Bugle carries the headline "Spider-Man: Threat or Menace?"[8]

Jameson has used the phrase several times since, including:

  • Untold Tales of Spider-Man #16, written by Kurt Busiek
  • Spider-Man (film), 2002
  • Spectacular Spider-Man (WB Kids cartoon series) - Season 1, episode 9

Fans of comics incorrectly assume that Stan Lee introduced the phrase "Threat or Menace" as a headline favored by Jameson while Stan Lee was writing the original issues in the 1960s. According to Kurt Busiek, Lee used the phrase "Spider-Man: Menace" but not the combination.


External links[edit]