Archive for Headlinese

Multiscriptal, multilingual Hong Kong headline

Bob Bauer sent in this photograph of a recent headline from a Hong Kong newspaper:

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Dead mouse admits lying?

"Dead mouse in protein supplement claimant admits lying", BBC News 2/7/2018:

A man has admitted to lying about buying a pack of protein powder containing a dead mouse.

Adam Brenton tweeted criticism of Myprotein Impact Diet Whey seller The Hut.com Ltd and contacted local press with his claims.

The story was widely republished but "unequivocal" evidence proved the mouse was not present at delivery.

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Headline puzzle of the week

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Belfast noun pile headline head-scratcher

This head-scratcher of a headline from the Belfast Telegraph was brought to our attention by Mike Pope: "Ed Murray: Sex abuse claim US mayor's time in Northern Ireland 'should be probed'".

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Dophin sightseeing

Headline in the China Daily today (5/28/17):

"Dophin sightseeing in China's Taiwan".

As my colleague, Arthur Waldron, trenchantly remarked:  "They fear a dauphin. This may be an omen."

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Resisting reunification

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Headline abuse of the month

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Noun pile of the week

"Corpse sex kill threat prisoner gets 45 year sentence", BBC 12/14/2016.

This is a case where even after reading the story, the structure is unclear.

Is it [[[corpse sex] [kill threat]] prisoner] ?

Or [[[corpse [sex kill]] threat]] prisoner] ?

Or has the BBC decided, in this post-truth era, to go post-syntax as well?

Philip Cummings, who sent in the link, commented that

I call these ‘noun car crashes’ particularly when I have to attempt to translate them into Irish and work out the appropriate case relationships between the various nouns.

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British headlinese: Grammar lesson

From Eric Smith:

"Police appeal after teenage girls kissed and touched in alleged bus incident", Isle of Wight County Press, 3/24/2016.

In today's enlightened society, why shouldn't teenage girls kiss and touch?

I think this illustrates that, in a British headline

* if a verb form is ambiguous as between a preterite tense and a past participle, the past participle is probably what is meant;

* if the syntax is ambiguous as between a standard sentence and an abbreviated sentence, the abbreviated sentence is probably what is meant.

As a secondary point, I suspect that "appeal" is intended as a noun, so that "Police appeal" is a nominal and not a clause.

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Future in Headlinese

Funny headline on a Yahoo news story: "Ford stops using Takata air bag inflators in future vehicles". To me that says that they used to use Takata air bags in future vehicles. How did that work?

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Noun pile history

From Alon Lischinsky:

In "Brit noun pile heds quizzed" (3/5/2009), you wondered when did British news media start writing headlines as long, complex noun compounds.

While I have nothing resembling a clear answer, I've just noticed that it must go back to the 1930s at least. In "The Professor's Manuscript", one of the stories published in her 1939 collection In the Teeth of the Evidence, Dorothy Sayers makes what's obviously an allusion to common practice:

Mr. Egg brought his mind back—a little unwillingly— from the headlines in his morning paper ("screen star's marriage romance plane dash"—"continent comb-out for missing financier"—"country-house mystery blaze arson suspicions"—"budget income-tax remission possibility"), and wondered who Professor Pindar might be when he was at home.

Items 1, 3 and 4 in the list are perfect examples of the sort of headline you discussed in that post. If only item 2 had been “missing financier continent comb-out”…

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Noun pile of the week

Well, almost: Mark Kinver, "Citizen science charts horse chestnut tree pest spread", BBC News 1/24/2014. Though charts might have been a plural noun, it's clearly a verb in this case, alas. The headline writer missed the chance for a genuine 8-element noun pile, e.g. "Citizen science horse chestnut tree pest spread tally".

Still, British headline interpretation continues to be good practice for reading classical Chinese poetry.

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Sweat dance plugs noun pile

Katia Dmitrieva, "Madonna addicted to sweat dance plugs Toronto condos: Mortgages", Bloomberg News 1/10/2014 — Reader CD, a hardened journalistic veteran, calls this "a rare American noun pile headline":

It’s a spectacular garden path which turns out to be a noun pile. I’m pretty good at parsing headlinese but I had no idea what the story was supposed to be about, or even what the syntax was supposed to be, until I clicked through. I suppose it would have helped if I’d known the name of the song beforehand. I’m quite impressed by the flimsiness of the connection between the lead and the content of the story too, but that’s another matter.  

On the nationality question, it’s a Canadian story and possibly a Canadian writer, but Bloomberg has a very strict style guide for headlines regardless of jurisdiction, so I’m comfortable calling it American.

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