Archive for the ‘Headlines’ Category

Two from BZ

February 10, 2015

I don’t usually pass on postings from other blogs, but on the 5th Ben Zimmer blogged two notable things on Language Log that are worth drawing attention to: one on an amazing headline from Bloomberg News and a death notice for Suzette Haden Elgin.


Subjectless purpose adjunct

January 10, 2015

From a public service announcement on television about the closing of the Golden Gate Bridge this weekend:

(1) The bridge is closing to install a moveable median barrier

I wasn’t entirely comfortable with this wording, which sounded danglerish to me (though its intent is clear). The version on the bridge’s site uses a subjectless nominalization (which is impeccable) rather than a subjectless purpose adjunct:

(2) Jan. 10-11, Golden Gate Bridge CLOSED for Installation of Moveable Median Barrier

My speculation is that subjectless purpose adjuncts (at least the sentence-final ones) are less obtrusive when they are more telegraphic in form, especially when they are framed as headlines; the idea is that readers are accustomed to supplying omitted material in headlines.


Headline stuff

January 6, 2015

When I posted on Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) and his mastery of tabloid headlinese, readers contributed two kinds of comments (here and on Facebook): appreciations of inventive headlines, and notes on the vocabulary of headlinese.


Mastering a style

December 31, 2014

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes, in which Calvin shows his mastery of tabloid headline writing:

Calvin’s doing well on the headline register (simple present tense for reporting events, omission of articles) used with other stylistic features (lexical choices in ichthyoidgrim melee, devours) and a breathless framing of the report, to reproduce the genre of tabloid headlines.

Missing man

December 30, 2014

From Emily Rizzo in sunny Florida, an especially nice error from the website of television station WWSB. It started with this report:

Manatee County, Fla. — The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a missing and endangered elderly man.

According to reports, around 7 a.m. on December 27, Wendell L. Dain got into his 2007 light green Toyota Rav4 and drove away in an unknown direction of travel.

Family members believe that he took a gun with him and they believe that he is on his way to Nevada. They were planning on moving there to be closer to family.

and then the resolution in an update on December 27th:

Missing Manatee County found in Arizona

According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Dain has been located in Phoenix, Arizona, and is doing okay.

The notable point is the update headline. And what’s so nice is that a head about a missing man is missing the word man.


Background knowledge

April 27, 2014

On April 25th, on ADS-L, from Pat O’Conner (of, under the heading “A crash blossom for the ages”:

Dare you to decipher this one, from Reuters (London) on April 16th:

“Stuttering Man City Held by Bottom Side Sunderland”

Pat translates:

“Man City” is Manchester City, a football (soccer) team (or “side”). Sunderland is another; it plays in the lowest league (“bottom”).


Pesky capitalization

April 12, 2014

From Chris Waigl on Facebook, this image of a headline.

Among the most common functions of initial caps are marking the first word of a sentence and marking proper names. Both are, at least at first, here. But the ‘annoying memorabilia’ interpretation is very unlikely. Then you need to know that Johnny Pesky was a baseball player — a fact immediately made clear in the body of the story,

Cannibal rats

January 25, 2014

An enormously entertaining headline, from the Plymouth (England) Herald on January 23rd:

Ghost ship full of cannibal rats could be about to crash into Devon coast

(Plymouth is in Devon.)

The story sounds too delicious to be true, and apparently it’s not. Still, the image of a ghost ship full of cannibal rats is haunting.


Headline news

December 28, 2013

Two headline items, one definitely linguistic, the other entertaining mostly because of the content.


Grotesque crash blossom

October 31, 2013

From Chris Waigl, this headline from a story in the Fairbanks (AK) Daily News – Miner of 10/30/13:

Man who bought pets later found roasted, eaten in Denali Park still unknown

The bold-faced PSP phrase can be understood in either of two ways:

(1) as a reduced VP with subject man who bought pets, with the copular verb was omitted, as is common for copular verbs in the headline register; or

(2) as a postmodifier (a “reduced relative clause”) for pets — so ‘pets who were later found roasted, eaten in Denali Park’.

If you start parsing the sentence as in (1), then you’re brought up short at the end of the bold-faced phrase; you’ve been led down the garden path. Then you have to go back and re-parse, to be about to incorporate the still unknown (now as a VP with omitted copular verb) into the interpretation. In the body of the story:

Whoever bought pets at a Fairbanks pet store and then apparently roasted and consumed them just inside Denali National Park has not been identified.

According to Chris,

There’s some debate in the comments of our local paper regarding whether this headline is misleading.

Chris speculates that different people have different favored parsing strategies — producing the debate over whether the headline is misleading.


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