Tykes ease drop fears

That’s the summary-page version of the longer Yorkshire Post headline

Barnsley 3 Crystal Palace 1: Tykes ease drop fears after storming Palace’s defences

(from Chris Waigl).  Like the baffling


recently reported by Geoff Pullum on Language Log, Tykes ease drop fears can be parsed, in the sense that each word can be assigned to a part of speech and a constituent structure can be assigned to the whole thing, but it’s not interpretable without inside knowledge.

The longer headline helps: we’re dealing with a sports event, and Barnsley and Crystal Palace were the teams involved. But what do tykes have to do with it? Ease probably means ‘reduce’, and drop fears probably means ‘fears of a drop’ — but a drop in what?

The first thing you need to know is that the sport involved is English football, a.k.a. soccer. Then you need to know that the Barnsley (Yorkshire) team is known as the Tykes. The first sentence of the article gives a clue (but only a clue) to the “drop” business:

BARNSLEY supporters will hope they have waved farewell to the Championship relegation zone for another season after this crucial home win over Crystal Palace.

Further clues come later in the piece, where we learn that the “win lifts the club two points clear of the bottom three” and that “Barnsley now have every chance of beating the drop”. It turns out that each football league has a “relegation zone” or “drop zone”; in Barnsley’s league, the bottom three teams are relegated to a second tier (further details are not important here).

One Response to “Tykes ease drop fears”

  1. Ian Preston Says:

    As part of the target readership, someone with an interest in English football, I have to say that I understood this one immediately. Other British headlines where clubs ‘ease drop fears’ can be found here, here, here, here, here, here and in numerous other places. It is more or less a stock phrase in this sort of report.

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