Author Topic: News headlines that do serious violence to the English language  (Read 14263 times)

Joe Carillo

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News headlines that do serious violence to the English language
« on: December 02, 2012, 11:44:11 AM »
My Media Watch has been in hibernation for several months now, but it was jolted out of its blissful stupor by this headline a few weeks back in one of the leading Metro Manila broadsheets:


Quote
Security guard shoots dead family driver over ‘invalid’ vehicle sticker
 
MANILA, Philippines—Quezon City police have launched a manhunt for a security guard of a gated subdivision, who allegedly shot dead a family driver during an altercation over the validity of the latter’s vehicle access sticker.

Police identified the suspect as ________, 23, a guard of the JPL Security Agency assigned to United North Fairview Homeowner’s Association Inc. in Barangay North Fairview.

________ was identified by his fellow watchmen as the one who shot dead ________, 23, family driver of a resident of the subdivision.

Upon reading that headline, of course, the first thought that comes to mind is this: If the family driver was already dead, why did the security guard still shoot him? Was it because of extreme, uncontrollable rage? Or was it because he didn’t know the driver was already dead and he just wanted to be sure that he would absolutely be dead by pumping more bullets into him?

On closer scrutiny of the news story, though, we find that the answer is none of the above. It was simply that the writer—or, more likely, the headline writer—didn’t know any better about how to phrase such headlines in a grammatically and semantically correct way. The fatal mistake is obviously that by virtue of its faulty positioning, the adjective “dead” was forced to modify the noun form “family driver.” That adjective could have done that modifying job properly by acting as a post-verb adverbial complement.

Indeed, here are alternative reconstructions of that headline that I think everybody will agree more accurately reflects what happened in that incident:

(1) Security guard shoots family driver to death over ‘invalid’ vehicle sticker
(2) Security guard shoots family driver dead over ‘invalid’ vehicle sticker
(2) Family driver shot to death by security guard over ‘invalid’ vehicle sticker

And if we accept the sense of any of the above headlines as more suitable for that story, we might as well reconfigure and fine-tune the first three paragraphs of the story quoted above to read as follows:

Quote
Security guard shoots family driver to death over ‘invalid’ vehicle sticker

MANILA, Philippines—Quezon City police have launched a manhunt for a security guard of a gated subdivision, who allegedly shot a family driver to death during an altercation over the validity of the latter’s vehicle access sticker.

Police identified the suspect as ________, 23, a guard of the JPL Security Agency assigned to United North Fairview Homeowner’s Association Inc. in Barangay North Fairview.

________ was identified by his fellow watchmen as the one who killed ________, 23, family driver of a resident of the subdivision.

Now, lest we begin entertaining the notion that only Filipino reporters and headline writers are capable of committing such a grammatical and semantic atrocity, I am presenting below press clippings from newspapers in the United States showing that this isn't the case. These clippings were sent to me recently by Forum contributor Ben Sanchez, who obviously shares my aversion to headlines that do clueless violence to the English language.

















« Last Edit: August 20, 2022, 09:01:11 AM by Joe Carillo »

hill roberts

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Re: News headlines that do serious violence to the English language
« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2012, 06:11:39 PM »
Hahhaha, the newspaper clippings are hilarious, especially the last one--seven remain dead.

Anyway, I hope you had a lovely Christmas day with your family and loved ones, Joe and JC Forum members. Have a very good, profitable and healthy 2013.  :-* :)

DanialTaylor

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Re: News headlines that do serious violence to the English language
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2012, 02:03:23 PM »
This are old news. But it still sounds good when your read after years. We never kept such newspaper cuttings along with us. Good to see this news again.

krstudies

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Re: News headlines that do serious violence to the English language
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2013, 03:27:41 PM »
The old newspapper was good. and the blog updates is done with real hardwork.. thanks for sharing..