Sunday, August 18, 2013

In the land of the tabloids

Nothing on here really qualifies as a noun pile, strictly speaking, but it's still impressive by US tabloid standards: four chunks of display type, and not a verb in the bunch:

Shock Murder Claim
Diana Slay Plot
Scotland Yard Probe
Exclusive Author Interview

"Exclusive" is a well-established newspaper noun, but I'd score it as an adjective here, which is something like a single in the top of the 10th after nine perfect innings. Otherwise, we're all nouns, all the time.

All the pesky grammar is over and above the question of why the Most Super-Important Story in the World for Post readers is the, ahem, Crown-endorsed MI6 death-by-Fiat plot to take Diana down for her plans to destroy Prince Charles by "releasing embarrassing information about his sexual peccadillos."

You just never know what you're getting when you sample a Murdoch product, do you?

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Anonymous Ed Latham said...

The new homogenised mid-Atlantic news agenda strikes again! This is what happens when you allow media groups to go transnational – the news priorities cross-pollinate all over the place.

3:28 AM, August 19, 2013  
Anonymous Picky said...

The main head is odd, though, isn't it? Slay isn't really a British newspaper word (unless Mr Latham is about to slap me down on that) but surely in anybody's language it's a verb not a noun, isn't it? How does one parse that head?

9:05 AM, August 19, 2013  
Blogger fev said...

Same paper from last December, with claim quotes and a better noun pile: ‘BRO SLAY’ GAL GETS 5 YRS.

9:46 AM, August 19, 2013  
Anonymous Ed Latham said...

Picky: Yes, that always baffles me too, but they mean 'slaying', as a noun. That noun-without-'ing' thing is uniquely American (possibly even unique to the NYP?). I find the only way to parse some Post headlines is to mentally add 'ing' to the words one after the other, until it starts to make sense.

11:40 AM, August 19, 2013  
Anonymous Picky said...

You mean these Americans who've been taking the piss out of us for using multiple nouns as multiple modifiers — something perfectly permitted by grammar — are also people who think the -ing in gerunds is optional? Good grief! The word "pshaw" springs to one's lips.

1:40 PM, August 20, 2013  
Anonymous Ed Latham said...

To be fair, I think it might just be the Post that thinks that. I wonder if they think that de-gerundising sounds 'British'? Because I think we would both testify that it doesn't. The Post does have a very distinctive Fleet-Street-redtop feel to it, for sure, but that aspect of its tone is pure Broadway.

2:07 PM, August 20, 2013  
Anonymous Picky said...

Well, I think you're just being fair, and I see no reason to join you. Pshaw, I say. What does our host say? Is this just a Postism, or is the whole of American culture going to the dogs?

3:19 PM, August 20, 2013  
Blogger Fred Vultee said...

Gentlemen, gentlemen. The house suggests pints for all.

We don't have many tabloids left, and at their peak, they probably couldn't have matched the Sun's circulation if they all ganged up and made a fist. Still, some things migrate successfully to our broadsheets, or we couldn't say SOLONS MULL HIKE, could we?

Some gerunds have had their ings taken off and yet managed to move into several different registers of news language; the stock market's opening has pretty thoroughly become the "open" on public radio, for one. That could be one of those things that people start doing because all the cool kids are doing it -- sort of how we stole "go missing" from you guys.

Nominal "slay" is not so lucky. It's almost unheard-of outside the tabs and pretty rare outside the post. Nonetheless, here's a tasty sample from the Boston Herald:

A-Rod gal slay witness at 99 in ’95

("... the ex-Centerfolds dancer who had a two-night stand with Yankees cheater Alex Rodriguez, was the waitress on duty at the 99 Restaurant in Charlestown when five men were gunned down in 1995," so the reference is to a gal who was a slay witness, not a witness to a gal slay)

I trust this clears things up

7:50 PM, August 20, 2013  
Anonymous Picky said...

And I suppose even in everyday colloquial speech there are gerund-like ing-less nouns ... I mean the ones that are always preceded by the indefinite article and that are treated like nouns but are very gerundish, very much almost verbs, a kind of snapshot of a process:

It was a good read
Can I have a go of that?
Why don't you have a choose?
Stand up here and have a see.

(lots of "haves" I notice)

11:07 AM, August 21, 2013  

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