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A rubbish tabloid headline

March 24, 2018

I’ve heard it said that tabloid headlines, for all their obviousness and vulgarity, are actually very clever. They are attention-grabbing, memorable, sometimes witty and would not be at all easy to write. This is what I’ve heard said, but I don’t agree at all. I personally find the headlines of the red-top tabloids totally asinine. A popular type is the rhymed pun: that is to say where the headline-writer couldn’t find an actual pun, ie a word or phrase with a double-meaning, so substituted a rhyme. A common example used to be all the awful headline puns on the sports pages based on Wayne Rooney’s name when he was in his prime. It was arbitrarily decided by the sports writers that he could be called Roo for short (nobody ever called him that in real life, of course); and furthermore, that because Roo rhyes with you it was allowable to pun on this rhyme; so if Rooney had a great game and scored the winner the headline would be ROO HERO! On the other hand if he missed an open goal then the headline would be ROO IDIOT! This is such a convoluted use of language that it’s amazing anybody ever understood it and I’m rather annoyed with myself that I did.

These thoughts are occasioned by a headline in The Sun that I saw in a newsagent’s today: CRUEL THE MIDWIFE. I did a double-take when I saw it; it didn’t seem to be an English sentence at all and I couldn’t make head-or-tail of it. So I read the story underneath. Apparently a midwife who had appeared in a documentary TV series, One Born Every Minute, had told a woman whose baby she had just delivered that she had had sex with her (the mother’s) husband. Oh. So… right, that was a bit cruel of her, yes. But why the mangled syntax? Surely it should be THE CRUEL MIDWIFE? And then I realised it was supposed to be a rhymed pun on the title of the TV drama Call the Midwife. But that rhymed pun doesn’t work, because cruel and call do not rhyme. In my accent, at any rate, cruel rhymes with fuel, while call rhymes with fall. Also, even if it had rhymed, which it doesn’t, the woman concerned wasn’t even in Call the Midwife anyway.

It’s just a fatuous mish-mash, and I’m angry with myself for a) wasting my time decoding it, b) wasting my time writing about it and c) wasting your time by expecting you to read about it.

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6 Comments
  1. Spiritman permalink

    Well, that’s two minutes I’m not getting back. Lol.
    — Angry of Kent 🙂

  2. Spiritman permalink

    By the way, I agree. In fact, I avoid all the papers now; even if I see them in a shop, I avert my gaze because I know their contents are just agenda-driven hogwash and I don’t want to read a word of it.

  3. Simon Carter permalink

    I enjoyed the headline when Inverness Caledonian Thistle beat Celtic – Super Caley go Ballistic Celtic are atrocious. Another on a Julie Andrews theme when she went topless in the film S.O.B. – Mary Pop outs.

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