Blog woman writes

“Canoe man” John Darwin seems to have set a precedent for naming people. At first it seemed as if the new media naming convention involved identifying people by their last known mode of transport. (As in “canoe man”.)

But that principle must have fallen by the wayside when some canny sub-editor realised that “car man” or “train woman” would be used too often to have much explanatory value. So, other objects have had to be mentioned.

In today’s BBC, there are stories headed:

(Some of these designations seem insensitive, to put it mildly.)

Plus the traditional “mother”, “father”, “husband” and so on. These designations are so ubiquitous in the headlines, that I can’t link to them, lest this blog lose any residual authority, on the grounds of spam-linking.

There’s something even more pathetic about the relationship identifiers. At least the “canoe man” isn’t just a “son”, which would make him basically indistinguishable from every other male on the planet. (Although, I suspect eh has been “canoe husband” and “canoe dad” a few times. His wife is definitely “canoe wife”.)

However, my all-time favourite is “resident.”

This means more or less anyone. It’s inevitably used gets used in any mention of neighbourhood crime or flooding. It carries a whiff of the twat-o-tron in most cases, with the scent of the “Residents Association” the suggestion of constantly-outraged decency and the subtle implication that inhabiting a property gives you an automatic Lawful Good alignment.

4 thoughts on “Blog woman writes

  1. I can’t even begin to count the number of pieces of mail I get addressed to “resident.” If you know the addresses of any of those “residents” in the U.K., perhaps I could forward all that junk.

  2. I think it’s part of general headline grammar. Normal rules are suspended and it seems that all nouns, including gerunds, magically double as adjectives, verbs are to be avoided wherever possible, and anything ‘in quotes’ is exempt from libel law even when it isn’t a quote from anyone.

    It’s really bad when they nest them, as in the walking stick thing: “walking stick” becomes an adjective modifying the noun “pair” and the whole phrasal noun itself becomes an adjective modifying “pair”. Sometimes they verge on just being a list of varyingly relevant words. I fully expect one day soon to see a headline like “Lorry GCSE girl crash death”. Why they don’t know words like “canoeist” or “murderers” is a mystery (“murderers” being one of the very few nouns that can be legitimately modified by another noun).

    The real problem is when one or more of the nouns is homonymous with a verb — people tend to expect a verb in a sentence and read it as such, “police rape claim woman in court” being the most famous example, although I once saw “Party murders appeal ruling due” and had no idea at all what the hell it meant.

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