SOLONS SLATE PARLEY
The copy editor’s search for short words to make headlines fit the available space led over the years to a jargon called headlinese — words used in senses peculiar to newspapers. The example above is a pure specimen: solons for legislators, after Solon, the Athenian lawgiver; slate for schedule; parley, for meeting or negotiations, after the French parler, to speak (also the root of parliament).
Habitual readers of newspapers were familiar with these conventions, or so copy editors thought, but in recent years attempts have been made to get away from headlinese and write in more conversational English. But the old conventions still crop up, and today You Don’t Say presents a little quiz that will indicate how much of a hack you have in your head. Just fill in the blanks. Answers below.
1. Council ______ tax on cigars
2. Union ______ company’s offer
3. Team _____ star player
4. Star player ______ contract.
5. Negotiators OK peace ______
6. Health department shuts down _____
7. Police _____ fugitive
8. Date for premiere _____
9. Bush ______ indicted
10. Guard shot in bank _____
DON’T LOOK BELOW THESE LINES UNTIL YOU’RE FINISHED.
UH-UH. NOT SO FAST.
I TOLD YOU TO WAIT UNTIL YOU’RE FINISHED.
1. Council weighs tax on cigars. Mulls is also acceptable. For considers.
2. Union eyes contract offer. Mulls is also acceptable. For considers.
3. Team woos star player. For solicits.
4. Star player inks contract. For signs.
5. Negotiators OK peace pact. For agreement or treaty. And OK for approve is marginal.
6. Health department shuts down eatery. For restaurant.
7. Police nab fugitive. For apprehend.
8. Date for premiere set. For announced or approved or agreed on.
9. Bush aide indicted. For official or subordinate.
10. Guard shot in bank heist. For robbery.
If you answered no more than two or three correctly, be relieved. You are a normal speaker of English.
If you got four to six right, you are probably an inveterate reader of newspapers, and bless your heart.
If you got seven or more right, you are probably a copy editor, and your ear for the language may have been seriously compromised