Headline goes here
Grant Barrett, lexicographer, radio personality, and one of the Voices of San Diego, posed a question for me on Twitter today:
Do you know of a comprehensive list of the tired-isms on the order of "spark debate," "stir controversy," etc.?
Brother, I’ve seen them all.
Stir debate, stir controversy, and their variants crop up when a lack of space—or imagination—prevents the copy editor from telling you what the casus belli is.
Making use of the dated slang that constitutes much of headlinese—nab, nix, lambaste, tout, heist, finger (v.), slay, blast and rap (for criticize), moniker—seems unlikely to capture many readers in the current century.
Pun headlines, particularly pun headlines that use non-standard spelling, are worse than tired. No headline writer with any self-respect or common decency should ever write a headline for a story about a cat using “purr-fect.” No one outside a sports section should ever pun on a person’s name.
Allusions are probably not as fresh and original as you think they are. Some common headline gimmicks that are staler than that chunk of wedding cake you took out of the freezer on your first anniversary:
If you build X, they will come
It’s official ...
The ___man cometh
Any headline that uses the archaic –eth suffix, which will almost always be grammatically incorrect as well as strained.
Still X after all these years
Show me the X
The X stops here
The X are alright
Making it all right makes it no better.
X is the new Y
But, unfortunately, I do not have a comprehensive list of the stock devices to which the lazy and dull-witted resort—nothing comparable to Tom Mangan’s Banned for Life compilation of cliches. I could use some help. Grant Barrett could use your help. I’ve given you a start. And there’s the set of holiday cliches posted previously. How much farther can you take us?