English in Newspapers
English Language in the News
Article by Link School of English in London
In both English newspapers and on television news programmes, humorous or ‘quirky’ news items offer readers and viewers some light relief from depressing news of economic and social problems. English people are known as ‘a nation of animal lovers,’ and readers enjoy news articles about animals doing odd, brave or unusual things or overcoming difficulties.
Recently, the London Metro newspaper covered the Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham, complete with eye catching photos of dressed up dogs and an attention grabbing headline; ‘Dressed up like a dog’s dinner.’ It went on to describe ‘the four legged followers of fashion,’ who were dressed in all the latest trends. Dressed up is a common phrasal verb or multi-word expression, meaning to wear smart or stylish clothes. If you’re ‘dressed up like a dog’s dinner’ you are probably going out for the evening;
‘Where are you going, all dressed up like a dog’s dinner?’ This is a great example of an English idiom or saying connected to clothes. There are many of these idiomatic expressions in the English language, with different themes and subjects. If we look up the individual words up in a dictionary, this will not help us to understand the overall meaning, so they are best learnt as individual phrases or chunks of vocabulary. We don’t know where a lot of them originate from and some are less easy to understand than others. Native English speakers grow up with them and use them instinctively. Other clothing idioms include; ‘ He’s getting too big for his boots,’ (thinking too much of himself) and ‘She’s dressed to kill,’ (she looks fantastic). We invite you to post here any strange idioms you have learnt or heard!
Think about how the English language is used in newspapers. Articles often ‘play’ with words. Alliteration, for example, is when words with the same sound or first letter are used in succession, (one after the other). This is often used in less serious news items and in what we call the tabloid press. ‘Around the ragged rocks the ragged rascal ran…’ is a good example of alliteration. In news stories, a typical use would be; ‘the sultry screen siren strutted her stuff at Cannes yesterday….’ Or ‘A right royal rumpus (disturbance) as Wills seeks ban on Kate pics,’ or ‘The four legged followers of fashion dressed in the latest trends.’ It makes news writing more ‘punchy’ and fun? Look out for examples of alliteration in the newspapers today.
Another newspaper ‘animal article’ in the London Metro, focused on Buster the sheep, who was born with deformed front legs, and has now been equipped with a special wheelchair, so he is able to move around. This article was entitled, ‘Trolley the sheep: Buster is on the move.’ Buster is ‘on the move,’ is a verb phrase meaning moving from place to place. ‘She’s on the move again. She never stays in one place for long….’ This is much more catchy and dynamic than writing; ‘Buster is now able to move around due to his special wheelchair,’ or ‘Buster has been moving around easily using his wheelchair.’ ‘Trolley’ is a rhyming reference to the name of a famous genetically cloned sheep. Can you name her? It also refers to what you push your food around in, in the supermarket. This is an example of a play on words.
Ellipsis is when words are deliberately missed out, often in a headline or the opening passage of a news item. It makes the language sound more immediate and energetic. eg ‘Chaos across capital as violence rages on…’ ‘Food poverty blights households.’
So English language learners – next time you pick up a newspaper on the tube or at the bus stop, have a look for any word play you can find in news headlines, including ellipsis, alliteration, use of idioms and phrasal verbs.