2584: Headline Words

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Headline Words
Roundly-condemned headlinese initiative shuttered indefinitely.
Title text: Roundly-condemned headlinese initiative shuttered indefinitely.


White Hat, Megan, Cueball and Ponytail are planning a party. Megan mentions that the party was planned to be at Rob's place, but that this might not be a good idea, since he has cats, and some of the participants in the party are allergic to cats. This is a valid reason[1]. Seems likely that Megan is one of those that are allergic. Usually Rob is drawn as Cueball, but it is not necessarily Rob that is present, it could just be a discussion among some of the friends that are supposed to come to the party.

Cueball then replies to this in news-commentary fashion, using words and phraseologies that are common in headlines but rare in day-to-day use. This is strange enough to prompt Megan to ask him to stop. He continues though, although the gist of his second line is that he will stop speaking that way.

That this is indeed the case and what he is actually trying to do is explained in the comics caption. It states that Cueball's project was to speak in weird headline words. And that the project did not last for long.

News headlines are often very dramatic explanations of minor events; so are the things Cueball says here. Furthermore, some newspapers write their headlines in a stylized way which relies heavily on shorter words (such as "nixed" for "rejected"), often uses cliches (such as "tension mounts") and omits 'unnecessary' grammatical padding, a style colloquially known as Headlinese.

See below for explanation of his headlines.

The title text continues with a final headline statement from Cueball, telling everyone that the project was halted. Probably permanently.

Headlines explained[edit]

Here each of the three headlines will be explained. Several of the words used are listed in the wiki article on Headlinese.

Wow, major snub for widely-touted top spot as lavish gala bid nixed.

According to the list of words: "snub" means to reject; "tout" can mean to suggest something, for approval; here, a "bid" means an attempt; and "nix" also means to put to an end/not allow to happen. The "top spot" is a venue which has status and popularity, while a "lavish gala" is an expensive/impressive festive celebration, in this case being a party. Translating it step by step to more normal English:

Almost literal word replacement:

"Wow, a significant rejection for a widely suggested venue, which was looking like it was going to be used. Their attempt to host the party will probably fail now"

Trim excess words:

"This is a big surprise. We have had a significant rejection for the most widely suggested and popular venue. This means they probably won't host the party."

What he probably meant:

"Gosh, having heard that, it looks like Rob probably won't host the party after all."

Ill-advised scheme mulled as tension mounts amid growing backlash.

We can use a similar process, along with the list of words, to translate it step by step to more normal English:

Almost literal word replacement:

"This idea wasn't well thought-out and I'm now reconsidering it as I feel pressured to stop by your increasingly negative reactions"

Apply more context and rearrange:

"This idea wasn't well thought-out, and your reactions are making me uneasy, so I should probably stop"

What he probably meant:

"This was a bad idea and I can tell that you won't tolerate this much longer, so I should probably stop."

Roundly-condemned headlinese initiative shuttered indefinitely. (title text)

This time the sentence yields to relatively trivial word replacement:

"Nobody liked me trying to speak like this, so I'm going to stop forever."

What he probably meant:

"You all clearly hate me doing this, so I'll stop."


[White Hat, Megan, Cueball, and Ponytail stand in a row, with White Hat and Megan facing toward the right and Cueball and Ponytail facing toward the left.]
Megan: Maybe Rob shouldn't host the party. He has cats and some of us are allergic.
Cueball: Wow, major snub for widely-touted top spot as lavish gala bid nixed.
Megan: Why are you talking so weird? Please stop.
Cueball: Ill-advised scheme mulled as tension mounts amid growing backlash.
[Caption below the panel:]
My project to speak only in weird headline words didn't last long.

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It is ironic how Cueball, being bald, doesn't have any "headlines". 06:48, 22 February 2022 (UTC)

Actually, Cueball being bald would be cause greater susceptibility to the infamous corduroy pillow. 23:03, 24 February 2022 (UTC)

I mean, I would be pretty annoyed too if someone talked like that instead of saying "Wow, I can't believe you shot down the idea for the party venue that everyone likes" and "I'm reconsidering my plan (to speak in headline words) since people are starting to get annoyed" (also, "Everyone hated the headline-word thing, so I'm gonna stop") 07:09, 22 February 2022 (UTC)

I have made a new section for trying to explain each of Cueball's three headlines. I tried to make some sense of the first, but think I failed... So please feel free to change or improve my text completely. For sure the above comment gets the correct meaning, but I do not think it is a translation, more a possible sentence to be said instead. --Kynde (talk) 11:55, 22 February 2022 (UTC)

I tried to expand that :) 13:02, 22 February 2022 (UTC)Bumpf
After including the stipulation that they "remove grammar" (a vital element to compressing into Headlinese, except of course when it introduces unintentional ambiguity!) I went through and made my own changes to make the "Literal" versions each pad out into the more proper statement(s). I changed some 'literal' wording, but left most and still followed the general source-structure without it being a total rewrite. (Which left some compromises, but should allow the interested reader to still map the various chunks one-to-one and in sequence.)
Obviously, I expect future-editors to advance (or retract) my changes in various ways because they disagree with my idea of 'literal' language, and indeed what is Headlinese. Which is perhaps more British-biased - If I read newspaper headlines (of papers that I often don't intend to pick off the stands) I seem to see a lot of needless alliteration also going into the mix. "Boris backs down over Brexit border boob!" might be a (made up, especially as he tends not to do that, but probably not far from someone's likely interpretation) certain tabloid-style pronouncement. 15:42, 22 February 2022 (UTC)
”Squad helps dog bite victim” Szeth Pancakes (talk) 20:27, 22 February 2022 (UTC)
Thanks for improving the explanation. --Kynde (talk) 11:16, 23 February 2022 (UTC)
I've tried adding a more staged translation, I'm sure some people will have their objections to my exact use, but the idea is to make the changes clearer. This way you can see where each bit maps to, and also see how that translates to proper meaning, all without too big of a jump... I'm not sure I've done a good job, but I can hope. 19:01, 16 March 2022 (UTC)

It may be possible that Randall is reading the Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Shipping News” which is written entirely in headline format. 15:11, 22 February 2022 (UTC)

Interesting, did not know that. Although I do not think this is the reason for this comic. --Kynde (talk) 11:16, 23 February 2022 (UTC)
”[D]id not know that (The Shipping News “is written entirely in headline format”)” - Understandable, because it’s not at all correct. There is some Headlinese therein (the protagonist writes for a local paper), but it’s not remotely all of it. Miamiclay (talk) 15:35, 26 February 2022 (UTC)