Metro has a fantastically incomprehensible headline today: “Teachers flunk test boycott poll”. After reading the article, I managed to figure out what the hell it meant, although it still wasn’t easy figuring out which words were verbs and which nouns. “Teachers flunk test”, I read, before being stumped by “boycott”. Maybe there’s a missing comma, I wondered: “Teachers flunk test, boycott poll” – but no, Mr Doug McAvoy of the NUT seemed pretty happy (if stolid and resolute) – his members aren’t failing any assessments.
The headline writer was clearly trying to be clever – ooh look, we can talk about teachers flunking things – but completely missed that the result firstly uses two pairs of words that mean similar things, and secondly has the object noun at the end of the sentence, after two auxiliary nouns. Why no one looked blankly at them while it was being typeset I have no idea.
The trouble is, it’s difficult to come up with anything significantly better. “Teachers’ test boycott poll flunked” has many of the same problems, but at least makes it clear what the verb is. “Teachers skip test ballot” is the best I can manage; it’s almost impossible to misunderstand, accurately describes what the article’s actually about – but isn’t nearly so zingy (although it does still get a teacher joke in). Any other attempts?
On the subject of headlines, The Sun today has “Klum to be mum”, which is simply beautiful.