range is very large - here is a selection of some common types almost all taken
from a small number of recent newspapers (with a few from other sources). It is
not comprehensive but an introduction. For a discussion of other linguistic
aspects of headlines see - Grammar
and lexical devices by Anna Tomczak.
you produce an equivalent list from the Polish printed media to match these? In
each section are some unexplained Others
at which you can try your hand with the aid of the references below, and
speculate on what might be found in the original articles.
Ø Baldick C 1990 The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms
Ø Cuddon J 1998 (4th ed)
The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and
Ø Crowther J (ed) 1999 Oxford Guide to British and American Culture
Ø Knowles E 199 A Concise Oxford
Dictionary of Quotations OUP
work by substitution of one meaning, sound, spelling and so on for another -
they can be aural or visual and are very common. Ambiguity is essential for a
pun, but locating the exact point at which a pun works is not always clear, and
many involve meaning, spelling and sound together.
Puns based on meaning
Deals - for an advertisement promoting summer houses (meaning a
temporary wooden or tent structure in a garden - not a house on a dzia³ka).
A colloquial idiom - anything shady is not quite legal so a pun
based on meaning.
Others: Oxford blues/ Continentals adrift/ Check your pulses/ Band Aid
Puns based on sound
Purpose - on the wearing of jewellery. A pun based on sound - the near
homophone Jewel/ Dual.
Others: Piques and troughs/ Blazing canon/ Pilau talk/ Labour’s Swiss role
Puns based on spelling
Bows Out - on defeat in an archery competition - to bow out =
to leave honourably. A pun based on spelling - the homograph
Patsies - a review of a TV play involving a paragram (a
play on letter order - intentional
misspelling) Pasty/ Patsy. A pasty is a well-known Cornish
dish, a patsy - slang for an effeminate man. (Here even this
explanation has unintentionally produced a pun, as ‘dish’ is a slang
expression for a ‘fanciable’ person. It is difficult to avoid wordplay at
- In dog we trust
- about an anti anti-hunting bill attitude. An example of reversal
- In God we Trust
- Spoonerisms are a specific case
where the initial letters of two words become transferred - an example is
the common pub name the Boar’s Head.
- Noshtalgia - a portmanteau
word made from nosh (children’s slang for food) and nostalgia.
So here a café selling food remembered from childhood. Also Debonhair.
Puns based on word
on the nail - the original idiomatic expression is to ‘hit
the nail on the head’ used when someone comes up with an answer to a
problem. Here used literally to refer to someone who had injured her famous
head on a nail.
Puns based on association
- Aromatherapy - wordplay without
doing anything. A simple descriptive term placed above an article and
photograph on food and working by association.
Balancing act/ Easter rising/ Free
Puns based on pronunciation
possible to reproduce in written form as it requires atypical pronunciation
where the context would normally require another - a number are adduced and
debated from Shakespeare’s plays. Speaking ironically is a common form
of this wordplay while speaking sarcastically, scornfully and so on are less
references, allusions and clichés
Quotations are very common and are increasingly taken from popular
culture. Any quotation is inevitably a reference to its source but could
contain several other references to places, people and so on. References
are not necessarily however to quotations but are usually obvious. An allusion
is an indirect reference, a knowing hint, that at first glance is not obvious
as a reference at all. When a reference becomes an allusion is impossible to
say - it is the degree of indirectness and that of course depends on the
reader. Clichés represent overused examples of the other three, often
when used repeatedly in a fixed context, thus killing the pleasure of the
original wordplay. A good headline plays with a cliché - wittily breathing new
life into it so that it is no longer a cliché! Many collocations are clichés.
See Language Rules OK by Ma³gorzata Zdybiewska, which gives an extended discussion and concludes with a
series of cliché quizzes.
All quotations, references, allusions and
clichés require a common cultural inheritance, increasingly it is
global, often European, but for some it is societally- or
linguistically-specific, or even at the level of a region or a social group,
and requires (like a
joke) their shared knowledge for comprehension.
- Up, Up
and Away - about a trapeze artist. A direct quotation from a
line of a 1960s popular song (quotations from lyrics and film
titles are popular, and as they are often one themselves - they are
quotations from quotations!).
- Come into my parlour - the
opening to a nursery rhyme which continues ‘said the spider to the fly’ - by which the nature of
the article and the remainder of the nursery rhyme are both made clear
- … leaves a sinking feeling - from a review of
the film Titanic. A quotation of a clichéd popular expression
for mounting disappointment
Others: Death of a Salesman/ We’re so pretty …/ Now we
are one/ All that glisters …
Wordplay on quotation
Naples and diet - a reference to the popular saying (See
Naples and Die) used in a heading in the tourist section on
eating out in Naples. A pun based on sound.
Deadly Sins - a (poor) review for a restaurant named Seven.
A reference to … guess what? A pun based on spelling
no moss - a radio documentary about Mick Jagger. A reference to a proverb
and showing characteristic omission known as ellipsis - a
rolling stone gathers no moss - written confident that the audience
shares the knowledge and can supply the missing part.
Light - about a Scandinavian footballer. An allusion
to the aurora borealis/ the northern lights.
Others: Pounds of flesh/ For peat’s sake/ The cars that Jag built/ A match for all seasons
Societal reference and allusion
There are many of these but they are not
always so easy - here is an example:
page 3 set to go bust? - about a long-running feature in The Sun
newspaper of a photograph of a naked (or semi-naked) woman on page 3 (a reference
requiring shared knowledge therefore). A pun
based on the homophone bust (finished)/ bust (breast). Also here a double entendre (a pun with sexual
content) often used in innuendo (suggesting sexual content
to sexually-innocent conversation). Notice the typical use of foreign
vocabulary for dealing with taboo.
- Seaman sinks Armada - a nationalistic headline of a
football match between England and Spain. Seaman a reference to the
England goalkeeper, and the Armada a historical reference to
the name both of the 16th C Spanish fleet and the battle in
which it was defeated in the English Channel.
are relatively easy to spot as they rely on sound not meaning
Britain - a TV programme by those of mixed race - alliteration.
cool - about shoe fashion (mules are a kind of shoe) - rhyme - in
this case a half-rhyme.
took a butcher’s - about a crime (by a butcher) discovered when someone
peeped through a window. A pun from cockney rhyming slang: a
butcher’s hook = look
Mussels in Brussels/ World wine web/ From here to fraternity
depend on such figures of speech as metaphor, metonymy, hyperbole and so on,
but especially irony. This is very difficult because it works explicitly
by relation to shared knowledge and has no meaning without it - a number of the
examples above also contain irony e.g. Brown
all illustrations are from newspapers - but to give the ideas)
great range of lexical and orthographic wordplay is also found in the popular
music press, as well as in the names of bands and in their lyrics though
not presented here. The internet too makes great play with the visual
appearance of language. Other lexical aspects can be found in Grammar and lexical devices
by Anna Tomczak.
olde tea shoppe - in this case mock old-English, as authentic as
mock-Tudor etc styles in contemporary architecture.
- Prêt-à-manger - the very successful chain of upmarket sandwich shops found in London
- modelled on Prêt-à-porter. This is mock, not real French of course.
- In Blairesque fashion - based on picturesque - about
appearance (not only political) in the Labour Party
between the (Head)lines - the title of the item - a reference to a
proverbial saying, visually presented to highlight the wordplay.
- Hello, Dolly, Er.... Dolly - a review of a
book about cloning, using the ‘Er …’ convention for imitating embarrassed
hesitation in speech - and also a reference to the original cloned sheep
and the well-known musical.
/ Political CorrectnessesS - a recent conference title
provides another good example of typographical play which has become a common
- Beez Neez -
which should be Bee’s Knees an idiom meaning the best. Widely used
in product advertising and in shop names as a means of attracting
attention. Also Kutz
Foot - the name of a multinational chain of sport’s shoe shops,
referring to the fungal disease that occurs between the toes of feet
encased in rarely washed socks - thus a pun on meaning. An
illustration of what would formerly have been bad taste, and thus then incomprehensible
as a marketing strategy. A reflection of a society which no longer simply
tolerates colloquial use and meaning, but actively celebrates it. Language
always follows cultural change.
Plastic Inevitable - the Andy Warhol mixture of pop and surrealism.
swell for whales - it can be
read All’s well for Wales. In here there are (at least) a pun
based on sound, a pun based on meaning, a pun based
on spelling, a possible reference to a Shakespeare quotation
and a popular expression! Daily Mail 27-12-00
- B-r-r-anson does a Reggie Perrin Richard Branson - chairman of the Virgin empire and media
celebrity, taking his clothes off for a naked dip into the sea as part of
an advertising campaign - hence B-r-r- (= cold). Reggie Perrin was
a character in a 70’s TV comedy The Rise and Fall of Reggie Perrin
who famously performed similarly. The construction ‘To do a …‘
coupled with the name of a well-known person, is a colloquial figure of
speech for referring to an activity famously (notoriously) done by that
person. The need for shared societal knowledge is essential. Sunday
You can’t make a Hamlet
without breaking heads