Journalese definitions

September 4th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

An amusing article from The Independent:

Journalese definitions

Acolytes Supporters of someone with whom we disagree

Arcane Rules ones we can’t be bothered to explain

Bed What love rats and lotharios do to their conquests

Boffin Anyone with a job at a university, a science GCSE, or a lab coat

Bonk Casual sexual relations

Booze-fuelled rampage What vile thugs go on, to the dismay of revellers

Bubbly How friends described the victim. She may also have “loved life”

Budding Someone under 20 who’s good at something

Calculated snub The worst kind of snub

Champagne lifestyle Typically, what someone “plundered bank accounts to fund”

Draconian The Government is proposing something with which we disagree

Foul-mouthed tirade Someone has said a Bad Word. This event is always “extraordinary” or “astonishing” to newspapers, whose staff are well known for their delicate sensibilities

Innocent bystanders The people who look on in horror when bad things happen. If injured themselves, they become “innocent victims”, to distinguish them from the victims who pretty much had it coming

Jekyll and Hyde character No one predicted he’d go on a killing spree. Probably because neighbours described him as a “loner” who “kept himself to himself”

Love rat One who has “two-timed” a partner. Almost always a man. If he’s a celebrity, his exploits should be recounted with a slight air of admiration, and he should be described near the start as a “bad boy”. Also used of adulterous politicians and men on welfare who’ve fathered six children by five women. If writing about a woman, try “marriage wrecker”.

Raft The standard unit of “measures”. Under the imperial system, a “cocktail of measures” is an eighth the size of a raft. A “whole raft of measures” is a raft plus a cocktail

Rapped In March 2013, several outlets including the BBC offered the headline: “Police chief rapped over Hillsborough”, conjuring the image of some kind of appalling duet with Jay-Z

Red-faced What council chiefs usually are after a “humiliating U-turn” over parking charges

Rushed The only way anyone gets to hospital, typically after ambulances raced to the scene

Sex session One or more bonks

To put it another way (newspaper euphemisms)

Bon viveur Drunk

Confirmed bachelor He’s gay

Flamboyant He’s gay

Fun-loving She put herself about a bit

He never married He was gay

Well turned out He’s gay

Feel free to add to the list below!

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46 Responses to “Journalese definitions”

  1. Simon Lyall (60 comments) says:

    Fighting for Life: Lying in a hospital bed unconscious hooked up to life-support machines

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  2. metcalph (1,426 comments) says:

    Helping the police with their enquiries: having a confession beaten out of him.

    Not seeking anybody in connection with the deaths: the guy responsible topped himself.

    A model girlfriend: sleezoid’s trophy acquisition

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  3. metcalph (1,426 comments) says:

    Lived life to the fullest: failed to take sufficient care and got himself (or herself) killed in a preventable accident.

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  4. James Stephenson (2,145 comments) says:

    According to sources: A bloke in the pub told us.
    According to sources close to: …in a pub round the corner
    According to reliable sources: A bloke in the pub we paid money to told us.

    Ordinary Kiwi: Labour party / Union stooge

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  5. queenstfarmer (764 comments) says:

    In New Zealand:

    Illegal spying surveillance which was actually been determined not to be illegal, but we will say it is anyway.

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  6. BeaB (2,106 comments) says:

    Chaos – film of orderly traffic keeping to lanes, travelling slowly described breathlessly by Barbie and Ken on TV1 as ‘chaos’.

    Chaos also at airports when flights are delayed or cancelled – again film of people waiting patiently rather than the rioting the word chaos would seem to suggest.

    And don’t get me started on ‘in the firing line’ when usually they mean ‘in the line of fire’. NO-ONE gets this right.

    And the ‘proof’s in the pudding’. No it isn’t – it’s in the eating.

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  7. flipper (3,950 comments) says:

    “It is argued…” I interviewed my computer
    “Massive crowds of protesters….” I filmed the same small group from different angles to make them look like my prediction.

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  8. James Stephenson (2,145 comments) says:

    Tory: Politician wearing a blue tie

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  9. Nookin (3,273 comments) says:

    “Journalists help protect society” = We are above the law.

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  10. flipper (3,950 comments) says:

    The smart politician’s “honest” answer (KJH’s favourite! ), which was not de-cyphered by journalists for several years), namely….

    “No present proposals….” ….meaning “We have already decided the issue, but I am not going to tell you yet”, hence no present proposals,
    or
    Alternatively, meaning ” Proposals are being developed, but you dint need to know that…” hence no present proposals…..

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  11. flipper (3,950 comments) says:

    “Journalists help protect society”….
    alternatively, meaning “The media knows best what you “need” to know”

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  12. David Garrett (6,995 comments) says:

    That is very good….but in New Zeland, “draconian” means: “Any law and order measure most people think is a no brainer”

    and what about “tired and emotional” = pissed as a newt

    “controversial” = calls a spade a spade rather than speaking in euphemisms approved by the Press Sec…

    and apparently “very musical” was another old euphemism for gay

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  13. Nick R (505 comments) says:

    “Outrage” – someone the journalist rang for a quote expressed doubts or reservations about the matter.

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  14. Mark1 (90 comments) says:

    I’m going to go all racial and offensive here but I’ve yet to read a New Zealand newspaper article that doesn’t refer to a recently-performed haka as being “stirring”: https://www.google.co.nz/#q=%22stirring+haka%22. Or “spine-tingling”: https://www.google.co.nz/#q=%22spine+tingling+haka%22

    I’d love to read an article where the haka was described as being “rather lengthy and monotonous” or “complete shit and overdone”.

    Likewise (and again being racial), a description of South Auckland as being “colourful” or “vibrant”. Because, after all, only Polynesians can be colourful and vibrant apparently.

    What these comments actually mean is for the journalists to define.

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  15. dubya (228 comments) says:

    “Future Prime Minister” – overrated carpet bagging tart with big teeth and no private sector experience

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  16. Colville (2,254 comments) says:

    dubya…could you narrow that down a bit more? :-)

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  17. unaha-closp (1,157 comments) says:

    serious allegations – allegations which are different from the others we’ve made

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  18. Nookin (3,273 comments) says:

    “Slam” — disagree or take issue with

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  19. nickb (3,686 comments) says:

    kiwi battler: a 25 year old marketing executive who can’t afford a Grey Lynn villa.

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  20. Rich Prick (1,666 comments) says:

    The ones that get me the most:

    Iconic: Something only a bearded, cardigan-wearing busybody could love.
    Gutted: The intellectually bankrupt way of expressing disappointment at some turn in one’s miserable life.

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  21. Rich Prick (1,666 comments) says:

    Oh, not jurno-speak, but this one too:

    … so it doesn’t happen to others: I really only wanted to see what I looked like on telly.

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  22. New Kiwi (8 comments) says:

    “The Government was in turmoil last night” = newspaper has discovered that some Ministers disagree with each other.
    “Documents obtained by this newspaper” = by downloading them from the department’s website.

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  23. David Garrett (6,995 comments) says:

    What about “rolled out”?

    Can anyone remember when things were simply “introduced”?

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  24. Paulus (2,602 comments) says:

    “Ambrose Utu” – we hate John Key

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  25. graham (2,332 comments) says:

    “The public has a right to know” – we want an excuse to publish this/it will sell more papers.

    “Freedom of the press” – we want the freedom to publish whatever we want to, no questions asked, and none of that silly stuff like is it truthful, is it accurate, and did we obtain it legally. Because we’re more important than anybody else, so there.

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  26. Mark Thomson (80 comments) says:

    Straight from today’s NZ Herald http://bit.ly/19ghU4T :

    ‘bundled out’ (NZH) – ‘lost a five set thriller’ (Sydney Morning Herald)

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  27. anonymouse (709 comments) says:

    And more from today’s Herald http://nzh.tw/11119337

    “One witness said an altercation had occurred earlier between the two men, one of whom is understood to have gang connections

    and later down we read
    “Police are looking for Braam in connection with the incident. He is described as a male Maori, 1.7m tall with short dark hair.He has a large Mongrel Mob tattoo on his left cheek

    I would call that a big tick in the “gang connections” box

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  28. nickb (3,686 comments) says:

    “Slammed” – expressed mild to moderate annoyance at.

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  29. James Stephenson (2,145 comments) says:

    Iconic: Something only a bearded, cardigan-wearing busybody could love.

    Analysis of post-earthquake media reports indicates that an alternative definition of “Iconic” is “recognisable landmark”

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  30. scrubone (3,091 comments) says:

    “Calls are increasing for…”

    The guys we support have not yet gotten their way on this issue.

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  31. scrubone (3,091 comments) says:

    “Rising Star” (male) – someone who successfully hid his obnoxious drinking habits until he got in a bar fight and died.

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  32. scrubone (3,091 comments) says:

    “Massive Truck” – A truck.

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  33. PaulL (5,947 comments) says:

    @scrubone:

    “Calls are increasing for…”: we were campaigning on our own on this one, but Penny Bright has just agreed with us.

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  34. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    David G,
    Everything is ”kicked off ” these days..Nothing simply starts.

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  35. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    ”Going forward ” I don’t know what I am talking about but I think I may know sometime in the future.

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  36. fernglas (142 comments) says:

    “public outcry” – at least one person other than the journo thinks it’s not on.
    “wave of sympathy” – the person who did the outcry also feels sorry for the victim

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  37. nickb (3,686 comments) says:

    Right Wing: Anyone to the right of the extreme left (i.e. Labour + Greens)

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  38. Bad__Cat (140 comments) says:

    “A digger” – any type of machinery
    “Historical” – hasn’t happened in a while
    ” he was a character” – a crim and and an arsehole
    “Insurgents” – rebels we support
    “Criminal gangs” – rebels we don’t support
    ” the town is in mourning” – someone died

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  39. PaulL (5,947 comments) says:

    @Bad__Cat:
    normally:
    “Terrorists” – rebels we don’t support and who are morally bad people
    “Insurgents” – rebels we don’t support but morally they might be OK
    “Freedom fighters” – rebels we support

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  40. adze (2,093 comments) says:

    “Slammed” – strongly criticised

    “Begs the question” – something other than what begging the question actually means

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  41. David Garrett (6,995 comments) says:

    “talented chanteuse” = female singer who took too many drugs/drank herself into oblivion once too often and died

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  42. dubya (228 comments) says:

    ‘Social Issues Reporter’ – Sad 30 something bloke who doesn’t shave, still rents in Grey Lynn, over-appreciates craft beer, and has a creepy schoolboy crush on Metiria Turei.

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  43. jcuk (665 comments) says:

    RNZ “A freight train derailed and is partly blockiing SH1 …. three carraiges came off the track” :(

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  44. maxwell (52 comments) says:

    “hiked” – as in Housing NZ “hiked” rents from a long way below market rates to way below market rates (but increased – not hiked- the
    accommodation supplement)

    “slashed” – Govt. “slashes” civil service from bloated to overstaffed

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  45. jcuk (665 comments) says:

    OK they could have been hauling a some beat up carraiges to a preservation railway for restoration but I doubt it somehow. :)

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  46. Graeme Edgeler (3,282 comments) says:

    I’m sure it will change, but I quite like how there’s currently only one downvote in the entire thread :-)

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