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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Headlines should strip out the (bad) puns

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/ari/

Is it just me or is the constant and repetitive punning of cultural references in print headlines getting a bit tiresome?

I’m currently irked by the constant riffing on No Country for Old Men – a Google search for “no country for old” -men gives 831,000 entries. And this is for a film that is only a couple of months old. The first page of results shows sources such as the Guardian and Slate, while it was an Economist article that prompted me to write this. I would have hoped that their sub-editors were less lazy.

Creative and original punning can work very well, but unfortunately these are rare. However, in the age of search engine optimisation, will this be a thing of the past?

This article gives a good overview of the subject. To get picked up by Google et al, headlines need to be factual and contain keywords. Several memorable puns are also mentioned. Of course, a compromise can be reached whereby the sub-headline contains the necessary keywords. Even so, I want to see more effort put into headlines. It is the thing that draws people to the article, after all. And as my RSS reader is set to display titles only, it is literally the only thing I see when deciding what to read.

There is an argument that British tabloids are actually making it more difficult for people to learn the English language. While the sentences used aren’t that complex, the litany of both current and outdated cultural references makes it impenetrable to non-natives. Yet another reason for a ban on the “do ron ron” headlines for every other Christiano Ronaldo article, or the “joy of six” proclamation that greets every occurrence of a half-dozen. If this continues, there will be blood.

sk