Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The tricks of the trade

This piece from The Morning News has some interesting insider knowledge from different trades, including newspaper headline writer
If you can’t think of a headline for a story, use one of these three magic verbs: “weighs,” “mulls,” or “considers.” They’ll work for pretty much anything from court stories (“Hamilton mulls plea deal”) to government stories (“Governor weighs Paseo extension”) to entertainment (“Colvin considers new album”) to features (“Benson mulls those who consider weighing Kasey’s artwork”).
and proofreader
If you’re reading too fast, your brain can “correct” typos, preventing you from catching them. That’s why it’s sometimes a good idea to read a page upside-down. It forces you to pay closer attention to individual words out of context, and you can’t race through pages too fast.
I'd have to say that the advice for head writers is abysmal. But the advice for proofreading is spot-on, assuming that by upside down they mean reading the last graf first, etc. I don't know that I would be effective at actually proofing upside down.

Some other intersting revelations:

In Australia, the butchers have a secret language called “rechtub klat” that they use to gossip about customers without getting caught. The code is formed by speaking words backward. Old-timers could have entire conversations in the language, but these days a core vocabulary of about 20 to 30 essential words are used. Sometimes, if a word can’t really be pronounced backwards, a couple of letters will be traded around (e.g., “tish” for “shit”), or the first letter might be pronounced separately (e.g., “bmal” is pronounced “beemal”). The most common words are:—kool, toh lrig—cuf ecaf—on erom feeb/gip/bmal—traf—toor—doog tsub—tish—doog esra—gafNothing is more enjoyable than shouting at the top of your lungs to the other butchers that the difficult customer right in front of you is a “on doog cuf ecaf.”

Desktop Support

When desktop support technicians resolve a ticket, they are usually required to document the cause and solution to the problem. Supervisors see these records, so you have to be professional, but can usually get away with using the acronym “PEBKAC” in situations where the user caused the initial problem. PEBKAC stands for “Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair.”

Lounge Pianist

Never agree to Christmas sing-alongs if there is alcohol involved. Your singer will only remember the first two lines of his favorite tunes, or you’ll waste a half-hour on a drawn-out, stumbling, “12 Days of Christmas.” The singer will be forgiven when he sobers up, but you’ll look unprofessional.


Patients will occasionally pretend to be unconscious. A surefire way to find them out is to pick up their hand, hold it above their face, and let go. If they smack themselves, they’re most likely unconscious; if not, they’re faking.


At 12:49 PM, August 25, 2004, Blogger Mike said...

I recall William Safire taking issue with headlines that use "mull" without "over" in some article I read many many years ago. He said it was purely a newspaper contruct and that it never went through the rigor of common usage beforehand.

At 2:10 PM, August 25, 2004, Blogger Nicole said...

It's pure headlinese. I've worked at a paper at which it was banned. Real people don't talk that way. (Unless you're on a soap opera offering a rival a job: "Just mull it over, Bruce.")

Weighs isn't fantastic, but it's better. And consider isn't egregious at all.

But, really, any crutch is a bad crutch here.


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