Archive | February, 2020

Best Implied Object

18 Feb

Oscars night: the biggest night of the year for glitz, glamour and tabloid sentence constructions. And the competition looks  particularly fierce in one category:

Whereas implied-subject (or “flying verb”) headlines rarely make the red carpet these days, implied-object sentences – that is, sentences containing a normally transitive verb but no direct object – go from strength to strength.

To qualify for this award, the object has to be genuinely needed in the sentence; some naturally “unaccusative” verbs don’t require them. For instance, one may “sparkle” or “glow” in the absence of any observers, perhaps involuntarily,

but to “stun” or “dazzle” clearly implies inducing a reaction in a second party. Contenders must therefore rely on the understood presence of an audience to be parsed correctly.

And the shock winner is: SHOCKS!

The first foreign-language film to win Best Picture: that really did stun. The Academy never ceases to surprise.


Fast fashion

4 Feb

Baftas style is such big news that Mail Online is not just doing one story about the red carpet, but one story per dress. This should test the fashion desk’s powers of creativity and variation to the utmost.


Neil Gaiman recently speculated that a particularly strange Mail article about him might have been written by a bot, or perhaps an elk. I’m not sure bots or elks are quite at that level yet, but there’s no doubt that these Bafta articles could have been created by importing data from a spreadsheet. All you need is the reporter filling in Excel fields with details of name, gender, age, claim to fame, and description of outfit, have the system generate a Daily Mail verb-phrase*, and the job is done.


The “She … And” transition, which was also used in the article about Gaiman, is often crashingly discontinuous, but it’s quick and equally inconsequential in all cases, which gives an air of consistency to the coverage. And if recycling your evening wear is the latest thing, why not recycle your ledes?


* “Left little to the imagination”, “put on a busty display”, “poured herself into”, “made the most of her assets”, “marvelled” (in its transitive form), etc