Romps, Tots and Boffins: The Strange Language of the News
By: Robert Hutton
Sunday Times Books of the Year – Humour Roundup
Financial Times Gift Books of the Year
Spectator Books of the Year – chosen by Matthew Parris
Shortlisted: Political Humour Book of the Year at the PaddyPower Political Book Awards
Where is drunken vandalism always a ‘booze-fuelled rampage’?
Where is everyone in uniform a ‘hero’ and every thief ‘heartless’?
Where are market towns always ‘bustling’ and villages ‘sleepy’?
If you have ever picked up a paper, you will have come across ‘journalese’, the language of news. It’s a strange language, a little like English. Without it, how would our intrepid journalists be able to describe a world in which innocent bystanders look on in horror, where tots in peril are saved by have-a-go heroes, and where troubled stars lash out in foul-mouthed tirades?
Robert Hutton has been working around native journalese speakers for two decades, living as one of them and learning their ways, and now he has made their secrets available to the public for the first time. When he first began collecting examples online, he provoked a ‘Twitter storm’, and was ‘left reeling’ by the ‘scores’ of examples that ‘flooded in’. He realized that phrases which started as shorthand to help readers have become a dialect that is often meaningless or vacuous to non-journalese speakers.
In a courageous attempt both to wean journalists off their journalese habit, and provide elucidation for the rest of us, Romps, Tots and Boffins catalogues the highs and lows of this strange language, celebrating the best examples (‘test-tube baby’, ‘mad cow disease’), marvelling at the quirky (‘boffins’, ‘frogmen’) and condemning the worst (‘rant’, ‘snub’, ‘sirs’). It’s a ‘must-read’ ‘page-turner’ that may ’cause a stir’, ‘fuel controversy’, or even ‘spark’ ‘tough new rules’ in newsrooms.
great joy from Robert Hutton’s Romps, Tots and Boffins. Never has the weird language of headlines been so wittily defined.
- Libby Purves, 'books of the year', The Times
Robert Hutton…has set himself up as the Dr Johnson of this strange, widely read, hardly spoken, language.
- Matthew Engel, Financial Times
I’m loving a little book just out by my fellow political journalist Rob Hutton. It’s called Romps, Tots and Boffins: The Strange Language of News but is so much more than a hilarious compendium of the ghastly cliché to which our trade is prone.
- Matthew Parris, The Times
An essential guide to finding out what you are reading about. Some people may dismiss this as a ‘loo book’ but, actually, it’s so much more.
- Ann Treneman, The Times
A right romp
- Paul Dietrich, The Metro
A fascinating code-breaker of the cliches, inanities and banalities which fill our newspapers. Or, if you prefer, ‘News Secrets Revealed Leaving Bosses Shamefaced’. I’m not sure I dare write another word.
- Nick Robinson
Finally, I understand what my fellow journalists are writing about.
- Simon Hoggart
an amusing dictionary of arcane hack-speak
- Michael Deacon, The Telegraph
The world of journalism was rocked to its foundations last night as a top newsman claimed to have discovered the secret of ‘journalese’.
- John Rentoul, The Independent