Be careful what you read

'Avoid stories under headlines with certain names in them. The list includes all models, actors and sports people. Except Jordan'
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The Independent Online

I have been trying to learn a few Turkish phrases recently, in advance of a flying visit to Istanbul. I would like to think that I had learnt enough Turkish words to understand very simple things, like newspaper headlines, but, alas, on the flight home on Monday, I learnt that this was not true. I was sitting next to a Turkish passenger who was reading a Turkish newspaper, and my eye was caught by one story which had, intriguingly, at least one recognisable word in the headline.

I have been trying to learn a few Turkish phrases recently, in advance of a flying visit to Istanbul. I would like to think that I had learnt enough Turkish words to understand very simple things, like newspaper headlines, but, alas, on the flight home on Monday, I learnt that this was not true. I was sitting next to a Turkish passenger who was reading a Turkish newspaper, and my eye was caught by one story which had, intriguingly, at least one recognisable word in the headline.

The word was "Eriksson".

I copied out the rest of the heading as I sat there. (He was a slow reader and did not turn pages quickly. )

"ERIKSSON ANTRANMANDA ... Ingliz mili takimi hocasinin hianeti herkesi sok etti..."

Underneath these mystic runes there was, also mysteriously, a picture of Ulrika Jonsson, a Swedish person who often appears on strange television programmes which I see only the end of, because they precede programmes I want to see, so I have come to recognise her lovely face, though I have no idea what she does for a living.

Anyway, this Turkish newspaper had obviously stumbled on some curious connection between Jonsson and Eriksson, and I thought that if I copied out the headline and got someone to translate it for me when I got home, I would be ahead of some game or other.

How foolish I was.

While I had been away in Istanbul, embracing Turkish history and fighting off crazed carpet salesmen who have been commanded by God to sell rugs and kilim to the infidel, the British press had gone into a frenzy of stuff and nonsense about these two Swedish people who, if they are interesting, are not interesting for the reasons the British press think they are.

And by copying out the headline I had foolishly broken Kington's First Law of Newspaper Reading, which is that to save yourself from hours of wasted reading, you should always avoid stories under headlines which have certain words in them. Never, for instance, read a story following a heading which contains "threat" or "row" or "storm" or "protest" or "bid" or "vow", because there is no story there. Nothing has happened. Nothing has gone wrong or right. All that has happened is that people are speculating that something might happen.

Nor should you read stories under headlines containing the words "split" or "break" or "tiff" or "love-rat" or "Yes, we are in love!". This is because... Well, I think you know why.

But most important of all, you should never read stories under headlines with certain names in them. This is what Kington's Second Law of Newspaper Reading calls The Liz Taylor/Richard Burton Syndrome. There are not many stories about Liz Taylor these days, and none about Richard Burton, but they stand for all the people who have followed in their footsteps, leading to the present-day hegemony of people like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. (Did I mention that you should never read stories under headlines containing the word "hegemony" either? Along with "sovereignty", "subsidiarity", etc, etc – complete list available on request.)

The full list of people whose presence in a headline acts like a fever flag or a death's head, warning you away from the story below, is too long to print here, but along with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, I think we can mention Russell Crowe, Meg Ryan, Penelope Cruz, Jennifer Lopez, Liz Hurley, Hugh Grant, Naomi Campbell, anyone from Friends, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Evans, Anthea Turner, Max Clifford, Paul Daniels, Carol Vorderman, Patrick Moore, Camilla Parker Bowles, Earl Spencer, Graham Norton, David and Victoria Beckham, etc, etc.

The list includes all models, all actors and actresses, and all sports people. There are no exceptions.

I am sorry. There is one exception.

Jordan.

She is a very tall model whose bust I once saw Vic Reeves ogling at the end of a programme that preceded something I wanted to see.

But it is also the name of a quite important country in the Middle East, so if you automatically and quite rightly avoid all stories about her, you run the risk of failing to learn something important about the country.

A risk well worth taking, perhaps.

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