Boffin lifts the lid on journalese: A new book puts spotlight on newspaper tricks and a raft of red-faced clichés


John Rentoul
Saturday 31 August 2013 22:08 BST
Included in the book are journalistic 'definitions' and 'to put it another way'
Included in the book are journalistic 'definitions' and 'to put it another way'

The world of journalism was rocked to its foundations last night as a top newsman claimed to have discovered the secret of "journalese".

Amid chaotic scenes, a press bigwig launched a foul-mouthed tirade at this effort to expose the secret language used by highly trained professionals to make their stories sound more exciting. A raft of top-level crisis talks were set to take place today behind closed doors in an 11th-hour bid to defuse this calculated snub.

The Independent on Sunday has learnt that Bloomberg political reporter Robert Hutton's book, Romps, Tots and Boffins, is published this month by Elliott & Thompson. This newspaper understands from senior sources close to the publisher's publicity department that the book contains a guide to those words never used in normal life, such as "floral tributes" and "TV funnyman".

A well-placed source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "How are we expected to do our jobs if Mr Hutton is allowed to go around explaining that the SAS is always on standby and never denies stories about it?" Another said: "This could be the end of civilisation as we know it. Or it could be a storm in a teacup. Only time will tell."

Journalese definitions

Acolytes Supporters of someone with whom we disagree

Arcane Rules ones we can't be bothered to explain

Bed What love rats and lotharios do to their conquests

Boffin Anyone with a job at a university, a science GCSE, or a lab coat

Bonk Casual sexual relations

Booze-fuelled rampage What vile thugs go on, to the dismay of revellers

Bubbly How friends described the victim. She may also have "loved life"

Budding Someone under 20 who's good at something

Calculated snub The worst kind of snub

Champagne lifestyle Typically, what someone "plundered bank accounts to fund"

Draconian The Government is proposing something with which we disagree

Foul-mouthed tirade Someone has said a Bad Word. This event is always "extraordinary" or "astonishing" to newspapers, whose staff are well known for their delicate sensibilities

Innocent bystanders The people who look on in horror when bad things happen. If injured themselves, they become "innocent victims", to distinguish them from the victims who pretty much had it coming

Jekyll and Hyde character No one predicted he'd go on a killing spree. Probably because neighbours described him as a "loner" who "kept himself to himself"

Love rat One who has "two-timed" a partner. Almost always a man. If he's a celebrity, his exploits should be recounted with a slight air of admiration, and he should be described near the start as a "bad boy". Also used of adulterous politicians and men on welfare who've fathered six children by five women. If writing about a woman, try "marriage wrecker".

Raft The standard unit of "measures". Under the imperial system, a "cocktail of measures" is an eighth the size of a raft. A "whole raft of measures" is a raft plus a cocktail

Rapped In March 2013, several outlets including the BBC offered the headline: "Police chief rapped over Hillsborough", conjuring the image of some kind of appalling duet with Jay-Z

Red-faced What council chiefs usually are after a "humiliating U-turn" over parking charges

Rushed The only way anyone gets to hospital, typically after ambulances raced to the scene

Sex session One or more bonks

To put it another way (newspaper euphemisms)

Bon viveur Drunk

Confirmed bachelor He's gay

Flamboyant He's gay

Fun-loving She put herself about a bit

He never married He was gay

Well turned out He's gay

All definitions taken from Robert Hutton's Romps, Tots and Boffins, published this month

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