Category Archives: Funnies

Guardian’s “needs legalling” typo highlights trend for ‘verbing’ nouns

The dangers of typing a sub’s query into a text doc these days is that it doesn’t go through endless proofreads before a web ed presses publish, as this Guardian interview with Lynne Featherstone today shows. [Thanks to Andrew Stuart for the spot on Twitter.]

AnnyrSpCMAAq9V5.jpg (JPEG Image, 600 × 800 pixels) - Scaled (78%)

Does any sub out there know of a workaround for this, apart from a thorough final read on the preview? Isn’t there some kind of app that can prevent you from publishing BEFORE queries are dealt with? (Developers, note: there should be!)

I checked just now and the typo has been removed from the browser – who reads the Guardian in the browser these days? – but it’s still there on my phone app, which downloaded at 3am.

The lesson here is that, once live, there is no recall in digital.

The article is instantly sent out to RSS feeds and soon downloaded via apps to iPads and mobile phones, cached by Google, etc. Copies are made – and the error is OUT THERE. Deleting the offender at source won’t cover you – the source has shifted, the nature of digital is to make copies.

Which is fine, you just need to understand the lay of the land.

But what did irk slightly was that the sub has turned a noun into a verb; legal into ‘legalling’. (In my print days, you’d ring the offending par on a printout and mark ‘legal?’ or ‘ch: legal’ next to it, then ring the lawyer.)

Why the sudden ‘verbing?’

The verb-to-noun trend was also a hot topic in my Twitterstream this week – or, to hammer home the point, it was ‘trending’. Here’s a flavour:

The tweets also linked to a couple of nice reads, which show the trend is partly down to the rise of new tech and the need to create words for all the new stuff:



The Verb: Why do we sound so dumb when we talk about communication? Maybe because our verbs aren’t really verbs.

I’m sure I do it, ahem, verbally, and as a joke, but not in the day job. What’s your take on this? Is ‘legalling’ just in-house jargon? Is ‘verbing’ part of the flux of a living language or just plain wrong?

Let me know. Until then, I’m off to de-border my flowerbed and then maybe do some Facebooking.

Woman in sumo wrestler suit causes sub to wet their pants over lesbian-ex-lover-chocolate-jealousy-assault story and triggers global Twitter alert over mega-deck tabloid headline

Headline is the story

Thanks to Solo1Y for spotting this header.

Guardian pullquote in herey herey type

Dummy copy

Dummy copy left in The Guardian

I guess this is why they call it dummy copy. Hat-tip to Jack Kirby for this lovely miss by Guardian subs. Can anyone confirm which issue it was in?

Strip search finds crack between buttocks


A gift of a story for the sub-editor generates another classic naughty headline, this time courtesy of WYFF4 television station in South Carolina (via Common Sense Journalism). Did this make the TV news too? Would love to have seen the anchor deliver the line.

Starting to gather quite a collection of rude heads – see Top 10 rudest headlines in the world ever, possibly from the hyperbolic list era of 2008, and some more recent headline funnies.

Girls’ school still offering ‘something special’ – head


Fantastic! Can’t believe I missed this one but I shall belatedly add this to my list of naughtiest headlines. Did the sub know? Or is it a classic blooper? It’s been  fixed for the online edition but the lovely internet has already archived a scan of it and sent it around the world. (It was sent to me by an Aussie journalist friend who saw it in The Australian.)

Reminds me of the time I left a reporter’s headline on a music review and got roundly told off on delivery day for ‘Sweet folk all’.  You can read the story of that in my post on the Top 10 rudest headlines in the world ever, possibly.

Typos from real life: Renualt


Far more fun that spotting a typo in 9pt in a newspaper or magazine, is spotting one in big, fat, silver letters on the back of a van – check out this Renault on the move in Birmingham today.

Or should I say Renualt?


How did this happen? Subversive, disillusioned, overtired or dyslexic production line engineer, or simply a typo? (Here are 153,000 others who also prefer the alternative spelling of Renault.)

Quick pics by Pete Ashton.

Nose abatement – not quite the new Wanky Balls

But still a rather lovely headline typo NOT spotted by the subs of the Birmingham Post and another indicator that inaccuracies can a story make (cf Wanky Balls). It’s getting comments so maybe it will stay. Spotted by Getgood.

Nose abatement headline

See, typos can be good.

10 reasons Wanky Balls cockup may not be lazy journalism

Last Saturday (7.08.10) the Independent printed – oh horror oh horror! – an error. Rather a funny error, though. For anyone who hasn’t had wanky balls on their lips today (sorry, that one nicked from The Twitchhiker), the clip claims that The Big Chill was formerly known as the Wanky Balls festival. Evidence in the final par below from the original spotter.

Independent clip with the error on

Spotted and clipped by musician Kat Arney, who knows the organisers of The Big CHill

The misinformation was lifted from Wikipedia – which Kat also clipped and published on her blog post.

It’s a classic fact-check funny that has also garnered many a witty comment wherever it was blogged. Bitter Wallet‘s commentators, for example, started openly bragging about their Wiki fiddling:

I once changed Roy Keane’s middle name from Maurice to Sarah, and it remained thus for a fortnight. I also changed the bit about him “often seen walking his dog, Triggs” subtly to “wanking”.

For ages Emily Bronte’s Wikipedia page kept reverting to a version which claimed she was buried with her pet monkey, Dave.

Etc etc. Warning: Depart now if you just want to enjoy the funny and skip my imminent rant.

But there were also many calls of ‘lazy journalism’ as well as the usual journalist haters who tend to lurk in comment sections. And, to be honest, they sucked all the fun out of the Wanky Ballsup, causing me to be a ranting subbing funsucker in return.

Of course, they could well be RIGHT. Someone lifted it from the Wikipedia page after all.


As a sub-editor who was assigned to fact check every tiny detail for about 20 years, and who no longer does this for a living because of the advent of the lovely World Wide Web, I also call ‘lazy commenting’. I can think of plenty of excuses other than laziness for the appearance of Wanky Balls.

Such as…

Subbing cuts
Anyone who follows newsprint’s woes will know that editorial staff have been slashed and those who remain are often swamped with the extra workload. Entire subs teams have been let go in some cases and national newspaper subbing outsourced to other countries.

Subs brain drain
Freelance rates for sub-editors have been static or falling for a few years, work has been drying up and good subs have been moving on so that they can pay their mortgage. Budget cuts = ever-shrinking subs desk = fewer (not less!) factcheckers.

Web-first publishing
In web-first environments, reporters may have to sub their own copy whereas traditionally the sub-editing team would have checked the facts. Proofing your own copy? Cue potential Wanky Ball errors.

Human error
(sh)It happens.

Sub with a grudge
I remember a whole subbing team banding together after being sacked to code naughties into the captions.

Bored sub
As above but with a sense of humour.

Untrained sub
This is so going to sound like an old fart but back in the day you had to learn your subbing chops through an accredited apprenticeship or training course. I can’t tell you the amount of subs I’ve met who say they’ve just shimmied over into subbing from writing. Hello? Media law? Understanding of a decent source? Not out of the realms of possibility that the chief shouted over to the rookie to ask if it he checked it and the rookie said yes to save embarrassment.

Untrained writer
Same same but likely to nick willy-nilly wanky balls off the internet, especially from that nice, handy, informative Wikipedia site. Good subs should be trained to spot such plagiarism; see my next excuse.

Luddite sub
With a grey head long stuck in print, he/she possibly has no idea that Wikipedia is a first port of call not a fact-checking end destination. It came up first in Google…

Deadline call
It looked suspect but just wasn’t worth holding up the presses for. Or more likely, the end sub saw it and thought there’s no way this got to me without being checked – it’s so OTT it must be true.

Of course, has anyone considered that it might actually be true, that Wanky Balls was an affectionate working title named by the wags behind it ? After all, many a silly or rude band name has been tried on for size by musicians before they picked the final winner.

So just to be sure I asked Kat Arney what her source was, and could it possibly be true on some level?

She replied:

I personally know Pete Lawrence, the founder of the Big Chill, and many people who’ve been involved in the festival since the very beginning. So I can categorically tell you it’s incorrect.

So I checked. Happy now? Although perhaps we should phone the organisers to be 100% sure and get it direct from the horse’s mouth.

You’ll have to do it, though; there’s a huge spider that just legged it under my sofa (I’m serious), and imma gonna have to jump to safety.

Now BIG SPIDER – that is a proper excuse for Wanky Balls.


Reuters doesn’t look a Gay-Dix gifthorse in the mouth

The classic Reuters headline

This super pun headline worthy of the tabloids is actually from Reuters and headlines the Olympic bronze medalist Walter Dix beating former world champ Tyson Gay in a 200m race last week. Thank goodness, Dix didn’t come from behind and there wasn’t a final Gay spurt is all I’m saying.

LOLcat grammar

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures