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Language Challenge
Are playing cards anything to do with question 10?

Language Challenge

Take this challenge on noun phrases and improve your English language!

English is rich in words which can be used as nouns, verbs or often any other part of speech. We also have a relatively simple grammar with few inflections (changes to the spelling, often on the tail end of a word, to confirm what its function is and where it fits within a sentence). This much, you probably already knew ...

But it then means that we can chain together ~ see: 'chain' as a verb! ~ quite long strings of nouns to make a compact piece of language out of a fairly complex story. The classic situation for this is in a newspaper headline.

Here are some examples for you to work on!

1.
The words in capitals below consist of a typically tightly-written newspaper headline. Which of the explanations do you believe offers the clearest and most likely guess as to what the full story is about?

ROYAL PARKS VAN IN LAKE DRAMA
A van that is used by people who maintain the Royal Parks has been involved in some unusual happening, in or around a lake (presumably within one of the parks); possibly a collision (or near-collision) or some other accident
A member of the Royal Family has driven a van into a lake, as though trying (for some reason) to park it underwater
A van once used by a member of the Royal Family is going to be involved in some sort of show that will be performed alongside a lake
A member of the Royal Family has a very minor part, as a van-driver in the background, during a guest appearance on a television series set in the Lake District
The van is a vehicle belonging to the organisation that looks after the royal parks. It has been involved in some way in an unusual incident in or around a lake ~ such as that it happened to be nearby, and was used to shelter &/or transport a visitor who had just been rescued from drowning when a small boat capsized on the water.
No member of the Royal Family may have been anywhere near the scene, nor ever have had anything to do with the van; but even an indirect 'Royal' reference may attract the interest of certain kinds of newspaper reader!
2.
The words in capitals below consist of a typically tightly-written newspaper headline. Which of the explanations do you believe offers the clearest and most likely guess as to what the full story is about?

BUS STRIKES HIT BAND
A bus has collided with a group of famous musicians
A campaign of strikes by bus drivers has affected a pop group, perhaps because they (or, more likely, their audiences) are less easily able to reach the concerts
Some of the striking bus drivers have been involved in a fight with members of a gang
Members of the band have been driving buses in order to keep the service going
'Strikes in connection with the buses have had a negative impact on a band'
'Hit' is a short, sharp word meaning that one thing that's happened has a direct, and presumably bad, effect on something else.
Meanwhile it's not the buses that are on strike, of course, but the people who would otherwise have been driving them. This too is a kind of 'shorthand'; but 'bus strike' would be fairly familiar and understandable to the British travelling public
3.
The words in capitals below consist of a typically tightly-written newspaper headline. Which of the explanations do you believe offers the clearest and most likely guess as to what the full story is about?

GAY STORM BISHOP SLAMS NEW CATHEDRAL DOORS
During some very windy weather, a cheerful but practical bishop personally closed the cathedral doors ~ rather violently ~ to keep the wind and rain outside the building
A bishop has very publicly closed the doors of his cathedral, to keep out people protesting about homosexuality in the church
A senior clergyman, conspicuous in the ongoing debate about homosexual priests, has now made public criticism of some new doors that have been fitted in a cathedral
A bishop has stormed out of his cathedral because the new doors are painted in colours that he does not consider solemn enough
'Gay storm bishop' is a journalistic way of identifying a bishop who has been involved in a 'storm' (i.e. a major public row) about homosexuality ~ without clarifying which side of the argument he is on (i.e. whether, as a Christian, he is broadly sympathetic and tolerant towards such people; or whether, perhaps, he has been outspoken in saying he feels they have no place in the church).
'Slams' does not literally mean that he has been slamming doors; it is another short, impactful word (like 'hits', earlier) signifying that he has made a strong negative criticism ... not of the Gays, but of the new doors, which he may personally feel are too bland, or ugly, or in some other way out of keeping with a (presumably) traditional cathedral building.
(Perhaps he feels the doors are too flamboyant, or 'camp', in style; in which case, we might in turn sense that he does not have much sympathy with anything colourful or stylish, maybe including the clothing and behaviour of gay people.) Not a very likely story; but probably the least unlikely of the versions offered. We would stress that at time of publication, this is/was an entirely fictitious example!
4.
The words in capitals below consist of a typically tightly-written newspaper headline. Which of the explanations do you believe offers the clearest and most likely guess as to what the full story is about?

FLIES CLOSE TROUBLED RESTAURANT
A restaurant has been in trouble (maybe for financial reasons) and the owner has fled abroad by plane
The police have now closed their dossier on a restaurant where there had been 'incidents' (i.e. trouble with people fighting)
A restaurant has had various problems, but now it has been shut down after an infestation of insects
Diners at the restaurant have been complaining about noisy low-flying aircraft spoiling their 'dining experience'
'Flies' is the plural subject of the verb 'close', so the story is shaping that the closure of the restaurant has been caused by the flies (these may be live insects buzzing around, or dead ones found in the kitchen or even in the food).
The interpretation in Answer 2 has got off to a mistaken start by misreading 'flies' as 'files' ~ easily done at a moment's glance!
5.
The words in capitals below consist of a typically tightly-written newspaper headline. Which of the explanations do you believe offers the clearest and most likely guess as to what the full story is about?

UNITED SHARES PLUNGE SHOCK
All the players at a football club are sharing one enormous bath with their opponents after a game; many people regard this disclosure as unacceptable
The financial value of shares in United has dropped abruptly, and people are panicking about losing their money
Many companies have suffered steep falls in the value of their shares, and even football clubs are now feeling the effects of this
United Airlines is as alarmed as any other company in the industry, after another airline's plane fell into the sea recently with a great number of casualties
'United' is often used as 'shorthand' for the full name of a football club (such as in Manchester, Leeds etc.). 'Shares' is a noun here (as in 'stocks & shares'), so 'United shares ... ' signals a story about the value of shares in the club which have been 'plunging', and people are 'shocked'.
Again, the alternatives are (to a greater or lesser extent) plausible, but less likely
6.
The words in capitals below consist of a typically tightly-written newspaper headline. Which of the explanations do you believe offers the clearest and most likely guess as to what the full story is about?

FINE COUNCILLOR LOSES SEAT
Someone who has given long and noble service on a local council is sadly becoming old and forgetful, and now can't remember where he left his deckchair
A SEAT car has been stolen from outside the home of a local councillor
A councillor who was fined (i.e. had to pay a legal penalty for breaking council rules, e.g. parking his car where this was not allowed) has been in enough trouble over this that he was not elected back into office, and no longer sits in Council meetings
The ancient family home ('seat') of a councillor has been destroyed, perhaps by fire, and we should be sorry that this should happen to such a good public servant
'Fine' is usually an everyday adjective, as in 'fine weather', 'the fine arts' or 'fine wine'; but here, in a paper, it could at least equally refer to the fact that a public servant (who should set a law-abiding example) has been penalised for breaking some rule. 'Seat' probably refers to his 'place' at council meetings; the fact that SEAT happens to be a car brand (and indistinguishable within a headline printed all in uppercase letters) is probably a distraction.
Answers 1,2 and 4 seem less likely or more trivial interpretations; but they remain possible
7.
The words in capitals below consist of a typically tightly-written newspaper headline. Which of the explanations do you believe offers the clearest and most likely guess as to what the full story is about?

YARD QUIZ STATION BLAZES SUSPECT
Someone has been caught setting fires in the yard outside a railway station
Somebody dressed in a blazer, and claiming to be on his way to the recording of a quiz show, has had an accident in a yard
The Metropolitan Police are questioning someone who they believe was responsible for a series of arson attacks on police stations
The police have interviewed everyone at a railway station, and are now threatening to use a flame-thrower to force a criminal out of hiding inside
'Yard' is short for 'Scotland Yard' (= police HQ), though often a short headline may refer to them as 'cops'. Someone is a 'suspect' because the police believe he may be guilty of trying to set light to stations on more than one occasion; we are not told (yet) whether these were police stations or railway stations, or indeed some other kind; but clearly, the detectives are seriously interested in putting a stop to dangerous disruptions to public institutions
8.
The words in capitals below consist of a typically tightly-written newspaper headline. Which of the explanations do you believe offers the clearest and most likely guess as to what the full story is about?

FINAL BRIDGE DEAL BID TRUMPED
There were exciting scenes in the final game of a Bridge tournament (the card-game)
Just as people believed a contract had been awarded to build or repair a major bridge, another company swooped in with a better offer which has been accepted
The person who was supposed to be dealing the cards was dramatically interrupted
There is a big civil engineering project coming up and the relevant people are giving it a lot of publicity, including a fanfare of trumpets
There are plenty of 'bridge' puns here (journalists love such wordplay); but the main topic is the building of an overpass, such as to carry a major road across a river or railway line. One company's 'bid' to do this work has been defeated by another company that offered a better price, at a late stage in the open competition
9.
The words in capitals below consist of a typically tightly-written newspaper headline. Which of the explanations do you believe offers the clearest and most likely guess as to what the full story is about?

READING WATCH GANG HELD
A group of people have been holding out their watches for people to read
A meeting has been held of a group of volunteers who help children with their reading
If you read this newspaper you can go to its website and watch the activities of a gang
In the town of Reading, a group of people has been arrested by police on suspicion of robbing jewellery shops
It obviously helps if you happen to know that Reading (pronounced with its front syllable like 'red', the colour) is the county town of Berkshire, about 50 miles west of London.
From there we can unravel the fact that this 'gang' specialises in robbing jewellers' (the classic shops, since their goods are usually particularly small and portable and valuable); and that the police are 'holding' them temporarily in custody, presumably in the cells at a local police station.
This example shows how several quite short words (which can then be printed large, to catch the reader's eye) can encapsulate a fairly complex story
10.
The words in capitals below consist of a typically tightly-written newspaper headline. Which of the explanations do you believe offers the clearest and most likely guess as to what the full story is about?

LOCAL WOMAN'S JAIL GHOST HORROR
The ghost of a woman has been seen in a local jail
A local woman in jail has been frightened by a ghost
All, or several, of the (female) prisoners in a local jail have been scared by a ghost
It is horrible to think of a female ghost in prison
The woman involved is clearly singular and 'local' (to wherever the paper is published; but the jail she is in may happen to be in some other part of the country)
Author:  Ian Miles

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