"The Vanishing Verb" in TV news

Mai Kuha mkuha at BSUVC.BSU.EDU
Sat Aug 25 15:13:29 UTC 2001

In case anyone missed the NewsHour last night, here's the link to their
piece "The Vanishing Verb: Examining the Changing Language of TV News":


There are interesting clues about nonlinguists' views on language in this:
the idea seems to be that, for more efficiency and immediacy, people
delivering news on TV should eliminate verbs while also keeping everything
in present tense... huh? how are they going to manage *that*? Well, from
the examples given, I suspect that they actually advocate leaving out BE
verbs, and that a structure with one or more auxiliary verbs is considered
too lengthy and complex and labeled "not present tense".

In an interview in the NewsHour piece, Shepard Smith, Fox News Channel
anchor, explains:  "...sometimes the verbs just aren't necessary. It's,
'President Bush in Washington today.' I don't need to say, 'He is in
Washington today.' 'President Bush in Washington today, talking with Colin
Powell, getting ready for a trip overseas. Telling others yesterday about
what happened when, dah, dah, dah, dah.' You don't need all of those
verbs."  Wait a minute... wouldn't it be a split second quicker to say
'President Bush in Washington today, *talks* with Colin Powell, *gets*
ready for a trip overseas, *tells* others yesterday about...' ? There
seems to be something more going on beyond what the interviewees in this
story explicitly state.


"The biggest thing is getting used to not having a heartbeat."
                --Robert Tools

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