"Channel Storm; Continent Isolated" (1931 & 1932)

Bonnie Taylor-Blake taylor-blake at NC.RR.COM
Fri Jul 20 23:14:49 UTC 2007

Anyone know of earlier examples of the following anecdote?  (If anything
about the following [likely apocryphal] headline appears in Fred's book,
it's in hiding.)

By the way, Thompson-Gale's Digital Archive of *The Times* (1785-1985) only
shows headline-related anecdotes written in the mid-'30s and in years
thereafter, but no example where *The Times* itself uses the text seriously
or semi-seriously.  The headline is sometimes also attributed to *The Daily
Mirror*, but -- as of now -- there's no easy way to search issues published
at the beginning of the last century.

-- Bonnie


>From Kingsley Martin's "The British Press and Foreign Affairs," *The
Political Quarterly* [London], Vol. 2, No. 1, January-March 1931, pp.

A comparison with the Press of most continental countries would show that we
remain a singularly insular people.  When, not long ago, a great storm at
sea damaged the cables and communication with Europe became for the moment
difficult, *The Times* headline ran "Continent Isolated," and the
significant fact about that superb example of sub-editorial genius is that
it passed almost without comment from English readers.  [p. 115]


>From "In the Driftway," *The Nation* [New York], 22 April 1931, pp. 450-451.

["The Drifter," the author of this piece, refers to himself in the third

For the present, however, he will cut himself short with the story of a
headline from the London *Times*.  It was told to him only recently by a
Scotchman -- if, by the way, you are in search of entertainment, persuade a
Scotchman to speak his mind and heart about Englishmen.  The headline in
question appeared after a severe storm in the Channel which had paralyzed
shipping.  "Heavy Channel Storms," stated the *Times* with dignity and
without disguise, "Continent Isolated."  [p. 451]


>From Harold E. Scarborough's _England Muddles Through_ [New York: The
Macmillan Company, 1932].  Full text at

Presumably the London Times saw nothing amusing in its headline, "Continent
Isolated," when for three days a storm held up shipping in the Channel. It
was an American woman resident in England who called my attention to this
headline, and when I showed it to an English journalist he inquired, in
honest bewilderment:

"Well, what's wrong with it?"

[p. 92]


>From "London Calm over Decline," Wireless to The New York Times, *The New
York Times*, 25 October 1932, p. 31; ProQuest Historical.

The violence of the decline which took the pound to the lowest level since
Dec. 2, shook almost every department of the Stock Exchange.  Financial
writers professed to be undisturbed, however, and the outside public was
kept calm by newspaper tactics, recalling the classic headline a London
paper once used, "Great Channel Storm -- Continent Isolated."


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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