A common characteristic of headlinese — the form of English used in news headlines — is the presence of noun pile-ups (aka noun piles, noun clusters, noun stacks, etc.). The BBC excels at them, offering many modest pile-ups every day, and occasionally a more eye-catching example.
Browsing the site yesterday, I saw among its “most read” stories a teaser that was simultaneously horrific and hilarious: “Sausage baby death woman jailed”. Upon clicking through, the headline grew, and became a little clearer:
The syntax may be dubious, but the sad and gruesome gist of the “Slough sausage choke baby death woman jailed” story is easy to guess from these seven words, and the bizarre juxtapositions in this keyword-heavy phrase probably enticed a few readers who might not have been tempted by a blander headline (or “hed”, in journalist jargon). It may seem like tabloidese, but the convention is well established in reputable news agencies, especially with developing stories that presume some familiarity on the part of the reader.
The press on this side of the Atlantic indulge in headline noun pile-ups much more than their American counterparts. Headsup: the blog, which monitors these matters closely, observed that “British hed writers can pull an attributive noun across a lot more barriers than we can [in the U.S.]”, and notes an exception in the Rupert-Murdoch-owned foxnews.com, which offers such far-out formulations as “Pregnant frying pan attack teen surrenders”. Language Log considers the transatlantic difference a sociological and linguistic puzzle.
You might say, hed noun pile-up geography difference puzzle.