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Behind the headlines

Ian McMaster ist Chefredakteur von Business Spotlight
Wer eine englische Schlagzeile verstehen will, muss sie sezieren wie einen Truthahnbraten. Vor allem Wirtschaftszeitungen pressen viel Inhalt in wenige Worte. Ian McMaster verrät, wie Sie die kryptischen Kürzel entschlüsseln.
Wer eine englische Schlagzeile verstehen will, muss sie sezieren wie einen Truthahnbraten. Vor allem Wirtschaftszeitungen pressen viel Inhalt in wenige Worte. Ian McMaster verrät, wie Sie die kryptischen Kürzel entschlüsseln. Schauen Sie sich mal die folgenden Headlines an:

1. Wall St bargain hunters counter earnings gloom. | Financial Times |
2. U.K. Jobless Ranks Swell for 3d Month. | International Herald Tribune |
3. Merrill Lynch Net Falls 41% on Drop in Trading. | Wall Street Journal Europe |
4. HP to slash 3,000 jobs amid fresh profits alert. | Financial Times |
5. Madison Ave. Fights Back. | Fortune |
6. Can Kraft be a big cheese abroad? | Business Week |
7. German doubts behind surge in dollar. | The Guardian |

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Did you understand all of them? There are a number of reasons why headlines - and particularly those reporting business and financial news - are so complicated:

Normal vocabulary_ Business newspapers often try to impress readers with difficult vocabulary. In (1), "to counter" means "to move, act or perform in the opposite way", while "gloom" is a state of darkness, here used to mean bad news. In (2), "a rank" is a line of people, and "to swell" means to increase. In (4), "to slash" means to cut violently, and an "alert" is a warning.

Financial vocabulary_You will frequently find specific financial or business vocabulary. In (1), "earnings" means company profits. In (3), "net" is short for "net profits" (Nettogewinn).

Word partnerships_One of the most difficult things is to decide which words belong together. For example, "bargain hunters" in (1) is a word partnership, meaning stock market traders who are looking for cheap shares to buy. Also in (1), "earnings gloom" is a partnership, meaning bad news about company profits. In (2), "jobless ranks" means the number of the unemployed, and in (4), "fresh profits alert" means a new warning about company profits. In (7), "German doubts" stands for worries about the German economy.

Ups and downs_It is very typical for newspapers to use words that describe movements up and down. For example, in (3), a "drop" is a fall, and, in (7), a "surge" is a powerful upward movement.

What's the verb?_Try hard to find the verb as this will give you a good idea what the headline is about. In (1), it is "counter"; in (2), the verb is "swell" (not "ranks", which looks like a verb, but is a plural); in (3), it is "Falls". Note that it is very common to use the "simple present" tense in headlines when talking about past events.

Missing words_Sometimes, verbs and articles are missing, as in (7), which would normally read "German doubts are behind the surge in dollar".

Future problems_The most common form of the future tense is simply "to". In (4), "HP to slash 3,000 jobs" means that Hewlett Packard is going to cut 3,000 jobs.

Short forms_Headlines often refer to places and institutions in short forms. In (1), "Wall St" clearly means the New York Stock Exchange. In (5), "Madison Ave." is short for Madison Avenue in Manhattan, a synonym for the advertising industry.

Idiomatic expressions_Idiomatic language is very common. In (6), "a big cheese" means an important person or company. This is also a play on words; the company Kraft is known for its processed cheese.

Little words_Prepositions often have different meanings to their normal ones. In (3), "on" means "as a result of", and, in (4), "amid", which normally means "in the middle of", means "after".

Understanding headlines is a matter of practice. Think about these tips next time you are having problems. Finally, here are our headlines again - in normal English:

1. Investors who were looking to buy cheap shares helped to push up share prices despite bad news about company profits

2. The number of unemployed people rose in the UK for the third month

3. The net profit of Merrill Lynch fell by 41 per cent as a result of a decrease in the amount of activity on the financial markets

4. Hewlett Packard plans to reduce the number of its employees by 3,000 after another warning that the company's profits will not reach the expected level

5. America's traditional advertising agencies are winning back some of their power.

6. Can Kraft become a major player outside the American market?

7. Worries about the German economy are the reason for the sudden increase in the value of the dollar.
Dieser Artikel ist erschienen am 20.08.2003