“Tepid London Boyles over”, says the headline in Mumbai Mirror. “The seven-year British whinge is finally over as Slumdog Millionaire director gives 2012 Olympics a cinematic opening”, reads the strap.
What in heaven does the headline mean? What is the word “tepid” doing in the headline?
A quick check informs one that ‘tepid’ means ‘moderately warm; lukewarm’ as in tepid water or could mean ‘characterised by a lack of force or enthusiasm’ as in ‘tepid prose; the critics' tepid reception for the new play.’
Why was London tepid? Was it lukewarm or was it characterised by a lack of force or enthusiasm?
Why was Britain on a seven-year whinge? First, let’s figure out what ‘whinge’ means. Whinge means to ‘cry in a fretful way’ or ‘to complain’. When used as a noun, as the strap does, it means, simply ‘a complaint’. So what was the seven-year whinge which ended as Tepid London Boyled Over?
Perhaps it’s time to move away from the headline and go to the copy to find the answers. There’s no reference to tepid or to whinging. The copy gushes about how extravagant the celebration was, of a buzzing crowd, of a ‘stunning, imaginative whimsical and dramatic celebration’, of ‘a thunderous chime’, of the show’s ‘lighter moments’.
Once done with the reading, one does the math. Mumbai Mirror’s writer could hardly have witnessed the entire opening ceremony. The paper would have gone to bed by 2.30 am at the latest, so an hour or so of the opening ceremony was the maximum the writer could have seen – yet the story reads, based on the tenses used, as if the writer watched, tired, excited and wide-eyed, as Queen Elizabeth II declared the Games open.
The story would have relied largely on press releases, wire copies – and a fertile imagination. And a vocabulary from the recesses of which he or she saw fit to extract the words ‘tepid’ and ‘whinge’ and use them in the headline whether they were appropriate to the story or not.