Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Breaking News: The idiom "to break"

Every CNN page title includes these words: "Breaking News".

What exactly is that? "This story just broke minutes ago...." The media uses (to) break as a verb (and breaking here as an adjective). What does that mean?

Is "a news break" anything like "a coffee break"?

Yes and no.

Yes, in that a news break means that the program is "breaking", that is, temporarily taking a break from, its current program in order to bring you this special news story. So you have a break between classes, or a break in the middle of one long class.

No, in that a news break is supposed to alert or awaken people and gain their attention, whereas a coffee break is supposed to give people a bit of physical and mental relief and respite from a difficult meeting or work day (or English class!)

"Breaking News" is any news that is considered "big" or important enough to interrupt the current story.

Of course CNN and Cable TV always have breaking news. The media use this term so often that it has almost no meaning. When I see the term "breaking news" now, I just ignore it.

And so why do they use this term, "breaking news", so constantly?

It's to gain your readership.

Anybody for a coffee break around now?

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