Categories: LinguisticsNewspaper
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The aim of this research is to investigate the use of Idioms in different English newspaper headlines and caricatures. The research focuses on investigating the kinds of idioms which are often used and the readers’ understanding of the English Idioms. Quantitative research was used to collect and to analyze data. Purposive sampling was done, front page headlines of four different English newspapers and several caricature containing English idioms were shortlisted and analyzed.

Keywords: Idioms, Caricature, Newspaper, Headlines, Front page and Expression.


All over the Africa, especially eastern and southern parts, print media has been of great significance for giving information to the public. The main objective of the print media is to inform and make people aware of what is going on in their societies. It focuses on the discussion of any currently initiated movements or their outcomes and any possible political, social, economic, or academic changes which may affect everyday life of the citizen. In a country like Tanzania where English has the status of a second language, newspaper serves the additional purpose of improving English language skills of the second language learners.

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The most popular readership of the English newspapers include graduate and post graduate students who want to improve their reading and writing skills in English.

The easiest way to read news in a very short time is to have a look at the headlines on the front page. Most important information and news stories of the day are displayed on the front pages. Front page headlines are used to draw readers’ attention.

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These headlines have a special structure. They use short, concise expressions and also contain idioms, phrases and titles. They appear in the form of a dependent clause, phrase or a clause with some omitted words. In recent year the caricature has gained popularity especially in newspapers and journals. Most caricaturist are inspired by situation around them, what they see and believe are portrayed through the sketch they create. Apart from a great sense of humor, famous caricaturists prefer to use idioms to deliver their messages.

This research analyses and describes different types of idioms which are used in front page headlines and caricatures of English newspapers. An idiom is an expression that gives a meaning not exactly what it literally refers to. Idioms have context-specific meanings which vary from culture to culture depending upon the common points of reference set within a particular culture.

Review of Literature

Definitions and key concepts

Caricature is a pictorial representation of someone in which distinguishing features are exaggerated for comic effect. It sharpens the public view of contemporary or topical issue, event, political or social trend. It is a portrayal based on exaggeration of natural and physical features, which gives a humorous touch to the subject. For example, if someone has more prominent ears than the average person, in caricature the ears will be much larger than. It expresses viewpoints concerning economic or social. Caricature can be insulting or complimentary. It can also serve political purpose or be used for entertainment. Caricatures of politicians are commonly used in editorial cartoons, while caricatures of movie stars are often found in entertainment magazines. In fact, caricature is not a new strategy; it was introduced to the masses during the age of enlightenment. As a branch of modernism, it played a pivotal role in expressing facts that were suppressed by the conformists in society at that point in time. It was a reminder for those who believed that a sword was mightier than a pen.

Nowadays, caricature has become a highly dignified form of art that is approved of and used worldwide. Newspaper editor show great respect for the artist who create caricature for their papers, which sometimes publish caricature that might even represent conflicting ideologies. This distinctive form of art can be used to portray or criticize important social and political ideas; it may also be provocative to certain group. Caricature and cartoon, in graphic art, are comically distorted drawing of likeness done with the purpose of satirizing or ridiculing a certain subject. Cartoons are used today primarily for conveying political commentary in newspapers. Caricature can be considered a kind of bitter stinging satire on some political acts and some social norms and beliefs.

A Sample of Obama’s caricature.


A newspaper headline is a very short summary of a news report. It normally appears in large letters above the report. The purpose of the newspaper headlines is to draw attention of the readers to the story. The headline construction is different from everyday speech. The writers usually use few words, which express all that he wants to convey to the readers. The headline plays a very huge role in the newspaper because it carries the main theme of the stories. The grammar of headlines is often non-standard and they can be difficult to read. The main features of the grammar of headlines are the use of series of nouns and the use of ellipsis (leaving out words which are not necessary). Headlines often use the present simple, even where the report refers to a past event. This is done to make the news seem more dramatic and immediate.

Idiomatic Expression

Idiomatic expression is a set of expression of two or more words that means something other than the literal meaning of its individual words. The meaning of an Idiom is not obvious from the individual words. For example, the idiom kill two birds with one stone mean produce two useful results by just doing one action.

According to Fraser (1970) an idiomatic expression is a component for which semantic explanation is not a compositional function of the formatives from which it is created. In addition, the meaning of such expression cannot be obtained from lexical knowledge of its component words. No matter how much the element an idiom is made of adds to its meaning, a continuum of semantic compositionality from transparent to opaque idioms can be expected.

As far as the syntactic properties of idiomatic expressions are concerned, they are peculiar for their inflexibility, that are unable to go through even the simplest transformation without losing their mean that certain changes to the component of an idiomatic expression can remove its non-compositional meaning.

Idiomatic expressions are one of the most frequent forms of figurative language. One characteristic of idioms is their ease as whole expression of the independent convention that agrees on the use of their constituents when they appear in isolation from one another.

To put it together, an informal expression is a gathering of words which, all in all, has non literal implying that is not quite the same as the dictionary meaning of the individual words. The importance of the informal expression is not the entirety of literal meaning of the words taken independently. Most idiomatic expressions have a solid social foundation. Several idiomatic expressions can be considered as perception of a sort of society.

Types of Idioms

  1. Business
  2. Money
  3. Intelligence and Stupidity
  4. Dishonesty
  5. Interest and Boredom
  6. Health
  7. Remembering and Forgetting
  8. Speaking and Conversation
  9. Power and Authority
  10. Success and Failure Understanding
  11. Helping
  12. Anger
  13. Happiness and Sadness
  14. Liking and Not Liking

Research Questions

  • What are the types of idioms found in English newspapers?
  • What are the types of news in which idiomatic expressions are used?
  • What relative differences exist in idiomatic expressions used in different English newspapers?
  • Are the idioms used in caricature offensive?
  • What is your opinion on the usage of idioms in Newspaper headlines and caricatures?

Do you understand English Idioms?

  • Do you understand idioms which are used in caricature?


In order to explore the reader’s understanding of idioms used in front page of English newspaper headlines and caricatures, a quantitative method of research was employed. The researcher distributed questionnaires to readers of English newspapers and collect data which helped the researcher understand what people like and why.


In order to explorer the readers’ understanding of idioms used in newspaper headlines and caricatures, the study uses the purposive sampling procedure. Three newspapers’ headlines and four caricatures are examined.

Data analysis of questionnaire

What are the types of news in which idiomatic expressions are used?

Sample of front page headlines

  • Headline Type of Idiom Meaning Type of News
  • Brown lost his marbles Intelligence and Stupidity To become mentally deficient or incompetent. political
  • By hook or by Crook Power and authority By any means political
  • Minister shoots herself in the foot Intelligence and Stupidity Foolishly harm one’s own cause. political
  • Throw under the bus Dishonest To betray a friend or ally for selfish reason political

Are the idioms which are used in caricatures offensive?

Are the Idioms offensive Respondents Percentage

  • Yes 1 10
  • No 9 90
  • Total 10 100

Table 4.3.2 Offensive

It is interesting to note that many people do not see the idioms which are used in caricature as offensive. A possible reason for why people believe that idioms used in caricature are not offensive is because a caricature is a piece of humor often not intended to offend

What is your opinion about the use of idioms in caricatures?

Idioms Respondents Percentage

  • irrelevant 1 10
  • important 2 20
  • funny
  • total
  • 7
  • 10
  • 70
  • 100

Table 4.3.3 Opinion about idioms in caricatures

The graph shows that 70 percent of the respondents are of the opinion that idioms in caricature are funny. On the other hand, 20 percent of the respondents think that idioms in caricature are very important because they are carrying a certain message.

Do you understand the idioms which are used in caricature?

Readers Respondents Percentage

  • yes 8 80
  • no 2 20
  • total 10 100

Table 4.3.4 Understanding of Idioms which are used in caricatures

The number of people who understand the idioms which are used in caricature is high. The sample chosen was to include people who are aware of idioms and caricatures, people who are readers of newspapers. Thus the sample is inclusive of those aware about caricature but do not really understand idioms which are used in caricature

The findings

According to the findings, in the Newspaper `New York Time, Daily Mail and Daily Express’ it has been seen that 3 kinds of idioms were used, Idioms of Power and Authority, Intelligence and Stupidity and Dishonest. Most English newspapers prefer to use idioms in political and social news. The researcher is able to conclusively say that idioms are important to newspapers. People are comfortable with the idea of idioms making sarcastic remarks that at times may even be offensive sometimes. The ten respondents are from different backgrounds and yet find a common ground to connect upon. Idioms in caricatures make sense to all the respondents who seem to understand the concept behind the caricatures. The respondents are also of the opinion that they connect to the idioms which are used in caricatures because they are funny and carrying a certain message at the same time.

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