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Smelling like King Charles, sushi terrorism and a grandmaster’s anal beads… here are the strangest headlines of the year

Smelling like King Charles, sushi terrorism and a grandmaster’s anal beads… here are the strangest headlines of the year

I collect headlines. Sad, I know. But without my curious curiosity Daily Maverick readers wouldn’t get my annual trawl of the best and the weirdest big-font bait clickers from 2023.

This all began in days gone by with collections of great headlines, usually clever wordplays conjured up on deadline by crusty subeditors. But those are rarely to be found these days – both the clever headlines and the subeditors. In fact, this year I have only collected three clever headlines which get my coveted seal of approval:  

  • “‘Dieu et Mon… Gauche’”? Meet the Royal LEFTIES (dailymail.co.uk)
  • “Bless the grains down in Africa: Delegation to Russia, Ukraine focused on food security, says Ramaphosa” (news24.com)
  • “Big shots” About obesity-curing injections (The Economist print edition)

So, with slim pickings in the high-quality department let’s head off into the more prolific undergrowth of the strangest headlines of 2023. These are all taken from allegedly proper news sites, not anywhere skanky or shonky (unless you count IOL in that category!).  

There’s no rhyme, rhythm or reason to the selection criteria other than they all made me chuckle, do a double take, or simply go “huh?”

Current affairs  

  • “Mummified ancestor of Boris Johnson did NOT die of syphilis” (dailymail.co.uk)
  • “New Zealand opposition leader caught on hot mic calling country ‘negative, wet and whiny’” (guardian.co.uk)
  • “Will Nigel Farage eat kangaroo anus? How the rumoured 2023 I’m a Celebrity line-up will fare” (telegraph.co.uk)
  • “Zambia police accuse ex-president of ‘political’ jogging” (guardian.co.uk)
  • “‘We love each other,’ says Mexico mayor as he marries reptile for peace” (news24.com)
  • “Beyoncé concert in Stockholm blamed for unexpectedly high Swedish inflation” (guardian.co.uk)
  • “Crypto founder sentenced to 11,196 years in jail, far shorter than Turkish prosecutors sought” (news24.com)
  • “Argentina’s new leader is an English-loving tantric sex expert” (telegraph.co.uk)
  • “Harvard professor who studied honesty is accused of fabricating his findings” (nytimes.com)
  • “BBC’s disinformation correspondent and chief fact-checker Marianna Spring is accused of lying on her CV” (dailymail.co.uk)
  • “City of Joburg’s new acting head of graft-busting arm was herself subject of corruption probes” (news24.com)
  • “‘Humble’ Mkhwebane says she’s the best Public Protector ever” (news24.com)
  • “Paraguay official resigns after signing agreement with fictional country (guardian.co.uk)

From our Royal Correspondent

  • “How to smell like King Charles: The fragrances loved by royalty (smh.com.au)
  • “The cruelty-free sacred oil that will anoint Charles as King: Monarch breaks Coronation Day tradition with recipe blended from olives picked next to his grandmother’s grave in Jerusalem – while glands of civet cat and whale’s stomach lining are removed” (dailymail.co.uk)
  • “Duchess of York reveals she has named her reconstructed breast ‘Derek’” (telegraph.co.uk)
  • “King Charles III sees the funny side after shocked waiter says ‘Sorry, King’ after literally bumping into him at Mayfair pub” (dailymail.co.uk)
  • “Prince William just got voted world’s sexiest bald man of 2023” (iol.co.za)

The Travel Section 

  • “British Airways accidentally flies pet dog to Saudi Arabia instead of US” (smh.com.au)
  • “Customs at Indian international airport seize 47 pythons and two lizards from passenger” (iol.co.za)
  • “Parents late to their flight at an Israeli airport left their baby at check-in, authorities say” (businessinsider.co.za)
  • “Best restaurant in Montreal according to Tripadvisor does not exist” (guardian.co.uk)
  • “Airline chief criticised for having shirtless massage during board meeting” (telegraph.co.uk)
  • “Wave of ‘sushi terrorism’ grips Japan’s restaurant world” (guardian.co.uk)

The Sports Pages 

  • “Real Estate Agent With Same Name as Golfer Is Invited to the Masters” (nytimes.com
  • “The BBC says it’s sorry after loud sexual noises disrupted its live sports coverage on TV” (businessinsider.co.za)
  • “Ruben Dias THREW UP in Jack Grealish’s mum’s handbag during Man City celebrations, reveals Ederson” (dailymail.co.uk)
  • “Faf de Klerk wearing a speedo in an ad is not sexual or offensive in nature, ad regulator rules” (news24.com
  • “MCC compared to North Korea as member banned for 18 months” (telegraph.co.uk
  • “Snake no mistake: Australian fined nearly R30,000 for showing off his snake while surfing” (news24.com
  • “Chess grandmaster denies using anal beads to beat Magnus Carlsen” (telegraph.co.uk)
  • “Manchester United investigated over ‘raw chicken’ at Old Trafford” (nytimes.com)
  • “French nun rugby tackles eco protester” (guardian.co.uk)

Miscellany  

  • “‘Woke’ Kellogg’s accused of sexualising breakfast” (telegraph.co.uk)
  • “‘It’s every undertaker for himself’: Bodies decomposing rapidly as load shedding hits mortuary freezers” (news24.com)
  • “New Zealand’s ratio of sheep to humans at lowest point in 170 years” (guardian.co.uk)
  • “Choosing to throw a full wheel of brie at Pink is not a normal decision – but these are not normal times” (guardian.co.uk
  • “She thought her date stood her up but it turned out he died” (iol.co.za)
  • “Back to the future! People are convinced there’s an iPhone and Nike trainers in these 350-year-old paintings” (dailymail.co.uk)
  • “Potato-shaped stones are better for skimming, say experts” (guardian.co.uk)
  • “Aristocrat told newborn baby’s 25-word name is unlawful” (telegraph.co.uk)
  • “My memoir will outsell the Bible, claims Lil Kim” (iol.co.za)
  • “Chatbots may ‘hallucinate’ more often than many realise, according to new research” (nytimes.com)
  • “Driving test cheat swallows earpiece to evade detection” (telegraph.co.uk)
  • “Kangaroo punches police officer as it is captured after weekend on the run in Canada” (guardian.co.uk) DM

 Mike Wills is a Cape Town based writer and radio talk show host.

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