News & Politics

The Story Behind “Burger and Dies,” One of 2016’s Best Headlines

"It's certainly one of the best I can remember coming up with."

Amid the sad news that Big Mac inventor Jim Delligatti passed away on Monday night, one bright spot has emerged. In a report on the 98-year-old’s death, The Sun digital news reporter Mark Hodge (@mrhodgey) has written one of the best (and most gasp-inducing) headlines of 2016: “Burger and Dies.”

The 32-year-old reporter is a Glasgow native, with a very British penchant for rain (“but only a little drizzle,” he tells us. Not a full-blown shower.”). We caught up with Hodges about the tricks of the headline-writing trade.

What was the process behind dreaming up this headline?
When thinking of a good pun, I automatically started thinking of well known phrases associated with the subject and then changing them slightly to make them punchy. Big Mac and Fries became Big Mac and Dies–which then became Burger and Dies.

What sort of feedback have you received, if any?
I was congratulated by a few of my colleagues–and you tweeting it out. That’s about the extent of the feedback.

Where does this rank among your favorite headlines?
It’s certainly one of the best I can remember coming up with. Although The Sun does have a fine tradition of amazing headlines–so I’m not getting carried away.

How do you plan to celebrate it?
I’m too busy working, I’m afraid.

What is your advice for aspiring headline writers?
My advice to others is simple: writing funny headlines takes a bit of practice, but it’s like anything—if you work hard at it, you’ll get better and better.


Staff Writer

Elaina Plott joined Washingtonian in June 2016 as a staff writer. She has written about her past life as an Ann Coulter fangirl, how the Obamas changed Washington, and the rise and fall of Roll Call. She previously covered Congress for National Review. Her writing has appeared in the New York Observer, GQ, and Harper’s Bazaar.