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I wrote the following sentence:

As if she had just realized it was there, she grabbed the remote control from the table, turned on the TV, and changed the channel to the news.

I'm not a native English-speaker, but I think there was a word for "changing the channel."

Is there one?

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In my family, we click, with the clicker. Failing that, we just go to the news, or went in the past. –  Roaring Fish Feb 3 '13 at 15:01
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Why do you want a word for this? There is nothing wrong with using "changed the channel". There is no ambiguity about it. It is perfectly clear what it means. –  Tristan Feb 3 '13 at 18:09
    
I always liked surfing for the choosing of channels. I.E. "She surfed over to the news." Very visual word. Alternatively, avoid the rather passive activity altogether and simply imply the action has occurred. "I don't now how it happened or why but the next thing I knew the remote was in her hand and we were watching the news." Of course that's more Writers than EL&U, but I digress. –  Jed Oliver Feb 3 '13 at 20:38
    
@Jed Oliver It's a third person narrative novel I'm writing. –  janoChen Feb 3 '13 at 23:41
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3 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Not really; channel-changing is not a verb.

You could just say they switched to the news, or turned the news on.

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Switched is the answer, despite what the other answers would have people believe. –  Robusto Feb 3 '13 at 14:30
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Use of the remote in the OP's example is explicit. Moreover, in this day and age, use of a remote to switch channels is implied. I can't even remember the last time I saw someone get up and change channels manually—decades ago, perhaps? –  Robusto Feb 3 '13 at 14:41
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@Carlo: Oh, you assure me. Well, that's very different. Let me assure you that dictionaries list many different meanings of zap. In other words, you can zap a lot of other things as well: you can switch things and you can zap things. So what exactly is the point you're making? –  Robusto Feb 3 '13 at 15:05
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There's what's in dictionaries and there's how people actually talk. If you only get your information from dictionaries, you're missing a crucial element of understanding. –  Robusto Feb 3 '13 at 15:23
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@Carlo_R.: Yes, I think Robusto has way more authority than the OED at least in this case, being a self-reflective native speaker. Dictionaries, even the best of them like the OED, don't give the relative frequency of a word for each context. 'zap' may have been common at one time or in some subcultures, but it certainly isn't used at all nowadays (and frankly I've never heard it used in that context). –  Mitch Feb 3 '13 at 16:36
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In addition to "switched to the news", "flipped(over) to the news" can be used idiomatically here, although I think it is slightly informal (and relatively rare, see edit).

"Zap" is also apparently a word of the meaning you're looking for, as stated in other answers, but I haven't heard it used in everyday speech.

In addition to that, because, in this case, the television has only just been turned on, I think saying "put/switched on the news" would also work, without making reference to the channel being changed.

Edit: As per one of the comments on this answer, it appears that "flipped over" is very rarely used in writing (which is what you're looking for); I based this off what I have heard used in everyday speech, and this also comes with the caveat that it may be more specific to the UK, or maybe even the Midlands. I also note that "flicked" is also used in this way, but with similarly low frequency. "Switched" appears to be the more common term at any rate.

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+1 for flipped; zapped seems old-fashioned to me, and is usualy something done with a microwave rather than a television, at least among my peers. –  choster Feb 3 '13 at 15:15
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Searching Google Books for flipped to the news channel turns up just 3 hits, compared to 76 for "switched". And there are still only 10 hits for "flipped" even if we remove "channel" from the search term, but that gives thousands of hits for the "switched" version. Okay, "flip" and "zap" are comprehensible. But they're not exactly the terms of choice. –  FumbleFingers Feb 3 '13 at 21:29
    
I'm going to leave "flipped" in as it is definitely something I hear used quite often and it still brings in some results, although I've edited to explain that this may be a. localised and b. more common in speech. –  Alicia Butteriss Feb 4 '13 at 17:50
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Zap: v. To use a remote control device to switch (channels on a television) or to turn off (a television set).

So, you can say: "... zapped to the news."

Reference: American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

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I've never heard zapped used in the context of switching channels, only switching a set off. –  Robusto Feb 3 '13 at 14:29
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I have never heard zap applied to a remote control, full stop. –  Roaring Fish Feb 3 '13 at 14:59
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I haven't heard "zapped" used at all. It sounds odd and colloquial. Is it something specific to American English? –  Tristan Feb 3 '13 at 16:12
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@tchrist I'm a French speaker living in Quebec and I've heard and used this expression meaning to quickly switch between channels with a remote. Something you couldn't do before TV sets had remote controls. I didn't know this was only a French expression but judging from the comments here that may be the case. The expression could also be a bit dated, I'm not really sure. –  Alexandre Jasmin Feb 3 '13 at 18:43
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@Tristan I'm also British and "zapping" is the first word that came to my mind. I don't remember exactly where I first heard zap used in this context, but it was almost certainly on British television. I moved from England about 15 years ago, so it may have fallen out of use. –  Chris Steinbach Feb 3 '13 at 19:54
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