The verb to cover has lots of meanings: to lay something over something else, to apply a surface layer onto something, to make a new recording of another performer’s song, to protect, to match in value, even to copulate (said of horses, usually). Over the last five years I’ve noticed an emerging sense: “to appear on the cover of a magazine.”
So far, I’ve seen cover in this sense only in fashion and celebrity journalism, with veteran style bloggers Tom and Lorenzo in the vanguard.
Here’s an example from November 2017: “Ruth Negga covers @BazaarUK”
And here’s an example from this week from Elle magazine: “Gisele Bündchen covers ELLE’s October 2022 issue.”
My first reaction to the Gisele tweet was: “She’s a reporter now?” Yes, that’s yet another meaning of cover: to report on something—an event, a legislative body, a business sector. The OED’s earliest citation for this sense, which it notes is “originally U.S..” is from 1893, when it appeared between quotation marks, indicating its newness.
Because of cover’s many meanings, and because it can also be a noun, it isn’t easy to search for examples of the new “appears-on-the-cover-of” sense. I’m guessing it developed as space-saving shorthand, which is why I’m classifying it as jargon. I was unable to find a definition for this sense of cover in the OED, Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com, or the Urban Dictionary; either it’s too new or too specialized to be, um, covered there.
Not every publication has switched to the new sense of cover. WWD (formerly known as Women’s Wear Daily) substitutes front, as in “[Model] Adwoa Aboah Fronts [editor] Enninful’s First Issue of British Vogue,” from November 2017.
UPDATE, 2 p.m. PDT: On Twitter, Peter Gilliver sent me this piece of evidence that the new sense of to cover was circulating as early as October 2007.
“Alicia Keys Covers Complex [magazine]”
Here’s the same headline, on the same date, from a different online publication.
Complex is still around, by the way.