Saturday, August 04, 2007

I'm missing mine too

Kin of Bridge Collapse Missing Wait

The problem with writing heds on autopilot is that it's easy to miss an essential navigation marker. Here, normal hed rules eliminate all the stuff that would tell us what role "missing" might be playing:

Noun of class membership (article: Among the missing were ...)
Adjective (linking "be": Two people are still missing)
Part of the verb (auxiliary "be": I'll be missing you)

Thus we end up with a British English-style attributive noun pileup that's impossible to tell from a nice simple sentence. Are the kin of the bridge collapse missing their wait? Or are the kin of those missing in the bridge collapse waiting for something?


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

It's awkward, sure, but honestly: do collapses have kin? Can this really be misunderstood?

I'm not arguing that it's good - readers shouldn't have to work that hard - but it's not ambiguous. Just(?) awful.

10:25 PM, August 04, 2007  
Blogger fev said...

No, I don't think collapses have kin -- but I'm not sure that's the order that processing goes in. It'd be fun to design an experiment with syntactically plausible structures, like "Kin missing wait," and see if people glom onto the structure before they get to the content. Sort of like the "coffee with cream and dog" stuff.

8:13 AM, August 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first reading was even more bizarre: I got {{kin of bridge} collapse {missing wait}}, and was trying to work out what a 'missing wait' was, what 'kin of bridge' meant and why the one should be collapsing the other. Even when I realised that was nonsense it took me a couple of rereads to get.

It doesn't help that "kin" is one of those words you hardly ever see outside headlines.

8:34 AM, August 06, 2007  

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