Friday, October 24, 2008

Halloween came early

Fewer deputies are a reality

... quoth the Freep on today's local front. The bulk of Macomb's finest, apparently, being sorta ectoplasmic or something.

Looks like another case of Weird Hed Nouning -- taking a noun or NP from the end of a phrase that modifies another noun and letting Noun 1 stand for the whole concept. The hed writer is shooting for something like "(Dire warning about) fewer deputies" or "(Situation in which Macomb County has) fewer deputies." But without the missing head noun to guide the verb number, we're stuck with "are," which ties reality to the cops themselves, not the concept.

This one, from Tuesday's 1A, is more dangerous, because of the risk of deck-stacking in a criminal case:
Cop favoritism probed in shooting case
Detroit police are investigating whether a homicide lieutenant gave special treatment to the son of a fellow officer by releasing the teen while two other defendants remained locked up in connection with Thursday's shootings at Ford High School.

The missing noun is evidently something like "(Allegations of) cop favoritism" or "(Suspicions about) cop favoritism." Without it, you're stating a fact, not an allegation, and that's a bit reckless.


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

I think I'd have made that first one "Fewer deputies is a reality". The second one ... hmmmm ... tougher.

6:15 PM, October 24, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your second example looks perfectly fine to me, and I expect most of the people who read that paper, too. It's not begging the question: there is a "probe" going on into "cop favoritism". The end result of the probe will presumably be a report saying that there either was or was not any "cop favoritism" found (although not in so few words). You don't write about "alleged murder trials", do you? "Purported burglary investigated"? "Alleged witness tampering unproven"? Sounds pleonastic to me.

8:09 PM, October 24, 2008  

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