Monday, October 05, 2009

Blossom, dearie

This is a particularly British crash blossom, partly because of the noun pileup and partly because British hed writers are more liberal at extending terms like "the flood stranded." (I don't think "the flood dead" would raise an eyebrow on US desks, but "the flood stranded"? Doubtful.)

So what's your first reading, news consumers? Hidden expletive ("there is a race to ....") or passive ("the race has been ...")?



Anonymous Andy Bechtel said...

I read it as an imperative.

7:43 PM, October 05, 2009  
OpenID outerhoard said...

I just came across the following headline. It's not a crash blossom, but I can't resist sharing it.

"Americans concerned about heart health, but not proactive enough to prevent it"

Preventing health. Yeah, very proactive.

11:19 PM, October 05, 2009  
Anonymous raYb said...

I thought it was a charitable event. You know, like "Race for the Cure," but maybe more like "Head for the Hills."

11:43 PM, October 05, 2009  
Blogger Wishydig said...

my first reading was passive "the race, that was supposed to help the indian flood, was stranded."

2:15 AM, October 06, 2009  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

My first reading was the expletive one. Each of the three make as much sense as the rest, and all are easier to recover than the fourth, the only one that makes pragmatic sense.

I guess they all make you start to read the story.

5:50 AM, October 06, 2009  
Anonymous Ed said...

Over on this side of the pond, I instinctively stuck "There is a..." at the start of the hed and got it first time, as I suspect most Brits would.

It seems the confusion always boils down to how eager you are to find a verb in a sentence. All the misunderstandings arise from seizing on words that could be nouns or verbs ('flood', 'race') and automatically reading them as verbs. For some cultural reason, we must be more agnostic about deciding that question until we've read the whole hed.

9:38 AM, October 06, 2009  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

I would like to take a moment to lobby for the adjectival forms of countries in headlines. "Indian flood stranded" would have been far less easy to misinterpret.

Why is there such reluctance to use them?

8:13 PM, October 06, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first impression was that the effort to help flood victims in India had been "stranded" and no help was getting through.

10:55 AM, October 07, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Definitely passive reading. I didn't even see the problem till I read the post.

4:14 AM, October 11, 2009  

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