Monday, March 08, 2010

Hed noun prang head scratch

It isn't just the nouns in this one, it's the adjective and all the things it could modify. Once you've figured out who's doing what to whom,* you still have to decide whether the brain, the "wash out" or the hope is premature.

It's a bit more prosaic when you click through to the lede:

A technique that "washes out" the brains of severely ill premature babies may aid survival, a study suggests.

I expect native Beeb-speakers read this as a missing expletive -- "(There is a) premature brain 'wash out' hope" -- right away, but I wonder if the hed was any clearer on that side of the ocean. Does British English use "preemie" enough for it to make sense in a hed?

* And assured yourself that the nouns are all nouns; it's not a bust for "Premature brains 'wash out' hope," for example.



Blogger John Cowan said...


11:37 AM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger fev said...

Rail River Tube Stop Wash Out Hope?

When these things start mating in the wild, we got trouble.

12:12 PM, March 08, 2010  
Anonymous Ed Latham said...

I struggled with this one. But, as you suggest, not because of the presence of so many nouns but the absence of the one - 'baby' - that would have made it at least vaguely intelligible. I don't think anyone over here refers to a premature baby as 'a premature' except in a maternity hospital.

It's another mean old count, though, like they always are up in that corner of the Beeb site. 'Brain "washout" for early babies' might have been fractionally better, but you probably need two decks to explain it properly.

12:16 PM, March 08, 2010  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Wow. I tried to decide what it meant, and decided it had something to do with Alzheimer's (a premature washing-out of the brain) and a hope that it could be stopped.

7:10 PM, March 08, 2010  
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5:04 AM, March 09, 2010  
Anonymous Stan Carey said...

Even when parsed correctly, the line makes little sense without more context. I was at a loss until I read further.

The BBC probably shouldn't expect readers to be so familiar with the brain drain technique, and the confusion is compounded by the fact that washout commonly means "hopeless case".

5:38 AM, March 11, 2010  

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