Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Newspaper taxes readers' decoding chops

From the Dept. of headlines that tax your ability to sort out nouns from verbs from modifiers, decode this from the WSJ home page, 3:20 ET, 6/29/10 (probably gone before you get there, and not attached to the story itself):

Boxer Targets Fiorina's Palin Tie

Wherein lies my confusion? 1) Boxer, capitalized, does not immediately suggest a particular individual, especially since boxers might commonly be expected to "target" the people they share headlines with, i.e., other boxers; 2) 3 of the 5 words in the headline are proper nouns, two of them effectively modifying the final noun, which is not clearly a noun, and even less clearly an abstract noun; 3) Fiorina has in past news "targeted" Boxer's hair, so some corner of the mind assumes that Boxer's getting snarky about Fiorina's neckwear, presumably festooned with iconic ladies in red; 4) "Palin," as a noun immediately following a possessive, feels like that which belongs to Fiorina until your sort out what the "tie" is; and 5) boxers, as athletes, might be sensed to "tie" other athletes, and "targets" could be a noun, so it's hard to seize the verb.

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