Thursday, July 22, 2010

On my honor, I did my best ...

... but this headline from today's Globe West section had me baffled on the first two tries: 

At 100, Scouts honor code
and spread the word

The two-deck hed probably made it harder; at any rate, I kept reading "Scouts honor code" as a noun phrase and expecting something like:

At 100, Scouts honor code
still offers guidance

As crash blossoms go, this one is fairly mild; in a language where words like honor (and code and spread and word) can look the same as nouns and verbs, headline writers (and readers) have to tolerate some of this ambiguity. I wondered if maybe I was developing hypervigilance -- turning into a crash blossom peever, the way people nurture their sensitivity to misplaced apostrophes. But my husband, no nitpicker, had the same difficulty, so at least I know I'm not just being cranky.


Sara B said...

I think the problem is actually that the scouts are not 100 years old. The subject of the sentence is "scouts", but the clause is clearly meant to modify "code".

Ray said...

That headline got me as well.
It is annoying to me that many headlines these days also try to be cute or attract attention by using common phrases. Maybe that was part of it?

With your words "The two-deck hed..." I wondered if hed is deliberate or just a typo?

No matter, I'm delighted to have a place to both engage my nitpicking and get a handle on it. Thank you.

Jan said...

@Ray: "Hed" is the journalists' shorthand for "headline," allegedly spelled that way (as "lead" is spelled "lede") so it won't be mistaken for copy on a marked-up manuscript. (We don't have stories on paper anymore, but the lingo lives on.) Thanks for asking!

John Cowan said...

From either CJR or Hed & Ded, I forget which:

Youth Of 80
Lands At Airport

Ray said...

Thanks, Jan, it looked like jargon but I did not know. Do you use subhed as well?