Until this morning, the only reference to the impending Kentucky Derby I had noticed was John McIntyre's annual guide to the concoction of a mint julep. Then I opened today's Wall Street Journal and promptly misread a headline:
17 Reasons Not to Bet on Will Take Charge
"Not to Bet on," I thought. "Wow, Thoroughbred names just keep getting stranger."
But the piece was not about why a horse called Not to Bet on will take charge in this year's race. It was advice to readers not to bet on the horse called Will Take Charge. (The "17 reasons" are really one reason: He's the "unlucky" horse starting at post position 17, the only position that has never launched a winner. Well, it's not science, it's horse racing.)
Fellow journalists will have noticed that the headline is an argument in favor of "down" style in headlines, using caps sparingly rather than capitalizing most headline words as the Journal and the NYT do. In a down-style paper like the Boston Globe, the headline would have read
17 reasons not to bet on Will Take Charge
And voila -- the story may still be fanciful, but the headline ambiguity has evaporated.