the imparseable dream

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Mon Apr 27 14:57:59 UTC 2009

... or at least the imparseable headline. What do you make of this one?

    "Advocate happy credit-card companies called on the White House carpet"

I banged that around in my head for something like half a minute before
giving up and looking at the article. Is "advocate" a noun or a verb? Are
the credit-card companies happy? Are we to advocate that they be called on
the W.H. carpet?

The best I could come up with was inserting another hyphen: "Advocate-happy
credit-card companies called on the White House carpet", i.e., "President
scolds redit-card companies that make excessive use of advocates", where
"advocates" refers to ... lobbyists? fake "satisfied customers" who are paid
for endorsements, or who are not customers at all but actors? something else

But no. It's a combination of standard headlinese shortcuts, deleting
copula, complementizer, auxiliaries, and of course determiner (but not in
the idiom "call __ on *the* carpet"): AN advocate IS happy THAT credit-card
companies HAVE BEEN called on the White House carpet. The advocate referred
to is a consumer advocate.


Kathleen Keest cheered quietly last week as an issue she has toiled on for
decades - unfair practices by the credit-card industry - finally made it to
center stage in the grand theater of U.S. politics.

President Obama had invited card-company executives to the White House to
discuss legislation he supports that would crack down on practices such as
tricky fine print and sudden, retroactive changes in interest rates.

"The days of any-time, any-reason rate hikes and late-fee traps have to
end," Obama said after meeting with the executives, whose companies include
banks such as Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase that have received billions of
dollars in federal bailout funds.

Mark Mandel

The American Dialect Society -

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