Saturday, February 23, 2008

Headline shortening

A recent headline on a story about the lapsed provisions on FISA now that the PAA amendment has expired.

I'm ignoring the missing article before "spy act" because it's so common. It's barely noticeable in headlines. Something else is missing but what?

A subject for the clause?
U.S. says [it] missed intelligence after spy act expired

Existential there and a necessary verb?
U.S. says [there is] missed intelligence after spy act expired

Or is there later verb deletion? (Various verbs would work.):
U.S. says missed intelligence [exists] after spy act expired

The story begins and gives us clue but not an answer.

"U.S. spy agencies have missed intelligence in the days since terrorism surveillance legislation expired, the Bush administration said on Friday."

This might clarify the ambiguity of whether or not missed is used attributively. But not necessarily.

I can't remember seeing this form in headlines. Anyone know of further examples?



  1. These posts at Language Log talk about this kind of headline. First there's this one by Arnold Zwicky; then there's this one by Ben Zimmer.

  2. as literalminded says, the Loggers have written on this. And I must be used to seeing it, because I don't even blink - as long as it's in a headline, that is, of course.

  3. Perfect. Thanks for the direction.


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