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14 April 2004 @ 19:01
Slugfest heads stymie parsers  

I have come to the conclusion that baseball is an enemy to syntax. The evidence?

  • Geoff Pullum reports the appearance in the San Francisco Chronicle of the headline Bonds Ties Mays.
    ("The first and second words could be plural nouns or singular-inflected verbs. The third can be either a month name and a modal verb, but in neither capacity does it normally have an S on it... And one's parser gags"—unless it has pragmatics to help it out.)
  • Geoff Nunberg retorts with a story about a headline from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Tribe Homer Barrage Salvages Split, which stumped all of Peter Trudgill's students.
    ("Peter said he took the page back with him to England and posted it on the door of his office, challenging the students in the linguistics program to decipher it (or even confidently identify the verb). He told me he had no takers.")
  • Jack Chambers, in a paper in TWPL 9, laments the inability of his own LIN 333 students to identify barehand as a verb in the phrase "charging in to barehand bunts."
  • I complain that I cannot understand Roger Angell.

By the way, I think I can figure out Nunberg's example, although I couldn't have done it without being told the identity of the newspaper. Tribe has to refer to the Cleveland Indians, and so "Tribe Homer Barrage" is a large number of home runs hit by them, which means that Salvages must be the verb (aha!) and Split the direct object. So the headline can be paraphrased as "Large number of home runs hit by the Cleveland Indians rescues Croatian port."

Nuværende humør: confusedconfused
(Deleted comment)
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 14. April, 2004 17:21 (UTC)
Re: try again

Hey, I even know that the games in a double header have only seven innings each, rather than nine! But it wasn't clear to me that it was a double header that was being split, in this case.

(Deleted comment)
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 15. April, 2004 07:15 (UTC)
Re: try again
Ah. See, I grew up watching the Durham Bulls (before they made a movie about them), so whatever meagre knowledge of baseball I have is strictly minor league (in two senses).
"That Anne Girl": frontabenn on 14. April, 2004 17:23 (UTC)
Re: try again
Nope, the original poster is correct. "Salvages" is the verb, and "Split" is the direct object, the latter referring to either the second game in a doubleheader (as you suggest), the second game in a two game series, or the fourth game in a four game series in which the Indians have already won one game. (I tried to look up the original article and find out which it was, just for fun, but was unsuccessful.)

It has to be one of those, because the Indians aren't good enough to manage the rescue of a Croatian port without some weapon other than a barrage of home runs. Now, the Athletics might be able to do it... or maybe Barry Bonds all on his own... Sink them enemy gunboats with a barrage of baseballs! Yeah!

I love baseball jargon. This post was funny. Thanks for pointing me to it.

Side note to Q. Pheevr: Good one, thanks. I will definitely check out additional posts in your journal. Are you Danish?
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 14. April, 2004 17:28 (UTC)
Re: try again


I'm not Danish, but I've been impersonating a Dane for the last seven and a half months.

"That Anne Girl": Pussyfootabenn on 14. April, 2004 17:33 (UTC)
Re: try again
Whereas I am Danish, by blood anyway. My father was from Denmark. I spoke the language as a child, but no longer; I'm sure you speak it much better than I do. Heck, if you can string three words in Danish together you speak the language better than I do. My cousins despair of me.

I love your version of the questions meme, and would like to share it. With an attribution to you, of course.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 15. April, 2004 07:39 (UTC)
Re: try again

Well, I'm not sure I actually can string three words of Danish together; I just have a few phrases that I learned from my mother (who isn't Danish, either), and I can make sense of the Danish livejournal text because I already know what it's supposed to say. When I say that I've been impersonating a Dane, what I really mean is that my current job is as a replacement for someone on sabbatical who happens to be Danish—a fact that is (luckily for me) not crucial to her (or my) job.

Please do feel free to share my version of the meme! I'll try to think of zero or more questions for you.

"That Anne Girl": Pussyfootabenn on 15. April, 2004 11:16 (UTC)
Re: try again
My apologies for not waiting for your reply before sharing the meme; I don't generally do things that way, but it seemed an innocuous enough thing and I wanted to get it posted and then get on to working in the garden before sunset. I would have removed the post if you had not approved of it.

I like your story about impersonating a Dane, no matter what the reason. Okay, you may not speak Danish any better than I do, but I can unequivocally say that your command of English-- in writing, at the very least-- is much better than mine. Fascinating stuff in your journal, and I even understand some of it. ;-)
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 15. April, 2004 16:09 (UTC)
Re: try again
My apologies for not waiting for your reply before sharing the meme; I don't generally do things that way, but it seemed an innocuous enough thing [...]

Oh, no apologies needed!