Nounification of the week

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I trust that everyone will support the work of the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, once they figure that neglect is not a verb with fatalities as its object:

[h/t Karen Rothkin]



20 Comments

  1. Kaleberg said,

    March 17, 2016 @ 11:32 pm

    I think its parsed something like this:

    Eliminate ((Child (Abuse and Neglect)) Fatalities)

    I’ve definitely heard the phrase “child neglect” before. If Google ngrams is the be believed, it really took off in the late 60s and through the 70s.

  2. Stephen Hart said,

    March 17, 2016 @ 11:41 pm

    Fatalities due to neglect, no?

  3. maidhc said,

    March 17, 2016 @ 11:54 pm

    Is neglect an adjective?

  4. Keith said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 2:23 am

    When these people are naming their commissions, do they even take a straw poll or spend a few moments to consider how the names might be interpreted?

    Or is that too big an ask?

  5. pj said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 4:10 am

    I guess they could remove the ambiguity by raising their ambitions and attempting to eliminate child abuse and neglect, full stop.

  6. Robert T McQuaid said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 6:21 am

    There have been thousands of cases of neglect to save children’s lives.

    http://www.fixcas.com/tomb.htm

  7. Bill Taylor said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 8:26 am

    I would guess this happened because the child welfare professionals who named the commission used a term of art – “child abuse and neglect” – which they hear and use so often that they see it as a single unit. Thus, adding the word “fatalities” at the end caused them no confusion and they failed to see the interpretation that we laypeople would put on it. To them, it sounded just like “prescription drug abuse fatalities” or whatever. It’s interesting to compare the ngrams of “child abuse and neglect” and “child abuse” (http://bit.ly/22ryASR).

  8. Eliot said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 8:27 am

    To their credit, the Commission’s logo on their web site includes a helpful line break: “Commission to Eliminate / Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities”. Probably just for design and fit, but possibly also for clarity. https://eliminatechildabusefatalities.sites.usa.gov/

    To their debit, Congress drafted a version of the law establishing the Commission with an unfortunate line break: “Commission to / Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities”. https://www.congress.gov/112/plaws/publ275/PLAW-112publ275.pdf

    I wonder if there are any crash blossoms in the original Akkadian cuneiform inscription of the Code of Hammurabi.

  9. Matt McIrvin said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 10:29 am

    Their report describes how to prevent abuse and how to neglect to save children’s lives, so it sounds as if they’re carrying out their mission.

  10. Gregory Kusnick said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 11:20 am

    They should have a sign in their lobby: “No fatality is too trivial to neglect.”

  11. Shawn Maeder said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 1:15 pm

    Even with Kaleberg’s grouping in mind, I have trouble parsing it when I read it without thinking about it. It certainly looks like a committee decision.

  12. David Scott Marley said,

    March 18, 2016 @ 2:55 pm

    It seems to me that the problem is not with using “neglect” as a noun but with the modern tendency to string nouns together into one long phrase rather than use prepositions to clarify the relationships among them. As a technical editor I grapple with this all the time. This isn’t the addendum to the report on the analysis of highway capacity in mountainous areas, or so the writer insists; it’s the mountain region highway capacity analysis report addendum, and to call it anything but that is felt to be “dumbing down” the material.

    I guess The Commission to Eliminate Fatalities from Child Abuse and Neglect wouldn’t have sounded official and important enough.

  13. Guy said,

    March 19, 2016 @ 2:08 am

    “the modern tendency to string nouns together into one long phrase rather than use prepositions to clarify the relationships among them.”

    How modern is this tendency? I mean, this type of construction has existed in English back into the mists of time, but is there statistical data showing that it has become more common?

  14. DaveM said,

    March 19, 2016 @ 8:15 am

    I suppose that if the Commission were decimated by some virulent strain of the flu, we might hope there weren’t any “Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.

  15. DaveM said,

    March 19, 2016 @ 8:16 am

    That should be “…we might hope there weren’t any “Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect” Fatalities.

  16. Alyssa said,

    March 19, 2016 @ 10:47 am

    “The Commission to Eliminate Fatalities from Child Abuse and Neglect” also abbreviates better: CEFCAN vs CECANF

  17. Christian Johnson said,

    March 19, 2016 @ 12:12 pm

    …and that’s why phrasal adjectives should usually be hyphenated:

    Commission to eliminate child-abuse-and-neglect fatalities.

    Totally clear, yet people seem to resist hyphenation in these cases. I don’t know why.

  18. Ellen K. said,

    March 19, 2016 @ 5:52 pm

    It’s interesting that the headline below the photo suffers from the same ambiguity as the Commission name, even though using different words: “prevent abuse and neglect to save children’s lives”. (Which Matt McIrvin pointed out less directly in his comment.)

  19. DWalker said,

    March 21, 2016 @ 3:42 pm

    @David Scott Marley:

    “This isn’t the addendum to the report on the analysis of highway capacity in mountainous areas, or so the writer insists; it’s the mountain region highway capacity analysis report addendum, …”

    That was priceless!

  20. Ian said,

    March 31, 2016 @ 9:03 am

    Seems to me that neglect is a form of abuse, so the ambiguity could be resolved by removing the redundancy.

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