Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) — A Georgia man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease says he wants to die by having his organs harvested rather than wait for his degenerative nerve ailment to kill him.
It's hard to read the headline without coming up with macabre scenarios to explain it. Arijit thought it brings to mind "a zombified murder victim (killed by baseball great Lou Gehrig) pleading to be harvested for organs and die again."
Properly parsing the headline requires knowing that "Lou Gehrig's victim" can elliptically stand for "victim of Lou Gehrig's disease." Googling for "Lou Gehrig's victim" finds a few other cases (here, here, here), but in all of these examples it appears as part of the phrase "a Lou Gehrig's victim," lacking the ambiguity of the article-less CNN headline.
It also helps to know that Lou Gehrig's disease can be shortened simply to Lou Gehrig's, as in the Washington Post headline from Jan. 28, 2010, "CBS's 'Live for the Moment' exploits dreams of man suffering from Lou Gehrig's." I don't know how common this shorthand is among those who work with or live with the disease. (Medical professionals would likely refer to it as ALS, for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.) But it would follow the model of ellipticality seen in Hodgkin's (for Hodgkin's lymphoma), Alzheimer's (for Alzheimer's disease), Parkinson's (for Parkinson's disease), Asperger's (for Asperger's syndrome) and — in the UK at least — Down's (for Down's syndrome). (See Separated by a Common Language for the transatlantic distinction between Down and Down's syndrome.) Perhaps Lou Gehrig's disease generally resists this type of shortening because Gehrig has maintained his identity as a baseball legend independent of the disease named after him.