Non-traditional Olympic equipment

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9 Comments

  1. Mark Meckes said,

    September 6, 2016 @ 12:51 pm

    The headline made me do a double take, but isn’t it actually unambiguous with the present-tense verb “washes” there?

  2. John Roth said,

    September 6, 2016 @ 5:54 pm

    Yeah, that was my thought too. Now I need to figure out why the tense makes a difference in the way the infinitive is interpreted.

  3. Elizabeth Yew said,

    September 6, 2016 @ 7:12 pm

    Sort of like the time after the Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus’s defeat by the Parthians (53 BC), his head was used in a performance of The Bacchae.

  4. Pewi said,

    September 6, 2016 @ 9:18 pm

    One more item for your collection of ambiguous ads: get confidence, not cavities Listerine users do! http://i.imgur.com/zu4ah2e.jpg

  5. Weltanschauung said,

    September 6, 2016 @ 10:15 pm

    Mark Meckes and John Roth:

    There are two structures available with “washes”, and “washed” would permit a third.

    In the intended reading, the infinitive clause modifies “beach”: a mutilated body washes up on the Rio beach that is to be used for Olympics beach volleyball.

    In the gruesome reading, the infinitive clause is an adjunct of result: a mutilated body washes up on a Rio beach so as to be used for Olympics beach volleyball.

    “Washed”, unlike “washes”, could be a participle, the participial clause modifying “body” and the infinitive clause becoming the predicate: a mutilated body washed up on a Rio beach is to be used for Olympics beach volleyball.

  6. Chris C. said,

    September 6, 2016 @ 11:40 pm

    There was also the gentleman who willed his skull to the RSC to play the part of Yorick in productions of Hamlet. Which I learned of from an installment of QI.

  7. Matt said,

    September 7, 2016 @ 11:46 pm

    To expand on Weltanschauung’s post, “washes” + gruesome reading implies that the body did it intentionally. So I guess the gruesome reading’s availability to a given person depends on whether their brains embrace absurdist black comedy more strongly than they reject semantic improbability.

  8. Weltanschauung said,

    September 8, 2016 @ 9:24 pm

    Matt: the implicature of intentionality can be canceled:

    Four years ago the Voyager space probe crossed the heliosphere to become the first artefact in interstellar space.

    She queued for six hours at the butcher shop to find out that sausages were unavailable.

    I have a feeling there are lots of examples out there, but it would be hard to google for them.

  9. Carol said,

    September 10, 2016 @ 7:47 pm

    If it was “the Rio Beach” it would be clear at first reading, but I guess articles aren’t allowed in headlines.

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