Desk hemorrhages

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A recent Reuters headline made Jeffrey Kallberg wonder "What is a 'desk hemorrhage' and why would GS want to rate one?":


Of course, the reality is far more banal:

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18 Comments »

  1. Faldone said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 7:53 am

    Well… They're not rating the desk hemorrhages. They're rating the people who trade in desk hemorrhages. I mean, with pork bellies off the table you have to trade in something disgusting.

  2. Bobbie said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 8:20 am

    How does a desk hemorrhage traders? And how do you rate a desk? Is a desk rated higher if it hemorrhages more traders?

  3. Pablo said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 9:03 am

    Just in case anyone is confused, the "rates desk" is the thing that is hemorraging. http://getonthedesk.blogspot.com/2007/06/learn-lingo-rates.html is British, but seems to be referring to the same idea.

  4. Emily said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 10:37 am

    Even after figuring out the basic syntactic structure of this one, I interpreted "hemorrhages" as a causative; that the rates desk was causing the traders to hemorrhage, rather than losing its traders as if bleeding.

  5. CT said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 10:37 am

    I say we rename "Crash blossoms" as "Desk hemorrhages"

  6. David said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

    A good one on Guardian Football today (headline since removed): "Minnows get Real Betis friendly with Pompey stranded". I first scanned it as "Minnows get [Real Betis friendly with Pompey] stranded" and wondered how that might have come about, but no.

    Rather, of course, Portsmouth ('Pompey') are stranded in America and so Real Betis, who had gone to England to play against them, will have to play minnows Havant and Waterlooville FC instead.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/jul/29/havant-real-betis-portsmouth

  7. Bill Walderman said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

    Even more than a US debt ceiling increase, we need a fix for the English language, or maybe we should abandon it altogether in favor of, say, Spanish or Amharic, or some other language with a rich array of verb forms. These English-language newspaper headline crash blossoms result mostly from three causes that interact with disastrous results: (1) all too many English words can function as both nouns and verbs . . . and the number is growing daily at an alarming rate!!! . . . , (2) nouns can be strung together without collapsing them into a single word like German (2) the very same morphemes (namely s and zero) attach to both (a) the plural of most nouns and the third person singular present indicative active form of most verbs, and (b) the singular of nouns and all other present active forms of verbs, respectively. We need to change this right away; yet, sadly, I seem to be the only one sounding the alarm. We are headed straight towards a communications Armageddon.

  8. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

    @Bill Walderman: Part of the problem is specific to headlinese, rather than general to English. A non-journalist who had to write the headline, and who cared about its being intelligible, might prefer "Goldman Sachs' rates-desk hemorrhaging traders". Some readers, of course, would not know what a "rates desk" is, or what it means to "hemorrhage <noun>", but at least it would be obvious that "rates-desk" is a noun compound and "hemorrhaging" is a transitive verb.

  9. sam said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

    Wouldn't they be 'desk hemorrhage traders' if they were trading desk hemorrhages, anyway?

    [(myl) Maybe...]

  10. John Lawler said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

    All of these are quite unambiguous when pronounced. The trick, as always in English, is figuring out the pronunciation given only spelling rules, a handful of weird printing conventions, and a long list of exceptions to both.

  11. Bill Walderman said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

    "Wouldn't they be 'desk hemorrhage traders' if they were trading desk hemorrhages, anyway?"

    Not if the Wall Street Journal is any guide to financial institutions.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110714-706830.html

  12. Bill Walderman said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

    "Part of the problem is specific to headlinese, rather than general to English."

    Well, then, maybe a different language should be used just for headlines.

  13. CT said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

    Bill: Why focus on verb forms? Why not replace English with something like Finnish or Hungarian where we can have a rich set of noun forms (16 cases)? I think with that many noun forms, it would be pretty clear what was a noun and what was a verb :-)

  14. Dan Hemmens said,

    July 30, 2011 @ 6:31 pm

    All of these are quite unambiguous when pronounced.

    True, but not much help in a printed medium.

  15. Ellen K. said,

    July 31, 2011 @ 11:33 am

    Wouldn't they be 'desk hemorrhage traders' if they were trading desk hemorrhages, anyway

    Well, apparently not always. But, regardless of whether or not that's the case, it's quite easy to read the headline and initially miss the word "traders" wrapped around to the next line. I'm thinking Jeffrey Kallberg's comment (beginning of the initial post) comes from initially misreading the headline as "Goldman Sachs rates desk hemorrhages".

  16. PaulB said,

    July 31, 2011 @ 6:32 pm

    The Reuters headline is unambiguous to its intended readers (I confess to being one of them) because "rates desk" is a term of art in the financial trading business.

  17. Ross Presser said,

    August 1, 2011 @ 12:39 pm

    Today I saw "Skilled nursing facility shares sink after CMS cut" and wondered who they were sharing the sink with. To further impede my understanding, my wife used to work for a company called CMS that employed skilled nurses (though my wife is not herself a nurse).

  18. LegendLord said,

    January 3, 2013 @ 11:37 am

    I think Paul is right. The Reuters headline is unambiguous to its intended readers (I confess to being one of them) because "rates desk" is a term of art in the financial trading business.

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