M.P. sent in her collection of headlines about shooting dead people.
I'm sure that the grammar is actually correct, when it comes to a person being shot dead and that person's life is thus ended. However, no matter how correct it could be, it still reads awkwardly (personally, I get visions of zombies).
These are just a few of the examples I found.
Is this a new trend? An old trend that came back from the dead?
(We'll leave for another time the ambiguities of pronoun reference in "… him … he … his".)
Shooting dead peole is an old story — Geoff Pullum explained the syntax of such headlines in "Why shoot the dead ones?", 10/17/2010:
… this is what linguists call a "Heavy NP Shift" construction: when a direct object is long, complex, or in some way heavy with pragmatic import, it is permissible to place it last in the clause, after everything else in the verb phrase. For example:
The report stripped [ ] bare of its wrapping of euphemism the sordid reality of what this disgusting man had actually been doing.
The empty brackets show where the direct object could have gone, and would obligatorily have gone if it were short:
The report stripped his story bare of its wrapping of euphemism.
That's a much better style choice than the very dubious alternative:
?The report stripped bare of its wrapping of euphemism his story.
And certainly "[the] outraged father who confronted him after he mowed down his four-year-old daughter" counts as a heavy NP. If the object were just "[the] father", we'd have
… shoots [the] father dead
as the appropriate construction; but in
… shoots [the] outraged father who confronted him after he mowed down his four-year-old daughter dead
"dead" is too far away from "shoots" (and maybe too close to "daughter") to be clear. So it's normal to shift the object-phrase past "dead":
… shoots dead [the] outraged father who confronted him after he mowed down his four-year-old daughter
But now another potential problem is created by the headlinese convention of omitting articles, because now we've got
… shoots dead outraged father …
Sometimes it's worse:
Here the normal order is
Criminals shoot [a] man dead in [the] presence of [a] Bihar official
This headline would be clear (and short) enough if left like that, with all the articles intact. The object ("[a] man") is far from being heavy enough to shift — and if shifted, should probably go all the way past the locative adjunct "in [the] presence of [a] Bihar official". Shift the object and omit the articles, and the result strikes me as ungrammatical — except maybe in headlinese:
Criminals shoot dead man in presence of Bihar official.
This one's got exactly the same problem:
Here's one that seem ungrammatical for another reason:
My intuition, for what little it's worth, says that you can shoot someone dead, and you can shoot someone in the head, but you can't shoot them dead in the head. But even if it's (grammatically) OK to shoot your brother dead in the dead, I'm pretty sure that you can't shoot dead your brother in the head.
The rest of these are grammatical headlinese, though potentially confusing: