Returning to from A to B

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From D.D.:

I'm a 30-yr NYC resident, and I've been speaking American English all my life, more than 50 years now. Even so, I had a hell of a time parsing the prepositions in this headline:

Someone at Newsday apparently had the same experience, because the online version of the headline now reads "R train service returns between lower Manhattan and Brooklyn after Sandy repairs".

The original headline writer apparently treated "from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn" as if it were a noun phrase, by virtue of being the name of a route or at least a common way to refer to one. And such phrases are sometimes used as subjects, e.g. "From Philadelphia to New York is about an hour by train". But I agree with D.D. that "… returns to from …" is a preposition too far.





  1. NSBK said,

    September 15, 2014 @ 8:53 am

    I guess one version could be "Manhattan-Brooklyn R train service returns after Sandy Repairs", or keeping the originally intended structure, "R train service returns to Manhattan-Brooklyn route after Sandy repairs".

  2. Mr Fnortner said,

    September 15, 2014 @ 9:27 am

    R train service returns to from-lower-Manahattan-to-Brooklyn after Sandy repairs.

    That is, R train service returns to [route] after Sandy repairs.

  3. David L said,

    September 15, 2014 @ 9:58 am

    Maybe the headline writer started out with "R train service returns to lower Manhattan to Brooklyn service after Sandy repairs," realized the two 'to's were confusing, and added 'from' without fully considering the result.

    Also, who is this character Sandy and where did he or she repair to?

  4. Mike said,

    September 15, 2014 @ 10:34 am

    At the 26th Academy Awards in 1954, several awards were given to From Here to Eternity by Fred Zinneman.

  5. Eric P Smith said,

    September 15, 2014 @ 11:48 am

    Train service from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn is restored after Sandy repairs.

  6. cameron said,

    September 15, 2014 @ 12:29 pm

    All the from-to constructions would be potentially somewhat misleading, as the service in the other direction is being restored as well.

    I don't have any reason to go to Brooklyn this evening, but I might take a detour on my way home. Just because I can.

  7. Daniel Barkalow said,

    September 15, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

    I'd have said "R train service from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn returns after Sandy repairs, MTA says". There's no need to say "(line) service returns to (segment)" rather than "(line) service (segment) returns". It's not like R train service is an important entity independent of where it goes, unless the MTA is even stranger than I thought.

  8. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    September 16, 2014 @ 2:49 am

    > The original headline writer apparently treated "from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn" as if it were a noun phrase, by virtue of being the name of a route or at least a common way to refer to one.

    Alternatively, maybe the writer allows "to return to" to take a non-nominal complement? (Cf. the standard idiom "to return to normal", though that seems to have more to do with "normal" than with "to return to", since we can also say "to get back to normal".)

  9. Chris Wl. said,

    September 16, 2014 @ 10:28 am

    This reminds me of some new subway ads for the NYC clothing store Century 21. Playing off Linda Evangelista's famous quip, they read: "I don't get out of bed for less than up to 60% off." Not quite as hard to parse but still made me read twice.

  10. J. W. Brewer said,

    September 16, 2014 @ 11:16 am

    Because more people commute (or historically did so before the service interruption) from Brooklyn into Manhattan via that line than vice versa, the restoration of inbound service in that direction would seem to be the more salient one for a headline if you were going to emphasize a direction rather than just go with between. (Unless service was restored in the middle of the day in time for the evening commute home, but that's not what in fact transpired.) Even if a certain amount of Manhattan-centrism can be expected in NYC-area news coverage (although Newsday was always historically LI-focused and thus a bit different in that regard), when it comes down to stories affecting people's daily commutes, it's the other way round: sort of the opposite of "Fog In Channel; Continent Cut Off."

  11. cs said,

    September 16, 2014 @ 11:39 am

    Daniel: I think the headline was written that way specifically to avoid implying that the R train itself is returning to service (since the train was running all this time, but detouring around the tunnel in question).

  12. Rod Johnson said,

    September 16, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

    "From Philadelphia to New York" as a subject is really interesting, because it's subject status suggests it's a constituent, but what category would it be? I don't think it's merely a frozen expression either, because you can say things like "From Philadelphia all the way to New York is a real mess" or "From Philadelphia in the morning to New York by noon is almost impossible."

  13. Chas Belov said,

    September 20, 2014 @ 2:28 am

    @Chris Wl. Of course, "Up to X% off" is particularly insidious because 0.1% off is up to X% off.

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