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Here is one of today's top headlines on the AP wire:

GOP's 2012 hopefuls crowd town they loves to hate

The same headline is currently being used online by the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Guardian, Yahoo News, and many other news sites. The Twitterati were, of course, quick to pick up on the grammar problem (here, here). It's been to corrected to "…love to hate" by a few outlets already, however (like the Houston Chronicle).

Hard to say how this one slipped by so many editorial eyes. Perhaps an earlier version of the headline had "loves to hate" agreeing with "(the) GOP," such as "2012 hopefuls crowd town GOP loves to hate," and then a last-minute change in word order loused up the agreement.

[Possible background influences for the verb choice range from Gershwin ("I Loves You Porgy") to Gollum ("We wants it, we needs it").]

[Update, 4 pm EST: The AP has now corrected the headline.]


  1. John said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

    Any chance it was some kind of attempt at rough-and-tumble, regular-guy ungrammaticality? "I loves me some chips!" (Reaching here)

    [(bgz) I did momentarily consider that possibility, but it would be a pretty poor stab at a personal dative construction. They loves them some hate for DC?]

  2. Mike said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

    Gender-neutral singular "they"?

  3. John Lawler said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

    Nah, peevers votes Republican.
    Blames it on the media, why not?
    Everything else unpleasant are their fault, after all.

  4. Beth said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

    Maybe it was written by a Newfie, in which case perfectly grammatical :-)

    Gerard van Herk at Memorial has been investigating non-standard verbal s-marking in Newfoundland English, specifically looking at how it might be changing from having a grammatical function to more of a sociolinguistic function.

  5. Jerry Friedman said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 4:50 pm

    [Possible background influences for the verb choice range from Gershwin ("I Loves You Porgy") to Gollum ("We wants it, we needs it").]

    Why not from Gershwin to Walsh, Boyens, Sinclair, and Jackson? Or from Bess to Gollum? (Though the real Gollum said, "Yes! We wants it! We wants it!")

    Nah, peevers votes Republican.

    Nassty linguistics professor.

  6. Robert Coren said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

    @Jerry Friedman: Why not from Gershwin to Walsh, Boyens, Sinclair, and Jackson? Or from Bess to Gollum?

    Why not from Gershwin to Tolkien?

  7. Julie said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 5:32 pm

    Speaking of grammar mistakes, in your first paragraph you wrote, "It's been TO corrected to…"

    [(bgz) Thanks. I'd hate to disappoint fans of Muphry (et al.)'s law.]

  8. John Cowan said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 6:15 pm

    What's particularly odd is that the lede says the town they love to hate. AP notoriously has a problem with bad headlines, because in the old days they always expected their members to substitute their own locally-oriented heds on wire copy. When I was working there in 2005, they had set up a "hed clinic" for their editors: obviously five years later they are still in need of one.

  9. Jerry Friedman said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 7:20 pm

    @Robert Coren: Why not from Gershwin to Tolkien?

    Because I don't think Tolkien's Gollum said "We needs it." Am I wrong? It wouldn't be the first time.

  10. Garrett Wollman said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

    I doubt very much that this error "slipped by so many editorial eyes". It's a Saturday, and many of these newspaper Web sites run on semi-autopilot even during the week. It may have only gotten past one editorial eye before publication — that being the fellow who wrote it in the first place!

  11. Dan Bloom said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 8:28 pm

    Ben, good catch and interesting post and comments too. Cute. Two things come to mind: first this was an atomic typo of the grammar kind, because spellcheck could not catch it. Two: spare a moment for the overworked deadline-pressured copyeditors toiling away in newsrooms worldwide. They work hard. They write the headlines. They mind their p's and q's, usually. Whoever wrote this head-line will have his or h-e-a-d removed, of course, but know that it was an unintentional mistake, somewhat like an "atomic typo", but this was more like an "Atomic Typo of the Grammar Kind". What's an atomic typo of any kind? It's when the spell checker — one word or two? — cannot spot the mistake because machines suck and long live the human brain! …..I once typed "widow-shopping" in my article in Alaska when I was an editor of a weekly paper there, instead of what i meant to write …."window-shopping" …..and the spellcheck could not see it and it was printed that way. I still have egg on my face for that one, back in 1985….. So let's cut that poor overworked copyeditor (one word or two?) some slack. He knows his grammar. He just got caught in the confusion and rush of the deadline pressure. It was just ONE headline writer at AP, and the thing about the Net is that once these wire stories go out, nobody checks them for accuracy or atomic typos UNTIL the blogosphere weighs in.

  12. Kylopod said,

    February 21, 2010 @ 1:08 am

    This points to a confusing aspect of American English: we tend to treat many collective nouns like "GOP" as grammatically singular, but then refer back to them with the pronoun "they" (rather than "it").

    [(bgz) True, though that would be more relevant if the headline read "GOP crowds town they love(s) to hate." But I think the "collective" nature of "GOP" may indeed have played an indirect role in the headline writer's error.]

  13. Sam said,

    February 21, 2010 @ 6:53 pm

    I would say the headline would be much improved by a colloquialism — final "on":

    GOP 2012 hopefuls crowd town they love to hate on

    But that would probably make the AP stylebook explode.

  14. Robert Coren said,

    February 22, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

    @Jerry Friedman:: Because I don't think Tolkien's Gollum said "We needs it." Am I wrong?

    OK, I see. No, I think you're probably right. But Gollum's grammatical idiosyncrasies are Tolkien's creation, which Jackson et al, simply adopted.

  15. Andy Hollandbeck said,

    February 23, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

    My vote is that Paris "Loves It" Hilton is now writing for the AP under the pseudonym Liz Sidoti. Apart from the odd verb choice, notice also that "Sidoti" is an anagram of "idiots."

    Something nefarious is going on here.

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