But what did they feed them?

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Yesterday's version:

Today's version has a different headline and picture:


  1. D.O. said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 10:25 am

    Yeah, well, comma saves the day.

  2. majolo said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 11:05 am

    And here I read it as saying they were offered a meal of agents as an incentive to attend…

  3. Guy said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 11:23 am

    I was initially parsing it as if "attend Penn graduation" were a noun phrase.

  4. Christy Goldfinch said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 11:41 am

    I keep wondering if their lives & lipstick would be be different today if their first names had been swapped at birth: Naomi Trump and Tiffany Biden. Each is hard to imagine.

  5. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 1:58 pm

    I wouldn't find "Tiffany Biden" particularly improbable for a young woman of that age, born a little bit after peak Tiffany (the born-in-1988 cohort of American girls) but still at a time when it was quite a popular name. I don't think by that point the name's popularity was sufficiently limited by geographical/social-class/ethnic factors to make it too peculiar a hypothetical fit for the Bidens. As it happens, it seems overwhelmingly likely that Miss Biden was named after her father's sister (who was killed as a very young child in the same 1972 auto accident that killed her grandmother and injured her father and uncle, who were at the time quite young themselves), and might not have been considered by her parents absent that specific family connection. As of the time current college graduates were being born, Naomi was in the early stages of a big comeback (from 300th most popular name for girls born in the US in 1990 up to 77th most popular for girls born in 2015 – becoming more popular than the fading Tiffany for the first time in almost 50 years as of 2004) — but I don't have much of a read of who would and wouldn't (from a geography/class/ethnicity/etc perspective) have been more and less likely to use it as of the early/mid-90's without a specific family connection.

  6. Yandoodan said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 5:07 pm

    The pictures add to the confusion of the original headline — a model strutting her stuff at a country club versus a simple girl-next-door looking up as if in prayer. Both are from a stock photo agency.

    And I looked it up. The article starts, "An army of federal agents…".

  7. Brett said,

    May 16, 2016 @ 5:11 pm

    To me, the most interesting linguistic point in this is that I find "fed agents" unacceptable. My idiolect does not accept "fed" as a clipping of "federal"; it has to be short for "Federal Reserve."

  8. James Wimberley said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 3:14 am

    Is the use of "graduate" as a transitive verb restricted to headlinese?

  9. Linda said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 6:53 am

    @ James Wimberley.
    No, perfectly normal usage. You aren't a graduate until after you have graduated.

  10. cs said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 8:38 am

    @ James Wimberley "He was the first in his family to graduate high school" sounds like normal speech to me, even though I myself would say "graduate from high school".

  11. Robert Coren said,

    May 17, 2016 @ 9:12 am

    When we're talking about agents or agencies of the government of the USA, aren't we supposed to capitalize "Federal" (and hence "Fed")?

  12. DWalker said,

    May 18, 2016 @ 12:46 pm

    @James W and others:

    I thought pedants were in favor of "X was graduated from", not "X graduated" or "X graduated from" a school.

  13. Eneri Rose said,

    May 19, 2016 @ 10:11 am

    I agree with Brett, in part. To me, "the Fed" does refer to the Federal Reserve Bank, so Fed agents would be agents of the Federal Reserve Bank. But, "the Feds" or just "Feds" would refer to any agent of any branch of the Federal government. So, if I see people who are clearly FBI/SS agents at an event, I would refer to them as Feds, as in "You see the Feds over there?"

    I would use, "will graduate from", but "is a graduate of." And I would pronounce each differently. The first graduate (a verb) I would pronounce with more emphasis and length on the first syllable.

    I'm interested in the description for the first set of photos. Tiffany is Trump's daughter, but Naomi is the granddaughter of…. What is the reason for the difference? Why not Vice-President Joe Biden's granddaughter?

  14. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 19, 2016 @ 10:40 am

    I have no problem with "feds" for "federal agents" but "fed agents" sounds highly unidiomatic to my ear. As to capitalization, if you google plausible phrases you can find e.g. both "arrested by the feds" and "arrested by the Feds" out there. Lowercase seemed a bit more common in a cursory review of the first few pages of hits, but I got bored before I'd collected enough data to count as even semi-rigorous corpus linguistics scholarship. Even if you think clipped forms must or ought to follow the capitalization conventions of the longer form they derive from, what's the relevant sense of "feds" clipped from? I would personally never capitalize (other than sentence-initially or in a title or headline etc where the rules are different) "federal agents" or "federal investigators" or "federal prosecutors" etc. but if one thinks of the corresponding full form as e.g. "FBI agents," maybe you would have a different intuition? I think "Federals" as a semi-archaic synonym for "Union soldiers as distinguished from their Confederate opponents" was/is usually capitalized, but that wouldn't seem to be what the modern sense of "feds" is clipped from.

  15. Adam said,

    May 20, 2016 @ 2:18 pm

    Wow. For a rather long while, I thought the strange thing was that the girls had sponsored the meal for the agents (and everybody else?). Nothing too unusual, maybe generous or pompous depending on your view.
    Wasn't until I read the comments that it hit me. Just capitalizing, "Fed(s)", would have helped.

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