Seven nouns

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"Pilot Fish Project English Channel crossing bid begins", BBC 8/5/2016. Turns out this is two French guys aiming to cross the channel in a home-made pedal-powered submarine:

Two men attempting to cross the English Channel in a pedal-powered submarine have begun their journey. French engineers Antoine Delafargue, 33, and Michael de Lagarde, 36, plan to travel 135 nautical miles (250km) from Plymouth to St Malo. The vessel, which the pair designed and built themselves, left on Friday, travelling at 3km/h (1.86mph), a spokesman told the AFP news agency. Their trip is expected to take seven days.

John Coleman, who sent in the link:

A record? Pretty much totally opaque to me.

He means for consecutive nouns in a headline, I think, not distance traveled in a home-made pedal-powered submarine. Though presumably that will also be a record.

The obligatory screenshot:


  1. Felila said,

    August 5, 2016 @ 8:24 pm

    The DailyMail headline might read: French sub invades!

  2. TR said,

    August 5, 2016 @ 8:58 pm

    "English" is a noun?

  3. Sybil said,

    August 5, 2016 @ 9:19 pm

    Opaque, I vote for Fellila.

    But then, pressers often seem opaque to me. I lack the neccessary pre-whatever.

  4. Charles said,

    August 5, 2016 @ 10:41 pm

    "English Channel" is a noun. But then that makes six, not seven.

    [(myl) True enough — but English can be a noun, as in "say it in English", or "her English is excellent", or "the study of world Englishes", or "the English prefer tea", or "put some english on it".]

  5. Martha said,

    August 5, 2016 @ 11:59 pm

    If "English Channel" counts as one, then shouldn't "Pilot Fish Project"?

  6. Charles said,

    August 6, 2016 @ 12:02 am

    "English Channel" is a name, just like "United Kingdom", while "pilot fish project" is not. Don't ask me though, I'm no linguist, just an average joe off the street.

  7. Geoff said,

    August 6, 2016 @ 12:04 am

    You call that a noun pile? THIS is a noun pile:

    'Honeysuckle Creek Apollo 11 moon landing tracking station heritage listing approved.'

    From the Canberra Times, Australia, within the last year. I'm afraid I didn't note the date.

    [(myl) Nice! But at least the online version of the headline now seems to be the more prosaic "Heritage Strategy launched at ACT's newest heritage site Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station".]

  8. Gregory Kusnick said,

    August 6, 2016 @ 12:33 am

    Not totally opaque; there's a glass bubble hatch near the bow.

    According to the project website, one of their goals is to "promote energy soberness". So no champagne sendoff, I guess.

  9. Martha said,

    August 6, 2016 @ 1:22 am

    Charles, I really don't know. I'd never heard of the Pilot Fish Project until I saw this post and looked it up because the headline made absolutely no sense. I thought that "Pilot Fish Project" was the name of some organization.

  10. AlexB said,

    August 6, 2016 @ 2:49 am

    The French expression 'poisson pilote' can be used to refer to pioneering projects. So it is really rather an apt pun.

  11. David Morris said,

    August 6, 2016 @ 4:19 am

    If I didn't know what the 'Pilot Fish Project' was, this headline wouldn't make me click. 'home-made pedal-powered submarine English Channel crossing bid begins', might, but wouldn't either.

  12. EndlessWaves said,

    August 6, 2016 @ 4:52 am

    'Channel crossing bid begins' is self-explanatory to the BBC's audience, so it's really just untangling the first three or four words.

    If this someone transporting a pilot project for fish across the English channel? Or an English pilot project for fish to distinguish it from a French attempt?

    Is Pilot Fish projecting that an English Channel crossing bid is going to begin on a certain date?

    Nope, it looks like the Pilot Fish Project has started their attempt to cross the English Channel.

  13. Sam said,

    August 6, 2016 @ 4:56 am

    The only way I can think of parsing "English" as a noun would be in the same way as "Chinese" when referring to cuisine: "We're going for a Chinese" is acceptable, if slightly colloquial. Although in real life no one talks about going for "an English".

    So yes, I agree with the people wondering that too. Beats me! Perhaps Mark can clear it up!

  14. Graeme said,

    August 6, 2016 @ 6:43 am

    Youse are reading as outsiders. 'Pilot Fish Project' was used by the BBC including in headlines for a couple of days prior.

    Similarly with Geoff's example. As an Australian who's heard of Honeysuckle Ck and Apollo 11, that headline is instantly parsed.

    I'm more interested to know how their submarinecycle doesn't drift during the 80 hours they are resting..,

  15. Ellen K. said,

    August 6, 2016 @ 11:51 am

    Graeme, Geoff's example is easy to parse even without having heard of Honeysuckle Creek. Nor am I familiar with Apollo 11 in particular, as far as matching the number with the specifics of the mission, though I'm familiar with the Apollo program. No problem parsing it. I don't totally understand it, but I can parse it just fine. No grammatical ambiguities there.

    The original, though, has the issue of "project" as a verb or noun, which might lead those unfamiliar with the Pilot Fish Project astray. Particularly those of us used to all upper case headlines… it's not till the 2nd line that we see it's a mixed case headline and that the capital P marks it as a noun. Those accustomed to mixed case headlines would I assume get it right even without being familiar with this particular projects.

  16. David Marjanović said,

    August 6, 2016 @ 3:54 pm

    And they say German runs overboard with noun compounding… written English is worse, because it's so deep in denial. :-)

  17. maidhc said,

    August 6, 2016 @ 5:57 pm


    "Full English" is a name for a type of breakfast.

  18. Roscoe said,

    August 6, 2016 @ 9:21 pm

    Or, if you're in Bombay, you could go out for an English:

  19. Doreen said,

    August 8, 2016 @ 4:25 am

    Knowing that the BBC is a British site provides further assistance in parsing the headline. Because Pilot Fish Project has all initial caps in this British headline, it's clearly a proper noun. (Granted, there is still some ambiguity in the headline about the exact name of the venture because the first word would be capitalized in any case.)

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