Syntactic ambiguity of the week

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Caitlin MacNeil, "Jackson Considers Withdrawing As VA Nominee As New Allegations Surface", TPM 4/26/2018:

Jackson denied the allegation that he crashed a government vehicle while drunk on Wednesday evening and told reporters he would press on in the confirmation process.



  1. Yerushalmi said,

    April 26, 2018 @ 9:10 am

    Wait, I don't see what's ambiguous – oh. He *denied* it on Wednesday evening.

  2. Wally washington said,

    April 26, 2018 @ 10:27 am

    This just threw me for a loop:

    Trump Moscow Lie In Shambles as Miss Universe Host Confirms Stay

    Is lie a noun or a verb

  3. KC said,

    April 26, 2018 @ 11:28 am

    You could also read it as denying the allegation while he was drunk on Wednesday evening. My first attempt to parse incorrectly on purpose led me to that.

  4. Michael said,

    April 26, 2018 @ 11:35 am

    @ Yerushlami: Or else he was *drunk* on Wednesday evening.

  5. Jerry Friedman said,

    April 26, 2018 @ 11:45 am

    Wally Washington: "Lie" is a noun there. In the American headlinese I've seen, for it to be a verb there would have to be a comma. "Trump, Moscow Lie In Shambles."

  6. David Morris said,

    April 26, 2018 @ 6:42 pm

    Maybe the crash happened at 4.59 pm, which he conceptualises as 'afternoon'.

    I've never known what to say to students about when 'afternoon' finishes and 'evening' begins.

  7. chris said,

    April 26, 2018 @ 10:04 pm

    So when *did* he crash a government vehicle while drunk? Just knowing that it wasn't on Wednesday evening doesn't narrow it down all that much.

    P.S. Any fool can get drunk on whiskey or vodka, but getting drunk on Wednesday evening takes serious effort. Or a brand of alcohol with a peculiar name.

  8. Ellen K. said,

    April 27, 2018 @ 12:40 pm

    Like Yerushalmi I too only saw one reading, the wrong reading, at first. Reading it as part of the article, and thus having read already that he "once crashed a government vehicle", presumably one would easily pick up the correct reading along with the incorrect one.

  9. Nicki said,

    May 2, 2018 @ 12:46 am

    @David Morris this confounds me as well. It never seemed to be an issue until I came to China and found that my afternoon and evening didn't quite correspond with theirs, but I can never come up with a definitive time when they should switch when put on the spot. Dinner though, is definitely not an afternoon activity, so no matter whether dinner is 5 pm or 8 pm or whenever, afternoon has definitely switched over to evening, in my mind at least, by then.

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