Another post-modifier attachment ambiguity

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From CNN's front page on the web today:

Pelting them with iPhones? Stranding them in Dongle Hell? Better not to know…

The obligatory screenshot:

The story is "Chinese companies are threatening to punish employees caught using Apple products".



  1. Philip Taylor said,

    December 12, 2018 @ 9:40 am

    As a child, I was force-fed apple crumble at school, and even today, 65 years later, the very thought of it still makes me feel sick, so I can only sympathise with any Chinese staff who are on the receiving end of such cruel and inhumane treatment. What violation of company codes could possible justify the use of such barbaric punishments ?

  2. Victor Mair said,

    December 12, 2018 @ 9:45 am

    I love apple crumble. Can't get enough of it.

  3. ktschwarz said,

    December 12, 2018 @ 11:16 am

    Furthermore, "punish employees caught using Apple products" has a different ambiguity: "using Apple products" could attach to "caught", i.e., the Apple products are used to monitor the employees and reveal their misdeeds. That's a realistic possibility.

  4. Steve Jones said,

    December 12, 2018 @ 11:17 am

    Have you featured the old "Squad helps dog bite victim" yet?

  5. Trogluddite said,

    December 12, 2018 @ 12:46 pm

    @Philip Taylor
    As a rather impatient eater, I heartily agree with you; fruit-based pie/crumble fillings that haven't yet cooled down as much as one imagines would be a rather unjust and inhumane punishment! I must admit, I find a little amusement myself sometimes in deliberately taking "Apple" to mean the fruit when I'm getting a little tired of somebody who's proselytising about the latest smart-phone (I have no better term to suggest for those devices, but that one has always grated on me.)

    I have no doubt that should Apple ever befall serious financial misfortune, the BrE press will have a whale of a time with "apple crumble" puns (I have heard it called "apple crisp" in other English variants, so I'm not sure how widely "crumble" is recognised). In fact, I'm rather surprised that a quick web search didn't find any "geek" jargon meaning for "apple crumble"; the way that the words scan, the oblique reference to comfort food (for some of us!), and the negative connotations of "crumble" tick all the boxes for a geek neologism meaning some kind of technical or commercial failure.

  6. Victor Mair said,

    December 12, 2018 @ 10:34 pm

    "Chinese companies are threatening to punish employees caught using Apple products", CNN – December 12, 2018, Updated 8:07 a.m.

  7. Chris Partridge said,

    December 13, 2018 @ 2:52 am

    I think Steve Jones may have opened a floodgate. My favourite headline from ww1:

  8. Steve Jones said,

    December 13, 2018 @ 4:07 am

    Yes Chris, one of the greats!
    Keep 'em coming

  9. richardelguru said,

    December 13, 2018 @ 8:30 am

    Philip Taylor: A similar thing happened to me as an infant, but they didn't succeed. Indeed I still haven't ever eaten prunes (with or without custard) even though it must be 65 years ago. I wonder if that bowl is still on the table waiting for me to give in?

  10. John Roth said,

    December 13, 2018 @ 9:37 am

    I'm sorry, I don't see the attachment ambiguity.

    Granted it's ambiguous, but the ambiguity is caused by a missing preposition: "punish staff for using Apple products, not by having two different places the final phrase can attach to.

  11. Ryan said,

    December 13, 2018 @ 11:29 am

    @John Roth

    It is an attachment ambiguity because 'using Apple products' can attach to the NP 'staff' as a modifier or the VP 'punish staff' as an instrument.

  12. David Morris said,

    December 13, 2018 @ 6:46 pm

    Apple crumble and prunes with custard are just desserts …

  13. Chas Belov said,

    December 14, 2018 @ 2:17 am

    Apple "crisp" for me, although I recognized "crumble" as being the same or similar the first time I encountered it.

  14. Philip Taylor said,

    December 14, 2018 @ 9:14 am

    DM ("Just desserts") — Very good !

  15. David Morris said,

    December 15, 2018 @ 5:57 am

    @Phillip: Thank you. I try my best.

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