He not at death's door

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A strange piece of headline-ese: "Castro dismisses rumors that he at death's door", Reuters 10/22/2012.

Typo? Poor command of English? Couldn't fit the 's (but had room for "that")? Normal Reuters headline language? We report, you decide.

Obligatory screenshot:

Update — it occurs to me that the best way to deny that you've had a serious stroke might not be to say "I don't even remember what a headache is" …


  1. Stephen C. Carlson said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 7:10 am

    Does their copy-writer have some rule about deleting forms of the verb "to be" in headlines? Does someone in the business know?

  2. F said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 7:13 am

    What would be wrong with "Castro dismisses death's-door rumors"? Too short for a headline?

  3. Ø said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 7:20 am

    It seems to involve a subordinate-clause form of the simple headlinese declarative "Castro at death's door".

  4. Tom S. Fox said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 7:42 am

    “Typo? Poor command of English? Couldn't fit the 's (but had room for ‘that’)? Normal Reuters headline language?”

    I think it’s all of those.

  5. Ilari Sani said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 7:49 am

    Rewritten in the "pile of nouns" style:

    "Castro death door rumor denial"

  6. James Iry said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 7:52 am

    Sigh. "Castro dismisses rumors that HIM at death's door." Reuters no talk good.

  7. Jukka Kohonen said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 8:00 am

    Oh my, WHOM at Reuters' could of missed such a 'istoric subjunctival opportunity?

    Castro dismisses rumors that HE BE at death's door.

  8. Jeff Carney said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 8:08 am

    If it said "Brother dismisses rumors that Castro at death's door," the headline would be unremarkable. Somehow the pronoun makes it remarkable. I blame custom over correctness, if indeed headline language is correct in any meaningful way.

  9. MattF said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 8:16 am

    How about the predicate: "Castro dismisses rumors that X at death's door"? Seems like you could replace X with the name of any person and get an acceptable headline-English sentence.

  10. Tim said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 8:44 am

    "Castro dismisses rumors that self at death's door."
    "Castro dismisses self-at-death's-door rumors"

  11. Ginger Yellow said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 8:47 am

    Regardless of the headline, I'm definitely adopting "Birds of bad omen! I don't even remember what a headache is!" for my next hangover.

  12. Ginger Yellow said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 8:49 am

    Rewritten in the "pile of nouns" style: "Castro death door rumor denial"

    "Castro in death's door rumor denial bid"

  13. Peter-Arno Coppen said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 9:20 am

    In an earlier newsline based on Reuters (http://tvnz.co.nz/world-news/official-squashes-rumours-fidel-castro-death-s-door-5144718) it says: "Official squashes rumours Fidel Castro at death's door." That sounds a lot better. Maybe it was an edit from there.

  14. Julie said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 10:02 am

    Back in my day, rumors were quashed. Fixing "squashes" might have been the impetus for a revision.

  15. Toma said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 10:46 am

    Rumors bug me, so I like it when they get squashed.

  16. Mary Bull said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 11:50 am

    Couldn't help but think of Harold Ross's famous "who he?" query the minute I saw this headline.

  17. ===Dan said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 11:59 am

    Not at death's door: Castro

  18. Jukka Kohonen said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 12:10 pm

    Death door rumor Castro: No

  19. ALEX MCCRAE said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

    Following up on Toma's last point, "Castro quashes death-door rumors" would appear to cover all the bases.* Concise and to the point. (Still, that awkward "he" in the original header is a mystery to me.)

    *Remember, next to being a neo-Marxist dictator, and self-appointed 'father-protector' of his beloved isle, one of his greatest, lifelong passions is baseball. He was apparently a pretty decent player back-in-the-day.

    He's been quoted as saying, " 'Baizebool 'as bin berry gud to me."

  20. Ross Presser said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

    Castro firmly on this side of death door

  21. Bobbie said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

    Castro denies he dying. (He BE dying?)
    Castro not remember headache.

  22. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

    Mistah Castro He Not Dead

  23. Rod Johnson said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

    Here's a similar piece of journo-weirdness for you. In a Detroit Free Press story on the Detroit Tigers' "simulated game" today I find this sentence:

    "Nobody appeared particularly excited, except for some of the wide-eyed prospects in the visiting clubhouse, some of whom getting their first chance to play in a big-league ballpark."

    That would be fine if it was either
    a. the wide-eyed prospects, some of whom WERE getting…
    b. the wide-eyed prospects, some getting…

    So why is expanding "some" to "some of whom" not good?

    Source here.

  24. David Walker said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    "Castro death door rumor denial" –> "Cuba former leader death door rumor denial uttered"

  25. Emily said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

    To respond to the first commenter, there is indeed a rule about not using forms of to-be on headlines. This headline as it is constructed really does require an "is." They should have completely hanged it. "Castro denies illness rumors," something like that.

  26. Jeroen Mostert said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

    "Death's-door rumors" sounds awful. Adjectivizing "death's door" just seems wrong to me.

    Latest I heard of the
    El Presidente's still
    Head of the free

    Headlining headaches in
    He, not at death's door's
    Still rumored to be

  27. Chris Waters said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 4:52 pm

    Obviously, it was a direct quote, and they just forgot the quotation marks. When Castro gets mad, he apparently reverts to Hulk Speak. The rumors that his skin turns green and his size doubles are, as yet, unconfirmed.

    In case the link doesn't work, that's http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HulkSpeak

  28. ALEX MCCRAE said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

    Although we are lead to believe by today's Cuban mainstream media that Fidel is still in relatively fine, although depleted, fettle, all this mulling over what should be the most apt wording for the headline-in-question, got me harkening back to that now iconic 1975 vintage SNL line immortalized by faux Weekend Update news-anchor, Chevy Chase, namely, "Generalissimo Francisco Franco is STILL dead."

    Don't be at all surprised to see the current SNL gang resurrect this classic line, substituting El Presidente Fidel Castro, (once officially deceased*), in lieu of the late despotic Spanish fascist leader, Franco.

    *We may have to wait a spell. Castro's dogged will to live, like the fabled cat with seven lives, appears almost as strong as his unflagging determination to hold onto a dead, outmoded communist philosophy to manage a country that is clearly yearning for basic freedoms, and individual opportunities.

  29. Electric Dragon said,

    October 22, 2012 @ 6:06 pm

    Castro "not at death's door" (UK headline-type claim quotes)

  30. JB said,

    October 23, 2012 @ 1:40 am

    Mistah Castro—he not dead.

  31. Albert O'Pernales said,

    October 23, 2012 @ 3:39 am

    That should have been "Castro dismisses rumors that he ATE death's door" – a humorous reference to Kronos eating Hades for fear that it would him eclipse.

  32. Jaap Bouma said,

    October 25, 2012 @ 6:57 am

    Is that a fine specimen of Ollekebolleke in your comment, or are you just … happy to see me?

  33. Ari said,

    October 29, 2012 @ 7:36 am

    Castro Death Denial

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