Nozzle thought gun

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Y.M. sent in a link to a story with the headline "Jury awards $6.5M in CA case of nozzle thought gun", remarking that

This is the first I ever heard of nozzle thought guns. Needless to say, I am worried.

I believe that nozzle thought guns are mentioned in one of Iain Banks' earlier novels, maybe The Player of Games. Indeed a terrifying concept.

The headline has since been changed to "Jury awards $6.5M in case of mistaken gun death". The background is here.


  1. David Morris said,

    April 4, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

    It could be something like the point of view gun in the movie of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

  2. Eugene said,

    April 4, 2013 @ 11:23 pm

    Maybe the headline needs a hyphen, but you'd have to be careful. There's a big difference between a nozzle-thought gun and a nozzle thought-gun. I suppose the latter would be much more dangerous.

  3. Ray Girvan said,

    April 4, 2013 @ 11:24 pm

    A quick Google finds another such weapon: the Pippa Middleton thought gun.

  4. Daniel said,

    April 5, 2013 @ 12:28 am

    It's sad enough when a gun dies, but when a gun dies by mistake it's even sadder.

    It's pretty sad when a gun dies. Thank god they were only mistaken.

  5. Narmitaj said,

    April 5, 2013 @ 3:46 am

    @David Morris – to go to Iain Banks again, as in a previous item about spam, a nozzle thought gun sounds a bit like on of his Lazy Guns: "The Lazy Gun is "light but massy", and weighs three times as much when turned upside down. The Lazy Gun is the only weapon known to display a sense of humour. When the Lazy Gun is fired at humans, many different things may occur. An anchor may appear above the person, giant electrodes may appear on either side of the target and electrocute them, or an animal may tear their throat out. Larger targets such as tanks or ships may suffer tidal waves, implosion, explosion, sudden lava flows or just disappear. "

  6. AlexB said,

    April 5, 2013 @ 3:59 am

    Or it could be something out of a Philip K. Dick novel.

  7. SlideSF said,

    April 5, 2013 @ 4:05 am

    One of the most insidious weapons developed in the early 21st Century was the "thought gun". In its earliest form, the near-lethal rays, which rendered the victim incapable of independent thinking, were propelled through a sort of "nozzle", whereby it could be "sprayed" at various degrees of intensity or area of coverage. Later developments in technology rendered the nozzle obsolete, replacing it with the magazine-loaded assault 'thought-rifle' and, more recently, the all-encompassing thought-'thermonuclear device'.

    [(myl) It's the kinetic thought penetrators, with their discarding sabots of verbiage, that really changed the nature of inter-cultural conflict.]

    And further: misty drizzles of healing 'thought-rainbows' to Ian Banks now that he has need of them. Best wishes to you, Sir!

  8. Mark P said,

    April 5, 2013 @ 7:47 am

    I think the worst weapon is the neutron thought bomb. It destroys thought but leaves opinions intact.

  9. the next Prescott Niles said,

    April 5, 2013 @ 8:41 am

    Causes target to think only of nozzles, in increasingly great detail, ultimately leading to incapacitation and eventually death

  10. Nathan said,

    April 5, 2013 @ 8:45 am

    Your mom thinks only of nozzles.

  11. C said,

    April 5, 2013 @ 9:18 am

    That has to be one of the most brilliant crash blossoms posted on this site. My first thought was that it would actually fit perfectly in a Cronenberg film (like eXistenZ or Videodrome). Great stuff!

  12. vic said,

    April 5, 2013 @ 9:32 am

    I'm so sad.

    I read about the verdict yesterday, and so the headline didn't crash when I saw it here. As C said, "one of the most brilliant crash blossoms posted on this site", and I missed out!

  13. mollymooly said,

    April 5, 2013 @ 10:24 am

    I don't think "mistaken gun death" is an improvement, though it's not a crash blossom.

    In my idiolect, the tragedy contained no mistaken gun or mistaken death, only a mistaken police officer. Neither was there a mistaken nozzle: even though the nozzle was mistaken for a gun, it was not mistaken.

  14. Steve said,

    April 5, 2013 @ 11:42 am

    I actually had no trouble parsing the original headline: a nozzle was mistook for a gun, leading to the death of the menacing nozzle-wielder (whose death was presumably achieved through the use of an actual gun).

    The "improvement", while conjuring a less silly set of alternative readings, is actually more ambiguous than the original for precisely that reason: it could reasonably be parsed as 1) a case where a gun was accidentally discharged (leading to a death), 2) a case in which something was mistook for a gun (leading to the slaying of the ostensible gunperson), or 3) a case in which somebody was killed via a gun as a result of a mistake of just about any kind whatsoever. I suppose, though, that if a reader parsed it as 3), they wouldn't necessarily be parsing it incorrectly.

  15. J.W. Brewer said,

    April 5, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

    Various sorts of incidents in which items which are not in fact weapons are treated by authority figures as if they were weapons (e.g. the recent case in which an elementary school student had nibbled a Pop-Tart into some vaguely gun-like shape and was accordingly subjected to disciplinary action) seem common enough that it would be good to have a standard journalistic idiom for such misperceived-non-weapons.

  16. Ray Girvan said,

    April 7, 2013 @ 12:03 pm

    @J.W. Brewer: nibbled a Pop-Tart into some vaguely gun-like shape

    We had a similar news story here about triangular flapjacks being banned, but I think the issue was that the triangular shape made them appealingly throwable as a kind of oatmeal shuriken.

  17. This Week’s Language Blog Roundup: passings, Philly accent, Quidditching | Wordnik said,

    April 12, 2013 @ 9:26 am

    […] Language Log, Mark Liberman’s crash blossom of the week was nozzle thought gun, while Ben Zimmer made a plea for DARE, the Dictionary of American Regional English, which “ is […]

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