Headline ambiguity of the week

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This one depends on word-sense ambiguity rather than on the structural and part-of-speech issues in the ambiguous headlines we've called crash blossoms. "After 9 months, women’s body to get new head", Times of India 8/26/2020:

Nine months after being headless and non-functional, the Goa State Commission for Women is set to get a new chairperson. Minister for women and child development Vishwajit Rane on Tuesday said that a formal notification is being moved to appoint Vidya Gaude to the post.

Ambarish Sridharanarayanan, who sent in the link, added "I can't seem to make out if this headline ambiguity is an attempted joke or just poor writing. Seems like the former, but in somewhat weird taste?"

The obligatory screenshot:


  1. Scott P. said,

    August 27, 2020 @ 2:57 pm

    Does that mean we've just misread "Headless body found in topless bar" all these years?

  2. Nick Montfort said,

    August 27, 2020 @ 4:00 pm

    The headline writer must have thought this one was a crowning achievement.

  3. Daniel Barkalow said,

    August 27, 2020 @ 4:19 pm

    This new head wouldn't happen to be the one from "Iraqi Head Seeks Arms", would it?

  4. Haamu said,

    August 27, 2020 @ 4:32 pm

    I was able to appreciate the joke for a few moments, right up until I read more closely and realized that multiple women were sharing one body. If it's a case of multiple personality disorder, then replacing the head might have unintended effects.

    (If this were an organization of moose or trout, no problem — but finding an English word referring to humans where the singular and plural forms are identical is surprisingly difficult. "Your" is the best I could do — and of course nowadays, "their.")

  5. Martyn Cornell said,

    August 27, 2020 @ 4:59 pm

    I once wrote a headline for the (London) Times about the former Labour Party leader Michael Foot being made chair of an organisation campaigning for Europe to become a nuclear weapons-free zone that said: "Foot heads arms body". That was definitely deliberate.

  6. Paul Garrett said,

    August 27, 2020 @ 6:27 pm

    @Martyn Cornell… I am astounded by your headline!!! Quite uplifting to hear such a thing in Plague Times with deranged politicians… Thank you!

  7. F said,

    August 28, 2020 @ 3:46 am

    The topic is clearly pregnant with possibilities

  8. JorgeHoracio said,

    August 28, 2020 @ 4:27 am

    I find all preceding comments extremely funny (inclusive the original headline ).
    Here laughing MY head off.

  9. Jen in Edinburgh said,

    August 28, 2020 @ 4:43 am

    I remember a local headline which was something along the lines of 'City tourism wants body', which seemed a bit gruesome, although it's true that there's a good line in graveyard tours and so on here…

  10. Rodger C said,

    August 28, 2020 @ 6:47 am

    I once saw a reference to "the rotating head of the commission."

  11. Rose Eneri said,

    August 28, 2020 @ 7:42 am

    All very funny. Of course, the ambiguity arises from the synecdoche of head. But adding to the humor is the 9 month time period and the female gender of the group.

    It is doubtful anybody will ever top Martyn Cornell's headline.

  12. Andrew Usher said,

    August 28, 2020 @ 7:19 pm

    Surely, had this been an intention pun, the singular 'woman' would have bene used, as it is practically the same in context and required for the other meaning.

    k_over_hbarc at yahoo.com

  13. J.W. Brewer said,

    August 28, 2020 @ 10:12 pm

    This all seems par-for-the-course in the journalistic register of IndEng that sounds notably Wodehousian to the AmEng ear (but I assume not so to the IndEng ear), but the Goanese setting makes me wonder if, but for the Indian military aggression of 1961, Goanese news stories would be written up in whatever the most Wodehousian-sounding register of Portuguese might be.

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