My garden path of the day

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"Alligator Kills 69-Year-Old Woman in South Carolina", NYT 7/4/2023:

A 69-year-old woman was attacked and killed by an alligator on Tuesday as she was walking her dog in her neighborhood in Hilton Head Island, S.C., the authorities said.

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office said it was the second fatal alligator attack in the county in less than a year. […]

Jay Butfiloski, the furbearer and alligator program coordinator with the state’s Natural Resources Department, could not be reached on Tuesday.

For a second or two, I wrestled with the idea that Mr. Butfiloski is the ceremonial furbearer for the Natural Resources Department, sort of like the ringbearer at a wedding.

Of course, "furbearer" here means "An animal that is hunted or farmed for its fur", and the correct parse of the initial noun phrase is

((furbearer and alligator) program) coordinator

i.e. the coordinator of the program dealing with furbearers and alligators, not

furbearer and ((alligator program) coordinator)

i.e. the furbearer and coordinator of the alligator program.

A further wrinkle: there's no "Furbearer and Alligator Program" as part of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.  Rather, as this page explains, the phrase is semantically distributive, with separate programs for furbearers and alligators:

Butfiloski began his career with SCDNR in 1999 as the assistant Furbearer Program supervisor, and he is now the Furbearer Program/Alligator Program coordinator. 




  1. Allen W. Thrasher said,

    July 5, 2023 @ 9:42 am

    The evil slash ( / ) again. Why can’t they just say “the Furbearer Program and Alligator Program coordinator”? I think this would be unambiguous, since no one would say a single person is an alligator program, and therefore “coordinator” must go with both programs. But what do I know?

    I think bureaucracies are particularly given to vicious slashing.

  2. Kate Bunting said,

    July 5, 2023 @ 9:54 am

    If they are separate program(me)s and the story is about an alligator, why did they even need to mention furbearers?

  3. mae said,

    July 5, 2023 @ 2:07 pm

    Another garden path still on the CNN website:

    "Podcast: After swimming from Cuba to Key West at age 64, Dr. Sanjay Gupta asks Diana Nyad about how she’s staying fit into her 70’s"

  4. AntC said,

    July 5, 2023 @ 4:10 pm

    "furbearer" here means "An animal that is hunted or farmed for its fur"

    [Brit here] I'd never heard the word, so for me there's no "Of course". My brain briefly parsed as 'forbear' then ground to a halt.

  5. RfP said,

    July 6, 2023 @ 2:20 pm

    This seems a lot clearer to me:

    Jay Butfiloski, the coordinator of the state’s furbearer and alligator programs, which are run by its Natural Resources Department, could not be reached on Tuesday.

  6. Philip Anderson said,

    July 6, 2023 @ 4:40 pm

    It meant nothing to me either, but from the context I interpreted it as an unfamiliar job title (as ML did).
    As a word, it makes sense (it does what it says on the tin), and I couldn’t think of how I would express it with a single word – furry doesn’t work, so it would have to be “animals killed for their fur”. I guess it’s not been a significant classification in Britain.
    But although logical, it doesn’t really fit the same pattern as bearer/ring bearer/standard bearer – a person carrying something – which leads us astray.

  7. Josh R. said,

    July 6, 2023 @ 7:10 pm

    My question is, what happened to the alligator's dog?

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