Monday, August 02, 2010

When Adjectives Attack

A couple of comically ambiguous meanings from yesterday's Province. First of all, this headline:

It's ok to shoot a serial offender dead (at least grammatically speaking--I won't make moral judgments here), but the intended adverbial sense of dead is easy to miss when the word is positioned like this. If you scan that headline and presume dead is performing its usual adjectival function, it sounds like the flatfoots where over-zealously perforating a corpse.

Elsewhere in the Sunday pages, in a story about how a local society of East Indian rationalists is offering  $100,000 to any soothsayers who can prove their ability to make accurate predictions, there is this sentence:
Astrologers, ghost-busters*, black magicians--whatever their specialty--are invited to answer 10 questions based on a person's janam kundli, or astrological birth chart.
Now, for all I know, it may well be that practitioners of black magic refer to themselves as "black magicians" (I really can't be bothered to look it up), but should we--and more importantly, should African-American conjurers in the white magic arts--really put up with that?

*I know what you're saying: shouldn't that be ghostbusters, as we all learned in the Ackroyd/Murray cinematic classic? According to Wikipedia, the movie was promoted as "Ghostbusters," yet titled on-screen as "Ghost Busters." So I guess the ghost-busting community is kind of open on this one.