Crash blossom: Threatening Snowglobe Adminstration Lifts Some Restrictions
Posted: 13 December 2012 03:00 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Here is a link to a newstory by Kevin Underhill of Lowering The Bar, a blog highlighted by no less a worthy than Dave Wilton (in a post of his a few months ago):

http://www.loweringthebar.net/2012/12/threatening-snowglobe-administration-lifts-some-restrictions.html

The headline for the story baffled me, and even after I read the story and twigged on to what it meant, it still seemed like a bizarrely worded hede that seemed atypical of Underhill’s style: his headlines are sometimes phrased in a playfully intricate fashion, but they are generally easy to decode without much effort, even before reading the story.

The hede here is “Threatening Snowglobe Administration Lifts Some Restrictions.” I initially parsed this to mean that somebody had threatened an administration, which for some reason was called the Snowglobe Administration, and that this pressured said administration to loosen some of its regulations (which the person who did the threatening presumably objected to).  This seemed like an odd thing for a governmental agency to do, as kowtowing to threats would seem to set a dangerous precedent.  (I also wondered if it was a threat of a lawsuit that led to the red-tape-loosening.)
Having read the article, it became clear that the TSA, which is responsible for air travel security concerns, had originally banned snowglobes on plane flights entirely (because there would supposedly be no way to determine the volume of liquid that could be contained in said snowglobes, apparently on the theory that spheres are impervious to math) but the TSA later decided to permit the transport of smallish snowglobes.  So, the hede meant that the Administration (TSA) has now lifted some restrictions regarding the ostensibly threatening snowglobes.  But I still couldn’t work out why he worded the hede so oddly.

I wondered if Underhill was experimenting with what Language Log calls “Headline noun piles”, which are sometimes used by British hedes in such odd-sounding constructions (to me) as “Slough sausage baby death choke woman jailed.” (Which manages to inject a presumably unintentional dose of ghoulish humor into a truly horrific and heartbreaking story.  Although it’s actually rather easy to parse.) But the hede here isn’t really a noun pile: the nouns are nicely broken up by a verb, a participle, and even an adjective. 

Then, with a notional forehead slap, I realized that “Threatening Snowglobe Administration” was Underhill’s re-dubbing of the TSA.  Once that substitution was made, the hede is easily parsed as “TSA lifts some restrictions [on snowglobes].”

I would blame my confusion on the vodka, but, sadly, I haven’t had any.

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Posted: 13 December 2012 05:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I had the same belated realization that you did, but now I’m baffled by hede.  Pretty sure that’s a completely new word to me.  It apparently means headline, judging from the context, and I can see the obvious connection to head, but...why?  Google and dictionary.com are equally baffled.

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Posted: 13 December 2012 09:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’ve never heard it either, although I’m aware of lede, the newspaper word for the lead or opening paragraph of a story.

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Posted: 13 December 2012 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I think the reason none of us recognize hede is that nobody but svinyard spells it that way. The standard newspaper jargon-spelling is hed.

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Posted: 13 December 2012 09:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Yes indeed, though I won’t spell it so again.  My mental train of thought was derailed when I assumed that the spelling of hed[e] would parallel that of lede.  A completely absurd assumption that I won’t try to defend.

Forget vodka, I’m blaming this one on notional LSD.

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Posted: 09 January 2013 02:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Dr. Techie - 13 December 2012 09:20 PM

I think the reason none of us recognize hede is that nobody but svinyard spells it that way. The standard newspaper jargon-spelling is hed.

Only in the US. In the UK we still spell the contraction for headline “head”.

I’d be interested to know how long it took Wordorigins readers to work out that “Threatening Snowglobe Adminstration” was “TSA”: personally I got there just before Svinyard’s “reveal” but far too late to think it was anything but dreadfully over-contrived. “Jokes” like this have got to be pretty obvious, I think, if they’re going to work at all.

[ Edited: 09 January 2013 02:09 AM by Zythophile ]
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