April 20, 2005

Quebec English Teachers

Most of the time when I misinterpret a headline, after the fact I realize that the intended interpretation is reasonable, but I just encountered an example where that isn't the case. The headline of this CBC News article is Quebec English Teachers Stage 1-Day Strike. My interpretation was that this was about a strike by people who teach English in Quebec. Indeed, I wondered whether it was a routine labor dispute or whether it had something to do with language politics.

It turns out that the article is not about teachers of English: it is about the fact that teachers in the English-medium school system are staging a one-day strike in solidarity with the teachers in the larger French-medium school system. In an alternative universe I can imagine the phrase English teachers meaning "teachers in the English-medium school system", but the association of this phrase with the meaning "people who teach English" is for me so strong that even after the fact I find the headline inappropriate and misleading. I want it to be something like English-medium Teachers Stage 1-Day Strike or Teachers in English Schools Stage 1-Day Strike. You might think that the editor was forced to use a headline he or she didn't consider entirely well formed for reasons of space, but in fact CBC News allows headlines to spill over onto a second line, as in the headline for the current lead article Witness denies discussing sponsorship program with Martin, so it seems that not everyone agrees with my reaction to this headline.

Posted by Bill Poser at April 20, 2005 12:00 AM