December 30, 2007

What in the fudge?

It's Bring a Friend to Work Weekend (BaFtWWe) here at Language Log Plaza, and I decided to bring two friends, my UCSD colleagues Andy Kehler and Roger Levy. They've both been dying to meet some of the senior writing staff, but nobody seems to be around. (Funny, since it was a couple of members of the senior staff who told me about BaFtWWe in the first place. Hmm.) Anyway, while I was running around trying to find Mark, Arnold, either of the Geoffs, Bill, Sally, Roger, or anyone at all really, I left Andy and Roger by the water cooler, which we've recently equipped with a recording device in order to capture the unique conversations that so often take place there. Here's an expurgated transcript of Andy and Roger's conversation which I thought Language Log readers might enjoy.

Andy: I just saw this headline on the FoxNews website.
Woman whose diamond ring vanished while she made fudge for bake sale turns up inside piece of the candy she sold
This can only mean that the woman showed up inside the candy, and not the ring, right? Yeesh.
Roger: According to Whitney Tabor it can also mean the bake sale turned up inside the candy...
Andy: That's pretty funny. Somehow that parse didn't jump out at me as much as it does in the "the coach smiled at the player tossed the frisbee" cases.
(notices the recording device; leans in) (Background if this is opaque to any of you: people read the above sentence more slowly than one in which "tossed" is replaced with "thrown", which, according to Whit Tabor, is because "the player tossed the frisbee" is an allowable sentence, even though an incremental parser should know it can't be one in this particular syntactic context.)

The relevant FoxNews story is here; the headline was on the FoxNews homepage at one point, as shown here.

[ Comments? ]

Posted by Eric Bakovic at December 30, 2007 01:50 PM