parsing words

I take a perverse delight in seeing different ways a phrase, name, or sentence can be parsed. I think it actually annoys Terry sometimes, but it’s how my mind works.

A headline from this fall as the Giants were on their way to the World Series:
    Unlikely umpires will have to delay Game 1 or 2
Now the intent of this headline is straightforward:
    Unlikely [umpires will have to delay Game 1 or 2]
But I realized that if, say, the designated umpiring crew were stranded at O’Hare airport in Chicago and Major League Baseball had to recruit local little umpires for the game, and if in fact it was going to rain, one could read:
    [Unlikely umpires] [will have to delay Game 1 or 2]

See, it’s this kind of thing that annoys Terry.

In the realm of restaurants, it was only recently that I realized that:
    Thai basil chicken
Is, in fact:
    [Thai basil] chicken
and not
    Thai [basil chicken]

I have long known that the Episcopal book of liturgy, Lesser Feasts and Fasts, now replaced by Holy Women, Holy Men, is:
    [Lesser Feasts] and Fasts
and not
    Lesser [Feasts and Fasts]

(Similarly, The Book of Common Prayer is the book of prayers we say together in worship, not the book of average, ordinary, everyday prayer.)

I think that the folks who branded the store where we get Tasha her food intended it to be read two ways. Petsmart can either be parsed as Pets-mart or as Pet-smart.

I’m sure they’re happy with either as long as you’re shopping there.


2 Comments on “parsing words”

  1. It’s the concept behind the great book “Eats Shoots and Leaves.” My sister and I will send each other little treasures like these, so if nothing else, you’re not alone.


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