Friday, September 07, 2007
I'm not disputing that the headline was written by the Examiner; the Examiner wrote a headline, and I'm disputing that headline. Similarly, what the Examiner is saying in the headline is that there is a sex ring operating out of fire stations but that nonetheless D.C. officials are denying that fact.
I believe the headline writer meant D.C. officials deny sex ring is operating out of fire stations.
I've made the case for the helping verb before. In the case of the alleged sex ring there's an issue of meaning, but other times it's a nicety -- one that even a lot of copy editors don't quite grasp. It must be genetic, like the quirk that makes cilantro taste like soap to some unfortunate souls. When I try to teach colleagues about it, most of the time they smile and nod and start adding "Is" to all headlines, whether they need it or not.
In this case, at the very least, there's ambiguity. Consider "Woman Denies Man Asking for Sex."