SAFETY EXPERTS SAY SCHOOL BUS PASSENGERS SHOULD BE BELTED
belted has two interpretations: 'hit with a belt' or 'secured with a (seat)belt' (lexical ambiguity)
DRUNK GETS NINE MONTHS IN VIOLIN CASE
case has two interpretations: 'container' or 'court-case' (lexical ambiguity)
SURVIVOR OF SIAMESE TWINS JOINS PARENTS
This is not strictly ambiguos, but the use of join 'go back to' is slightly incongruous in the context of siamese twins who are joined in the sense of 'attached'.
FARMER BILL DIES IN HOUSE
Multiple ambiguity: Bill could be a proper name instead of 'legislative proposal'; then, depending on the interpretation of the grammatical subject, die could be taken literally or figuratively. To complete the interpretation, we must understand house to mean 'House of Commons'.
IRAQI HEAD SEEKS ARMS
Amusing juxtaposition of two polysemous words, head 'chief' and arms 'weapons'.
STUD TIRES OUT
Allowing for the American spelling of tyres, and the American term (in Brtitish English we would say studded tyres), the ambiguity is structural based on the noun-verb ambiguity of tires and the lexical ambiguity of stud; to get the correct meaning we have to accept that there is no main verb, as is typical of newspaper headlines.
PROSTITUTES APPEAL TO POPE
Ambiguity of the verb appeal: 'entreaty' vs 'attract'
PANDA MATING FAILS; VETERINARIAN TAKES OVER
One way to account for the ambiguity here is to note that the first clause is ambiguous between a reading with panda as the deep subject - The panda is mating - and as deep object of a causative construction They are mating the pandas. With the second reading, there is nothing odd about a vet taking over trying to mate pandas. The verb marry has a similar less common causative interpretation as in This vicar has married three couples this week.
SOVIET VIRGIN LANDS SHORT OF GOAL AGAIN
The main ambiguity is whether lands is a noun or verb; in the former case we also have to understand, again, that like in many newspaper headlines there is no tensed verb.
BRITISH LEFT WAFFLES ON FALKLAND ISLANDS
Double category ambiguity (noun vs verb) for left and waffles. Of interest is that to an American reader, the sentence is not ambiguous, but bizarre, since American English does not have a verb waffle meaning 'prattle', so the only possible reading is the one where left is the verb.
LUNG CANCER IN WOMEN MUSHROOMS
Noun-verb ambiguity in the word mushrooms. The example is slightly ingenuous, since the normal pattern of noun-noun compounding in English would call for woman mushrooms: compare schoolboy geniuses, lady barristers, parent governors, not *schoolboys geniuses, *ladies barristers, *parents governors. The first element is normally singular, even in cases such as trouser press where the word normally does not have a singular form.
EYE DROPS OFF SHELF
Another verbless headline where the wrong reading comes from misinterpreting a noun-verb ambiguity.
TEACHER STRIKES IDLE KIDS
Some readers will find striking the enforced interpretation of idle as a causative verb; like many other examples, we have two noun-verb ambiguities combining.
REAGAN WINS ON BUDGET, BUT MORE LIES AHEAD
Noun-verb ambiguity of lies coupled with the ambiguity of more as a quantifier or a kind of pronoun.
SQUAD HELPS DOG BITE VICTIM
This is a nice deep structure ambiguity arising from the fact that help can take either a direct obect or a (in this case reduced) infinitival complement, coupled with the noun-verb ambiguity of bite which supports the two alternatives.
SHOT OFF WOMAN'S LEG HELPS NICKLAUS TO 66
There are several levels of ambiguity here: shot can be either a noun or the past participle of the verb shoot, while off is either a preposition or a particle. The pun also involves the polysemy of shot, and we have to know that Nicklaus is a golfer and even have some understanding of what kinds of things happen on a golf course to get the right reading.
ENRAGED COW INJURES FARMER WITH AXE
A classic PP-attachment ambiguity: VP or NP modifier?
PLANE TOO CLOSE TO GROUND, CRASH PROBE TOLD
Actually there's no ambiguity here: pragmatically, a symptom is cited as a cause. One could also say that there's an element of tautology here.
MINERS REFUSE TO WORK AFTER DEATH
Alternative presuppositions lead to a deep ambiguity here: an explicit meaning representation would have to clarify whose death was being mentioned.
JUVENILE COURT TO TRY SHOOTING DEFENDANT
This is a case of polysemy (try) coupled with the ambiguity of the V-ing +N sequence, which can either be a modifier + noun or a verb + direct object.
STOLEN PAINTING FOUND BY TREE
The grammatical function of the PP is ambiguous between true locative and deep subject (of passive).
TWO SOVIET SHIPS COLLIDE, ONE DIES
Anaphoric reference ambiguity: normally a pronoun like one would refer to the nearest explicitly mentioned noun, here ship, rather than the implied noun sailor or passenger. An alternative analysis could describe it as category ambiguity, numeric quantifier vs. pronoun.
2 SISTERS REUNITED AFTER 18 YEARS IN CHECKOUT COUNTER
PP-attachment ambiguity: agaian, VP or NP modifier?
KILLER SENTENCED TO DIE FOR SECOND TIME IN 10 YEARS
Attachment ambiguity for adverbial clause which can attach to either of two verbs.
NEVER WITHHOLD HERPES INFECTION FROM LOVED ONE
Ambiguity results from the polysemy of withhold in its literal meaning against the metaphorical extension 'withhold information about'.
DRUNKEN DRIVERS PAID $1000 IN '84
Homonymy of the simple past tense and the past participle lead to alternative active or passive interpretations.
WAR DIMS HOPE FOR PEACE
The humour is in the tautology; but notice that there is also an ambiguity if you can imagine that a pacifist is for some reason known as a war dim.
IF STRIKE ISN'T SETTLED QUICKLY, IT MAY LAST A WHILE
COLD WAVE LINKED TO TEMPERATURES
MAN IS FATALLY SLAIN
ENFIELD COUPLE SLAIN; POLICE SUSPECT HOMICIDE
All the above are simply cases of tautology, except in the last case, which isn't so odd if you know that homicide is not the only way in which people can get slain.
END TO FREE SCHOOL LOOMS
Noun-verb ambiguity of looms.