Monday, March 03, 2008

Lost in Editing?

‘Lost to Singapore?’ (headline, Sunday Times Lifestyle, 2 March 2008).

Singapore is losing local talent, as exemplified by the three Singaporeans featured on the front cover, who have built successful careers abroad.

Rather perplexingly, however, the headline says the very opposite: that they have been lost to Singapore (i.e. they left their home countries and went/came to Singapore).

It should have read ‘Singapore’s loss’ or ‘Loss to Singapore’ (i.e. the people featured represent a loss to Singapore).

How odd that our ST editors didn’t spot the mistake — even in inch-high letters. Perhaps they didn’t know the difference between lost (adjective) and loss (noun).

8 comments:

jun said...

could it be something like we have lost the book -> the book is lost to us.

hence singapore has lost these people -> these people are lost to singapore.

sounds fine to me. :)

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Hmm, 'the book is lost to us' doesn't sound quite right. Oxford dictionary doesn't list this as a possibility either.

I'm convinced 'lost to Singapore' can only have one meaning, i.e. the people have been lost, and the recipient is Singapore (hence the preposition 'to').

jun said...

dictionary.com does list it as a possibility:

lost to,
a. no longer belonging to.
b. no longer possible or open to: The opportunity was lost to him.
c. insensible to: lost to all sense of duty.

so lost to singapore, probably a) and a bit of b).

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Ah, I see, thanks. Yes, (b) is the closest, but the reason the ST headline doesn't work (maybe it's just me) is there isn't any preliminary material (unlike 'the opportunity was lost to him') -- it is at best ambiguous, and I'd think the more natural interpretation would be that it is lost, to Singapore.

Many thanks for pointing this out.

jun said...

yeah i think it's just you :P haha it felt fine to me when i saw it, since headlines have to be short and snazzy. so yeah. you're welcome. :)

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Hmm, a friend I pointed that out to said he didn't spot it, but agreed wholeheartedly with me that I was right when I explained it. Maybe I need to see a shrink ;--)

Anonymous said...

I have seen this being used for dramatic effect before like as in,"We never appreciated her when she was around.Alas, she is now lost to us"

- Nazir, NIE trainee

The Grammar Terrorist said...

'I have seen this being used for dramatic effect before like as in,"We never appreciated her when she was around.Alas, she is now lost to us"'

Hi, Nazir -- yes, indeed, but I think my main problem with the headline is that there wasn't more material, just three words, 'Lost to Singapore'. The example you've given above, I wouldn't have misinterpreted because there is sufficient context.