Missing man

From Emily Rizzo in sunny Florida, an especially nice error from the website of television station WWSB. It started with this report:

Manatee County, Fla. — The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is looking for a missing and endangered elderly man.

According to reports, around 7 a.m. on December 27, Wendell L. Dain got into his 2007 light green Toyota Rav4 and drove away in an unknown direction of travel.

Family members believe that he took a gun with him and they believe that he is on his way to Nevada. They were planning on moving there to be closer to family.

and then the resolution in an update on December 27th:

Missing Manatee County found in Arizona

According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Dain has been located in Phoenix, Arizona, and is doing okay.

The notable point is the update headline. And what’s so nice is that a head about a missing man is missing the word man.

I suggest that the word man went missing because of the preceding occurrence of man in Manatee — that is, as a suppression of the repeated element in Manatee County Man. This makes the omission a kind of haplology at a distance.

Ordinary haplology is the simplification of a sequence of identical or near-identical material. Two typical examples from my speech error files:

INTENDED: When I was in college, which I went to to continue my athletic career…
SPOKEN: When I was in college, which I went to continue my athletic career…
(from a distinguished linguist)

INTENDED: Stephanie Martin will be in in a few minutes.
SPOKEN: Stephanie Martin will be in a few minutes.
(from an NPR announcer)

(Similar simplifications are made in printed material.)

In the headline, the repeated material is not adjacent, but in the heat of on-line headline writing the first occurrence could easily suppress the production of the second. Yielding a head in which a whole Florida county apparently went missing (and then turned up in Arizona).

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