This may be one of the most confusing headlines ever written:
Life bans reduced for shoplifting boxers
Go ahead, read it through a few times until you think you’ve got it. Now, which meaning did you choose?
- After shoplifting some boxer shorts, two or more people have been banned from being alive
- After shoplifting some boxer shorts, two or more people had been banned from shopping for the rest of their lives, but now that ban is reduced to a shorter period of time
- Two or more people who fight in a boxing ring (boxers) have shoplifted something, and consequently were banned from boxing for the rest of their lives, but now that ban has been reduced to a shorter period of time
If you guessed #3, you’re right!
I understand the need for economy of language in newspaper headlines, but once in a while you just have to throw a verb or two in there.