My intrepid spotter Ellen Magenheim wrote me a couple of weeks ago:
I noticed this morning in the Times that the headline above the story about Jeremy Lin’s latest performance was “Lin Tops Himself” and it briefly took my breath away since my mind went first to the British meaning (i.e., commit suicide) rather than the American meaning. As I thought about it, I wondered if the International Herald Tribune had a different headline–which it did–and then went back to the digital version of the NYT to find that it didn’t have the “Tops Himself” version either. Do you think none of this variation means anything or do you think maybe it dawned on someone about the unfortunate transatlantic ambiguity?
Sure enough, the article she was referring to–about a New York Knicks basketball player who for a time was a U.S. sporting sensation–had in the online N.Y. Times the headline “Lin Puts Knicks Back on Track.” At the very bottom of the article, in small gray print, are these words:
A version of this article appeared in print on February 20, 2012, on page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: Lin Tops Himself.
Often articles will have different headlines in print and online versions. But it’s amusing to think of some subeditor noting the unfortunate double meaning and stopping the presses to change it. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know. Unless, of course, the New York Times sports desk reads Not One-Off Britishisms and wouldn’t mind filling us in!