Breast shields

This morning the lead story in the Seattle Times' local news section begins:

“Seattle City Council legislation would make it illegal to require breast-feeding women to cover up or to suggest they move to another location.”

The headline above the story?

“City considers law to shield breast-feeding mothers.”

Writers often forget the literal meaning of metaphorical language they use, resulting in linguistic clashes like this.

Evidently after the paper went to press someone noticed, because the online version of the story has this revised headline:

“Seattle considers law to protect breast-feeding mothers.”

It’s easy to see why the headline-writer chose “shield” rather than ”protect.” Headline-writers are always looking for the shortest, punchiest words. In this case the type size of the print headline would have had to be smaller to fit in “protect,” or the headline would have had to wrap around awkwardly and wastefully to a short third line containing only the word “mothers.”

Fortunately, digital media are more flexible.

The on-line version

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