I’m usually pretty good at parsing headlines, but this one (via Geoff Pullum at the Log; it’s from a U.K. free paper called the Metro) completely baffled me:
starved to death
Meditate on that for a while. (No, the answer isn’t that an -s was left off “Dentist.”) It makes perfect sense, but you have to know the story behind it, which isn’t easy to guess. Answer below the cut.
In Geoff’s words:
The solution is that dentist fear is a compound noun (meaning “fear of dentists”) that is being used as an attributive modifier to another noun, girl. The only ungrammaticality (and it’s fine in the context of a headline) is the lack of a determiner on the resultant singular noun phrase. The verb of the clause is starved. The story is about a young girl who developed a pathological fear of dentists (hence she could be referred to in headlinese as the dentist fear girl) and refused to open her mouth at all after an operation to remove her milk teeth. She wouldn’t eat; the parents’ entreaties for medical help or advice went unheeded; and she died of malnutrition.
As he says, a sad story.