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Those Pesky Homographs

John Burns is a brilliant reporter and writer at the N.Y. Times, currently reporting from Iraq. Today he’s got the lead front-page article headlined “Second Hanging Also Went Awry, Iraq Tape Shows … One of 2 Men Decapitated.”

The man in question is Saddam Hussein’s half-brother. The second paragraph begins like this: “An official video played to a small group of Iraqi and Western reporters more than 13 hours after the hanging showed Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, former head of Mr. Hussein’s secret police, standing nervously on the trapdoor …”

Perhaps it is because I am reading this article at 5:45 a.m., still a bit groggy, but in an article about decapitation, the image of a former head … standing nervously on the trapdoor made me think there might have been a better way to describe the man.

FWIW, in a lengthy interview on 60 Minutes two nights ago, George Bush said that he watched Saddam Hussein’s execution on the Internet, but not the entire thing.