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Googling 'Clint Eastwood' I found this, taken from a reputable newspaper.

Ex-husband of Clint Eastwood's girlfriend Christina Sandera reveals her criminal past

The interpretation is that an ex-husband of Christina Sandera dished the dirt on her.

Does this modification make sense?

Ex-husband of Clint Eastwood's girlfriend Christina Sandera reveals his criminal past

which changes the focus from Christina Sandera to the ex-husband, but I don't suppose is newspaper style.

Is there a concept for 'multi-person sentences', where the pronouns can point in several directions? In this case I think the pronouns are vague.

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    Why do you say that? Do you have evidence she doesn't have a criminal past? :) Seriously, Clint Eastwood's current girlfriend used to be married in the past. Her ex-husband is now doing the dirty and revealing her secrets...
    – Marv Mills
    Mar 6, 2015 at 13:39
  • Note that this is 'headlinese', which compresses syntax, sometimes very confusingly. Mar 6, 2015 at 13:56
  • 'If' Christina was a lesbian, and it was her ex-lover spilling the beans, then the sentence would be ambivalent?
    – JMP
    Mar 6, 2015 at 13:58
  • Are you implying that lesbians habitually make an exception to date Clint Eastwood?
    – Marv Mills
    Mar 6, 2015 at 14:05
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    @Jon Mark Perry: Suppose we replace all gender-implying names and relationships (and use gender/plurality-neutral their instead of her)? It seems to me Ex-spouse of Pat's partner Kim reveals their criminal past is seriously ambiguous. Not only might Kim be either Pat's partner or the ex-spouse thereof. S/he might be spilling the beans about his/her own personal past, his/her shared past (with Pat, the ex-spouse, or both), or even Pat's murky past with Kim's ex-spouse. My version of the statement isn't "nonsense", but in isolation it's not exactly "informative". Mar 6, 2015 at 15:10

1 Answer 1

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Ex-husband of (Clint Eastwood's girlfriend Christina Sandera) reveals her criminal past

"Clint Eastwood's girlfriend Christina Sandera" is a noun phrase referring to a person. Presumably the celebrity reference is there to justify the inclusion of pure gossip in a newspaper. We can simplify:

(Ex-husband of Christina Sandera) reveals her criminal past

Another noun phrase referring to a person.

This kind of lengthy phrasing is not unusual in gossip where someone is trying to explain the extremely indirect route by which they've been told something. "Your aunty Margaret's cousin's ex-wife's brother-in-law ..." etc.

Edit: comments have been discussing how "her" is critical to disambiguating this. Consider:

Ex-husband of Clint Eastwood's girlfriend Christina Sandera reveals their criminal past

There isn't any way to tell unambiguously whether this refers to Christina, her ex-husband, Clint Eastwood, or all of them together in the plural. You could even wonder whether we're talking about Clint Eastwood's ex-husband.

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  • It's talking about the criminal past of the current girlfriend of Clint Eastwood's ex-husband, surely.
    – Ryan Gell
    Mar 6, 2015 at 18:17
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    @RyanGell I didn't see where it was mentioned that her ex-husband's name was Shirley. So she was a lesbian!
    – Jim Mack
    Mar 6, 2015 at 18:55

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