A headline today reads UBS Says Rogue Trader Lost Firm $2 Billion In Unauthorized Dealing.

Apparently, the meaning is that because of this trader, UBS lost $2 Billion.

Yet, the headline somehow sounds strange in my ears, but that could of course be because I am no native English speaker. I realize that it's okay to say Someone gives someone something, so maybe this is the same construct (Someone loses someone something).

Anyway, is this headline correct and proper English?

  • That headline is correct, but I can't explain why. +1 for nice question though! – Thursagen Sep 16 '11 at 9:36
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    It’s a bit sloppy, as the language used in headlines often is. A rogue trader’s unauthorized dealing cost his firm $2 billion would be better English. – Brian M. Scott Sep 16 '11 at 9:41
  • It's proper 'newspaper style' all right. – Philoto Sep 16 '11 at 10:06
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    It's actually quite verbose for a headline. I would have gone with Rogue Trader Loses UBS $2 Billion – z7sg Ѫ Sep 16 '11 at 12:01
  • @Thursagen: Your comment looks odd now. – Daniel Sep 16 '11 at 15:04

"Lost" has an unusual meaning in this case, one which is not used very often:

to cause the loss of: The delay lost the battle for them.

This is backed up by the FreeDictionary:

  1. To cause or result in the loss of: Failure to reply to the advertisement lost her the job.

The headline is definitely correct.

Now, due to Barrie's comment below, it seems that the confusion might have originated from the fact that there is an ellipsis or elimination of an article or preposition:

....Lost $2 billion for firm
... Lost the firm $2 billion ....

But due to the fact that headlines are meant to be short, punchy, and at the same time need to contain all the necessary information, sometimes words need to be eliminated, and this may sometimes cause confusion, as in this case. But otherwise this headline is fine.

  • Is it not rather the use of ‘firm’ that is unusual? We have to rewrite the headline in our minds as ‘UBS Says Rogue Trader Lost $2 Billion For Firm In Unauthorized Dealing’. That might not be so easy for a non-native speaker to do. – Barrie England Sep 16 '11 at 10:00

The headline is short for something like, "The Rogue Trader Lost $2 Billion FOR the Firm."

The trader lost $2 billion. But not on his own behalf (he didn't have the money).

He lost the $2 billion as an AGENT for the firm (which did have that kind of money).

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