What is the grammatical structure of the following sentence?

I was more junior there, and the magazine has earned itself a sterling reputation, which generally keeps it above the ethical fray that Gawker is not only subjected to, but often courts.

(source : http://gawker.com/how-guilty-should-i-feel-1785565192)

I'm not sure if the "courts" is used as a "noun" in legal background or a "verb".

If it is a verb, what's the meaning of it in the sentence? I am not a native English speaker, so I would deeply appreciate if you can enlarge my knowledge of grammar terminology by analyzing the last part of the sentence.

  • It's a verb. It means, roughly, pursues . The sentence suggests that Gawker pursues the "ethical fray."
    – Robusto
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 4:25
  • If it is the case, why gawker would do that? Isn't fray like an argument which has generally negative connotation? Kinda weird they would deliberately "pursue" that argument imo. Can it have other meaning?
    – user214859
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 5:04
  • A fray is a fight. Some people like fighting.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 5:39

2 Answers 2


It's a verb.

To court: 1.(somewhat old-fashioned) to act in a way that shows that you want or intend to get married, 2. to give a lot of attention and praise to (someone) in order to get approval

To this I'd add a third definition, "to actively seek to bring something (or more of something) into your life". For example:

He was a thrill-seeker: he jumped from airplanes, climbed sheer cliffs, swam with sharks. He courted danger and adventure.

The meaning of the article is that Gawker, despite calling itself a "news source", actually pursued ethically questionable stories, because those were what the public wanted to read, which brought in revenue. More than this, though, they fanned the flames of the controversy in a way that is itself ethically questionable for journalists.

  • Hey Andrew, thx for your answer but I am still not convinced because it seems like your explanation doesn't fit in that well in the context imo when I read the entire article multiple times. Google says court has several other meanings and one of it is "go to great lengths to win (favorable attention)" -pursue is a synonym- and another is "risk incurring (misfortune) because of the way it behaves" -risk is a synonym- and in this case I think the latter is more likely what it means. I would suggest you to read the whole article and would love to listen to your opinion.
    – user214859
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 5:39
  • @user214859 Actually I did read the article. There's a couple of other English expressions that go with this. One is "You reap what you sow" -- an agricultural metaphor that means you have to deal with the consequences of your actions. The other is "You made your bed, now you have to lie in it". The article says that Gawker created an environment where journalists ignored their own ethics, while at the same time reporting on the ethical scandals of other journalists.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 16:46
  • @user214859 as a result, the journalists who worked for Gawker frequently felt conflicted, especially if they had worked for more reputable news organizations in the past (like the New Yorker, which as she says has a sterling reputation). To put it another way, Gawker not only went after "juicy" stories, it tried to make them even jucier where it could, by reporting on the most sensational and lurid elements. In this way Gawker courted controversy.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 16:51
  • @user214859 All this, in the end, was Gawker's own undoing. Its pursuit of extreme content led it to publish private video that it had no right to publish, and the resulting lawsuit drove it out of business. But anyway, I edited my answer to include a third definition of "court" which is really more a refinement of the second definition.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 14, 2017 at 16:53

In your example


means to attract. One can

court attention (attract attention)
court misfortune (attract misfortune)
court a lover (attract a lover)

What is being attracted may be either good or bad.

As this headline shows (also a nice pun)

Courting attention - how we fell in love with Wimbledon

The implication in your example is that Gawker is subjected to ethical controversy and by its practices attracts (courts) that kind of attention.

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