Emily Cahn, "Sanchez Stumbles Prompt SoCal Angst", Roll Call 5/20/2015 — Linda Seebach writes "I lived in LA for a couple of years, and can readily believe that SoCal angst is unusually prompt to appear."
Archive for Crash blossoms
A headline writer is apparently economizing on punctuation: Nomaan Merchant, "Police: 9 dead in Texas shooting all members of biker gangs", MyFoxDetroit (AP).
Jen Chung, "CT High School Slut Shames Students Over "Inappropriate" Prom Dresses", Gothamist 5/12/2015:
Female students at a Connecticut High School are furious that dresses bought for this weekend's prom are being banned because they have exposed shoulders, backs, sides and legs. One mother—whose daughter had two dresses rejected—said, "They've suggested the girls wear T-shirts under their dresses. My daughter won't wear a T-shirt. She would be mortified."
Neil MacFarquar, "A Parade Hailing Russia’s World War II Dead and Marching Further From the West", NYT 5/7/2015.
This should be easy, given the parallelism "hailing … and marching", but parallelism isn't always enough.
"Crash blossoms" — those ambiguously phrased headlines that encourage absurd interpretations — are flourishing like never before. Here's a roundup of the latest specimens spotted in the wild.
1. "Matt Cassel trade a simple, cheap bandage for Bills QB problem" (CBS Sports, Mar. 4, 2015)
Attachment ambiguity strikes again! Originally the headline was "Screenwriter Graham Moore reveals he tried to commit suicide during 2015 Oscars acceptance speech for 'The Imitation Game'". Now it's "Screenwriter Graham Moore reveals during Oscars acceptance speech for 'The Imitation Game' that he tried to commit suicide at 16", Daily News 2/23/2015. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Prepositional phrase attachment is one of the hardest things for English parsers to get right: if I hit a man with a bag of groceries, was that bag of groceries the instrument of my action, or was it just something the guy was carrying when I attacked him?
And PP-attachment ambiguity is especially common in English-language headlines, since omitted forms of to be add additional ambiguous attachment points.
For example, Alex Barker, "EU reforms to break up big banks at risk", Financial Times 1/29/2015: Are the reforms at risk, or are the reforms on track to break up banks that are at risk?
Jose Pagliery and Frank Pallotta, "Hacked news companies tweet Chinese fired on U.S. warship", CNN 1/16/2015:
[h/t Dmitri Ostrovsky]
With respect to to a headline in the Washington Post yesterday (Jason Samenow, "Weather Service forecasting computers to become 10 times more powerful in 2015", Washington Post 1/5/2015), Eugene Volokh writes:
My first thought: Come now – how would computers generally become 10 times more powerful just in the span of a year? (In the span of five years, according to Moore’s law, maybe).
My second thought: Since when is the Weather Service forecasting trends in computing technology?
My third thought, shamefully after I clicked on the link: Ah, it’s the Service’s computers used for forecasting that are going to be upgraded to top-of-the-line models.
Jonathan Falk writes:
I rarely get an email where my first two interpretations of the subject line [in this case, "AYA Burns Supper at Mory's"] are wrong. The first, obvious interpretation is that the Association of Yale Alumni for some reason was cooking the meal at Mory’s and they weren’t very good at it. My second interpretation was that they had a charity supper supporting burn victims. Neither seemed plausible, forcing me to actually read the email, which may have been what they had in mind all along.
Andy Bodle, "Sub ire as hacks slash word length: getting the skinny on thinnernyms", The Guardian 12/4/2014 ("Headlinese is a useful little language – but it shouldn’t creep into the rest of the story. If front pages baffle you, read on for my jargon-busting thinnernymicon"):
A stranger arriving in this land, English diploma clutched tightly, might be forgiven, on catching sight of a newspaper stand, for throwing up her hands and turning homewards. “Kendra hubby’s rage at ‘sex pest’ Jake”. “Panic room bed tax victim taken to court”. “Ox aye the Roo!”
The orthography is recognisably English, but the order is all wrong; the tenses work differently, and some of the words – well, they’re in the dictionary, but that’s about the only place you’ll find them. This is because headlines don’t use English at all, but a language all their own.