Archive for Crash blossoms

Oscar crash blossom

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.

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PP attachment ambiguity of the week

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Attachment ambiguity of the day

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?

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Tweet Chinese Fired

Jose Pagliery and Frank Pallotta, "Hacked news companies tweet Chinese fired on U.S. warship", CNN 1/16/2015:

[h/t Dmitri Ostrovsky]

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Missing woman remains found

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Computers to become 10 times more powerful in 2015

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.

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Double crash blossom

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.

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Thinnernymity

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.

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"Closed minds": open to interpretation?

CNN International recently sent out this tweet, linking to an interview with Stella McCartney:

The headline, which also appears on CNN's website, left some people perplexed. Was Ms. McCartney saying that her parents closed minds, or did they open closed minds?

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Oh no!

[h/t Amy de Buitléir]

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In case you get bored watching the paint dry…

R.B. writes:

I'm sorry that I can't provide info on where it came from originally (and for all I know, it's an oldie-but-goodie).  I found it posted in a discussion group on Ravelry, which is a social networking site for knitters, spinners, weavers, and others who work with fiber.

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Ebola fear stalks Bloomberg headlines

Bloomberg News is notorious for its bizarre, impenetrable headlines. There's a whole Tumblr blog devoted to strange Bloomberg headlines, and Quartz last year ran an article looking into "how Bloomberg headlines got to be so odd." Here's a new one, spotted by David Craig and Brett Wilson:


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Inches

The headline above this page at TheHill.com says Warren inches away from Obama. And Bob Ayers, who pointed it out to me, was surprised that anyone would judge Elizabeth Warren to be that close to Obama on the issues, since they disagree quite a bit. I agree with Bob: I also read the sentence that way (the wrong way) at first. But if you read the text you soon see that they must have meant inches as a 3rd-person-singular verb, not a plural noun, and that reverses the key entailment. She isn't a mere few inches away from the president; she is edging away from him.

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