Because the father, Ling Jihua, refused to admit that the dead body he was shown in the morgue was his son's and there was a massive government coverup that lasted for months, the famous noun pile headline did not actually occur until September 5, 2012 (in the Metro Herald):
Once the true identity of the deceased driver was revealed, plus the fact that the two girls who were with him in the car at the time of the crash were Tibetans with high Party and Buddhist establishment pedigrees, the crash took on huge importance in the lead-up to the political transition that took place in November at the 18th National Party Congress.
Inasmuch as I have known about this story inside out since September, I was intimately familiar with each element of the headline, and so — although it sounded rather odd — I wasn't the least bit slowed down by the clumsy grammatical construction.
I came here to post basically the same thing MrFnortner just said, only in the form of an observation I found interesting: that just about *any* three consecutive words in that "sentence" would make a great name for a rock band. It would indeed appear that any two consecutive words in the sentence would make a decent band name too.
Peter Nelson: I was not familiar with the news story in question and I can say that, to me, it didn't really sound like much of anything. "Death crash"? What the hell is that? If you just want to clarify that the driver didn't survive the crash, then write "fatal crash". "Death crash" sounds like it must mean something else. And why is "Ferrari" way over on the opposite end from "crash"? It's like they want to be misunderstood.
Had I been forced to make a bet before I read the article, I would have seriously considered the possibility that it was about someone named China Ferrari.
@dw: From what I can tell of the etymology (with my limited resources here), "sex orgy" seems not to be a retronym, because the word "orgy" has always had other senses associated with it; the ancient Greek term appears to have meant "secret rite".
Having worked in the biz, I'm 99% certain that this headline was created for Google's eyes. All the filler of language is gone (articles and auxiliary verbs and pronouns and silly things like that) and google-loved words are added for no reason (sex and death, but especially sex).
How it ended up in the print edition is unknown, but there was some headline writer somewhere who had this to embed in a url or in metadata or tags. And these words were probably going to be made readable-by-humans before being put into the headline (the headline is the most important part for Google).
And before you criticize this practice: Google's algorithm is pretty democratic and editors know what they're doing to get clicks. They're just giving the people what they want to see.
I always think of these "noun pile" headlines as a quintessentially British thing, but clearly the Irish do it too! These sorts of headlines far pre-date Google, though. They are the ultimate pared-down, eye-grabbing tabloid headline, which every headline writer strives for. They often end with the words "slur", "fury" or "shame". The pool of nouns to be chosen from is really rather small.
I was not familiar with this story but, being a Brit, and being used to these sorts of things, I had no trouble whatsoever in parsing the intended meaning on first reading.
@dw, @John Shutt: In an ordinary sentence, sex orgy might well be unnecessarily redundant. But in a noun pile it’s rather less so, since orgy is easily modified by preceding nouns, and so e.g. China Ferrari orgy death crash pushes one rather too much towards a reading involving a Ferrari orgy, and resultant confusion.
@John Shutt, @Peter: Yeah, and "China" could mean "porcelain".
There's only one non-sexual sense in which I ever see "orgy" in the newspapers; that is in phrases such as "orgy of destruction", in which its use is obviously metaphorical. Are you seriously suggesting that the headline "China Ferrari orgy death crash" would have left you uncertain as to whether sex was involved?
@Brett, @Peter: There's the classic "One witness told the commissioners that she had seen sexual intercourse taking place between two parked cars in from of her house." (The Press, Atlantic City, 14 June 1979, cited in "Squad helps dog bite victim")
@dw: Actually, yes, "China Ferrari orgy" does sound peculiar enough that I'd do a double-take on it. I'd probably laugh at it, too; it comes out that peculiar.
@dw: Not to give your point short shrift: In my experience, "an orgy of x" is a pretty standard construction that can be used for more-or-less arbitrary x. It's less common to encounter it in the form "x orgy", but then, that's the nature of the noun pile tactic.