Archive for Crash blossoms


Roger Lustig, commenting the headline "Paul Ryan calls on Maxine Waters to apologize" (Sunlen Serfaty and Katherine Sullivan,CNN 6/26/2018):

At first I thought he'd gone over to her house and said he was sorry.

If only.

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Fake degree claims dog

Garden-path headline of the day — Stephen Burgen, "Fake degree claims dog prominent Spanish politicians", The Guardian 4/10/2018. By the usual rules of U.K. headlinese, it seem that the first four words should reference a dog that somehow played a key role in some fake degree claims. But no.

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What is Trump demanding now?

Here's a nice crash blossom (that is, a difficult-to-parse ambiguous headline) noted on Twitter by The Economist's Lane Greene, with credit to his colleague James Waddell. In The Financial Times, a promotion of an article inside (a "reefer" in newspaper-speak) is headlined: "Trump demands dog 'Dreamers' deal."

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Drink-drive killer girlfriend did what?

A tip from Twitter:

The headline: "Man who urinated on woman at Drake concert before drink-drive killer girlfriend started brawl over avoids jail", The Mirror 9/11/2017:

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Chad Childers, "Decapitated Members Arrested on Alleged Kidnapping Charges", Loudwire 9/10/2017. But will they be tried separately?

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Headline abuse of the month

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First Amendment in peril in Princeton?

Yesterday, Roger Lustig sent in a snapshot of the front page of the Princeton Packet, with the observation that

Maybe free speech, even the political kind, is in greater danger than we thought!

The online version of the headline is much longer, and not ambiguous in the same way: Philip Sean Curran, "PRINCETON: Police chief resists renewed calls to stop random license plate checks, focus more on speeding", The Princeton Packet 9/28/2016.


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Attachment ambiguity of the day

The latest message in the unending stream of spam sent my way by PayPal bears the Subject line "A great deal to get away from". My immediate response was that I don't need any help in getting away from, thank you very much. But of course they're not offering to help me avoid — rather they're trying to hook me up with for a "get away".

Update — Following a suggestion in the comments, I looked again for a way to opt out of spam in my paypal account settings, but failed to find any. But inspecting the (very) fine print at the bottom of the latest note from the paypal spam bears, I did find a link that I was able to follow to reach a page that claimed I could use it to unsubscribe. So we'll see…


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Non-traditional Olympic equipment

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Gestures of death

Shaun King, "North Carolina police kill unarmed deaf man using sign language", New York Daily News 8/22/2016:

This is as bad as it gets.

A North Carolina state trooper shot and killed 29-year-old Daniel Harris — who was not only unarmed, but deaf — just feet from his home, over a speeding violation. According to early reports from neighbors who witnessed the shooting this past Thursday night, Harris was shot and killed "almost immediately" after exiting his vehicle.

He appeared to be trying to communicate with the officer via sign language.

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Jones and Palin on noun-pile headlines

From "Dr. Fegg's Encyclopedia of All World Knowledge", by Terry Jones and Michael Palin:

[h/t Don Porges]

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Sleeping jaguars run furiously

Roger Lustig sends in this trending-on-facebook headline:

Police Find Jaguars Running Back Asleep Inside Car Sinking Into a Pond, Reports Say

Roger traces the first few steps down the garden path:

–Police find jaguars
–Police find jaguars running
–Police find jaguars running back (from where?)
–Police find jaguars running back asleep (talk about "second nature"!)

For me, "running back" is tightly enough bound as a compound word that I wouldn't have noticed the other possibilities without Roger's guidance. But it's special when the intended meaning is almost as weird as the crash blossom.

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Change orders pressure

An impressively ambiguous headline: Benjamin Kabak, "Second Ave. change orders pressure December completion", 6/27/2016.

[h/t Anschel Schaffer-Cohen]

Update — as Anschel Schaffer-Cohen observed in sending this in, the ambiguity is likely to send many readers down a garden path and catch them up short at some point around "December". Those who are all too familiar with "change orders" are likely to avoid this problem.

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