Why the sudden need?

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And what sort of factory? That's what Stephen B. wondered when he read the Guardian headline, "German factory orders slide unexpectedly".


  1. richardelguru said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 5:50 am

    Maybe the CEO wan't expecting the grandkids to be left with him for the weekend?

  2. Christo said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 6:06 am

    No one EVER expects German factories to order a slide.

  3. Jim said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 6:14 am

    And even in the correct parsing, is it that German factories are receiving fewer orders, or that factories in general are receiving fewer orders from Germany?

  4. Ken Miner said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 7:23 am

    It sorta reminds me of the message you get in Netflix: "an unexpected error has occurred" – as if there were expected ones.

  5. Brett said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 7:51 am

    @Jim: Since "factory orders" is a standard measure in economics, I automatically knew which it was supposed to be.

    When I first saw the image in the post, my eye was too drawn to the incomplete headline about "Ferdinand… ong' Marcos" to pay much attention to the actual ambiguity in the factory orders hed.

  6. Adrian Morgan said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 8:04 am

    Did we all think of the same kind of slide? I thought of a microscope slide.

  7. Ellen K. said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 8:25 am

    I pictured a photographic slide. One you put in a slide projector to see your photos on a big screen.

  8. Jen said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 8:38 am

    I pictured all the orders going flying about the slippery floor – a bit like an episode of Bertha. It took a bit of thought to get the right misreading.

  9. Andrew Bay said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 8:46 am

    Somebody needs to make a comic with about 6 or 9 panels all with the same caption at the bottom that reads "German factory orders slide unexpectedly." using all of the various interpretations to populate the panels.

    I, for one, wonder what the factory told the slide to do.

  10. Tom S. Fox said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 9:46 am

    And what sort of factory?

    A factory that produces Germans. Duh!

  11. Robot Therapist said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 10:46 am

    Ah, newspaper headlines, keeping words like "amid" alive!

    I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone say "amid".

  12. Neal Goldfarb said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 10:54 am

    People just aren't ordering as many factories as they used to.

  13. hector said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 2:19 pm

    This is a business page at the Guardian. "Factory orders" is a standard business term. If you know this, it's hard not to read the headline properly.

  14. Rubrick said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 2:30 pm

    I'm fascinated by how Crash Blossom posts always yield a handful of comments of the "I was able to parse this fine, you must be idiots" variety. I'm not sure if such people misunderstand the nature of ambiguity (yes, some people will get it right, some will be misled, likely most would show cognitive delay if it were measured), or merely the purpose of this blog.

  15. Y said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 2:36 pm

    "High Court suspended amid allegations" is good too. I'm imagining judges in a cage lowered by a crane, amid the snapping jaws of fierce allegations.

  16. AB said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 3:28 pm

    Why were all these factories issuing orders in German in the first place?

  17. peterv said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 4:01 pm

    AB: Because German is so great for issuing orders! The language, what with all those verb-ending sentences it has, purpose-designed for imperatives seems.

  18. richard said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 5:25 pm

    @Robot Therapist, a friend of mine who used to work in the journalism business, said that by the end of the day everyone in the newsroom was speaking headlinese–unconsciously, he claimed. He said he didn't even notice until one day when the big story was the assassination of a diplomat, and at the bar after work all anyone could talk about was "that slain envoy."

  19. maidhc said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 5:45 pm

    Ken Miner: With some errors you can recognize what the problem is. Other times all you can tell is that some kind of problem occurred, but you don't know what. But you still need to produce some message.

  20. D.O. said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 5:53 pm

    I guess this is the case of niche language aka professional slang aka terms of art. "Factory orders" is just a fixed phrase in economic statistics.

  21. Xmun said,

    October 6, 2015 @ 8:15 pm


    The correct word order in German would be:

    The language . . . seems for imperatives purpose-designed.

    The verb would go at the end in a subordinate clause, e.g.:

    German is a language that purpose-designed for imperatives seems.

  22. bratschegirl said,

    October 7, 2015 @ 1:40 am

    @Y: Just be sure those fierce allegations aren't actually crocodiles. They hate that.

  23. TheStrawMan said,

    October 7, 2015 @ 4:20 am

    I was able to parse this just fine; y'all must be trippin'

    It did, however, take me almost a full minute to "get" the amusing crash blossom interpretation.

    But when I did, I LOL'ed

  24. Peter said,

    October 7, 2015 @ 7:29 am

    Possibly they were having a party to celebrate the discovery of the waffles that the British had left on the Falklands.

  25. January First-of-May said,

    October 8, 2015 @ 6:37 am

    @Y: I thought that the High Court suspended (i.e. forbade) discussion on negative effects of amids.

    On the main question, I was thinking about the sort of slide that kids climb on. I suppose that would indeed be an unexpected thing to be installed in a factory, German or otherwise (but plausible if many of the workers brought their kids to work).

  26. January First-of-May said,

    October 9, 2015 @ 8:14 am

    Incidentally, I found another nigh-unintelligible version of the same (sort of) news story: "German Factory Orders Log Surprise Fall In February".

  27. Mark P said,

    October 9, 2015 @ 7:52 pm

    While driving through Utah I saw a multistory factory with huge slides from the upper stories to the ground. The factory produced rocket motors. I presume the slides were for emergency evacuations, which could be quite urgent in some cases.

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