Ghost fishing lobster

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An especially poetical crash blossom, which conjures up a possible surrealist horror movie: "Ghost fishing lobster traps target of study", CBC News, 7/30/2010.

(I mean, of course, the movie about the lobster fishing for ghosts, not the one about the ghost fishing for lobster.)

The screenshot:


  1. Rubrick said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 7:54 am

    That's marvelous. I would like to commission a cartoon series about Gus the Ghost Fishing Lobster. Sort of Scooby Doo meets Spongebob.

  2. Tim Silverman said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 8:20 am

    Oh, I assumed "ghost fishing" was parallel to "fly fishing", so that the lobster is using ghosts as bait, in its attempt to attract targets of study so that it can trap them.

    [(myl) This might be even better. The movie could start with a psychic investigator trying to track down ghost sightings in the Gulf of Maine, who doesn't realize the sinister truth until it's almost too late.]

  3. Chris Waigl said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 8:55 am

    Wonderful. I'd have preferred the film about the ghost fishing for lobster, but then I have a weak spot for ghosts.

  4. Debbie said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 8:58 am

    I relish my ignorance – I have no idea what was intended by the headline nor am I interested enough to find out.

  5. SeanH said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 9:48 am

    I wonder what an unscientific poll of readers would reveal, if they were asked where they had cut off the noun phrase in this and similar crash blossoms (here, I cut it off at "ghost fishing lobster", although I didn't get anything particularly mystical from it*, and only ran into trouble when I tried to understand how a lobster would study something). I'd be interested to see the results for 'Missing women police find remains' (which I initially parsed correctly, being used to British headlines) and 'BP caps ruptured well' (which I parsed as the caps rupturing the well).

    *in a world that contains the vampire squid from hell, an animal called the "ghost fishing lobster" isn't wildly implausible.

  6. SeanH said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 9:49 am

    "Ghost fishing" – which from the article seems to mean a stray trap catching lobsters uselessly – is a delightful term.

  7. John Lawler said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 10:15 am

    Interesting to note that both this blossom and the one Ben posted a few hours ago (Lou Gehrig's victim: Kill me for my organs) derive their punch from the use of unlikely first NP combinations. (Unlikely for headlines, anyway; like blinking arrows pointing to to multiple garden paths)

  8. JimG said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 11:22 am

    Ghost fishing is the term used for lost or abandoned fishing gear that continues to catch fish. …

  9. unekdoud said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 12:33 pm

    Too many possibilities… At first I saw the one with a lobster going ghost fishing, trapping a target of study. Then I saw the one with the ghost going fishing for lobsters. Then I got the intended reading, after much struggle. Ghost fishing itself is not a difficult term, once you understand that it is actually a noun phrase.
    A quick Google search shows a variety of ways used to break this garden path, using either hyphenation or quotes to group the terms together.

  10. latinist said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 5:23 pm

    I actually had yet a different, still wrong, understanding of "ghost fishing lobster": a fishing lobster who had died and returned as a spirit.

  11. Craig said,

    July 31, 2010 @ 11:53 pm

    This reminds me of the German "Geisterfahrer" (familiar for "Falschfahrer"), which is someone who drives the wrong way on a road; it feels a bit macabre, but accurate.

  12. Thor Lawrence said,

    August 1, 2010 @ 8:16 am

    These were copied from a Web site, so veracity is not guaranteed:
    Actual Headlines From Newspapers
    1. Lawyer Says Client is Not That Guilty
    (Just how guilty was he?)
    2. Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
    (That will save the cost of imprisoning him!)
    3. Legislator Wants Tougher Death Penalty
    (I say, give it to him.)
    4. Man Jumps Off Bridge. Neither Jumper Nor Body Found
    5. After Detour to California Shuttle Returns to Earth
    (Well, this confirms what many of us have suspected about California.)
    6. Woman Improving After Fatal Crash
    (Modern science is amazing isn't it?)
    7. Deer Kill 17,328
    (Okay, who's selling arms to the deer?)
    8. Old School Pillars Are Replaced by Alumni
    (But can they hold up the roof?)

  13. Colin said,

    August 1, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

    Perhaps somewhat ambitiously, I got "ghost fishing lobster trap", i.e. a supernatural fishing-lobster-trap.

    Of course, that would require an animal named a "fishing lobster". And I'm not sure how much use an ethereal trap would be, whatever you were trying to catch…

  14. seriously said,

    August 1, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

    I am very familiar with the term 'ghost fishing' (used to teach marine biology) and initially couldn't see what the problem was. Is there a distinction between crash blossoms that make perfect sense to the author (and some readers–perhaps these are based on jargon) and those that are just writing gone off the rails?

  15. Daniel Barkalow said,

    August 1, 2010 @ 10:49 pm

    I thought the movie would be about the poor experimental subject ("target of study") trapped by the ghost fishing lobster. Can the scientists rescue their tagged marine animal before it dies in the abandoned clutches of an evil lobster?

  16. Kate G said,

    August 2, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

    I think the poor headline writers were actually trying to help. They could have just said Ghost lobster traps, but they used the "well known" phrase ghost fishing even though most people don't consider lobstering to be fishing. No doubt the intention was to make the headline more readable.

  17. ajay said,

    August 6, 2010 @ 6:05 am

    Neither Jumper Nor Body Found

    Obviously he was wearing a jumper and it came off as he plummetted.

  18. Chad said,

    March 6, 2014 @ 12:08 pm

    Ah, yeah, that one is a tricky one. Even after putting all of the words in the correct groupings, I still came up with the wrong interpretation–namely, I thought that the traps were for a type of lobster that ghost fished, rather than that it was people using traps to ghost fish lobsters. I suppose it stems from not knowing what "ghost fishing" is.

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