Crash blossom of the week

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"Chinese cooking fat heads for Holland", 3/27/2012.

Neil Bardhan, who sent in the link, writes: "Needless to say, I was disappointed that the Chinese people are not boiling chubby noggins for my adopted countrymen."

I figured the story was about how Dutch frites would soon be fried in imported Chinese lard or soybean oil; but no, it's about airplane fuel:

That shipment won't power very many KLM planes. The internet tells me that a 747 holds 183,380 liters of fuel; the specific gravity of cooking oils is about 0.92; 183380*0.92 = about 168710 kg or 168.7 metric tonnes. So 20 metric tonnes will be a bit less than 1/8 of a 747's fuel capacity.


  1. Sidney Wood said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 7:34 am

    The headline is ambiguous in other ways:

    Chinese COOKing fat heads for Holland
    Chinese cooking FAT heads for Holland

  2. Nick Lamb said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 7:49 am

    Waste cooking oil, once re-processed for this purpose, is significantly more expensive than regular jet fuel that comes ultimately from oil wells. A friend of mine works for a company re-processing cooking oil as diesel and they pay a surprising amount of money for the "waste" oil – enough that it's targeted by thieves. So it's very unlikely that KLM will fill even a small plane up with this stuff. More likely they'll put say 10% in with 90% regular fuel and call the affected flights "greener" off the back of that change. I'd guess they will use it on routes where they need a marketing edge, particularly within mainland Europe where high speed railways are perceived as more environmentally friendly and fast enough to be practical for many trips.

  3. Jon Weinberg said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 8:08 am

    I'm wondering about the effect of typeface and graphic design on crash blossoms. This headline, for example, yields the correct result if you process the words in the order in which they appear (left to right); you only get the wrong result if the six words hit your eye as a unit. Is the latter more likely with the phrase as presented by (alone on the line, 24 pt, sans-serif) than if it appeared as a sentence in a block of text?

  4. Morten Jonsson said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 8:25 am

    @Jon Weinberg

    If you read left to right, you can still go wrong. The common phrase "Chinese cooking" comes before "cooking fat," and it's possible to break the headline down as (Chinese cooking) (fat heads) (for Holland). Meaning, I suppose, that certain fat heads (fatheads) associated with Chinese cooking (maybe they have a cooking show) are in favor of Holland (perhaps in a soccer match).

  5. Coby Lubliner said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 9:15 am

    Since the page has an "IN DUTCH" button, I wondered what the Dutch version of the headline might be, but of the dozens of headlines listed on the Dutch page, not one had the word "Chinees" or "China".

  6. marie-lucie said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 9:36 am

    When I tried the IN DUTCH button, all it did was enlarge the English page, and a second try reduced it back.

  7. Eugene van der Pijll said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 9:42 am

    @Coby: I can't find the Dutch article at either, but here it is at the site of the Nederlands Dagblad. Of course, there it has a less exciting headline: "Chinees frituurvet gebruikt door KLM", Chinese frying fat used by KLM. (The ND is possibly the Netherlands' least frivolous newspaper. Their website is closed on sundays.)

    In Dutch, frying fat ("frituurvet") is one word, so there's no ambiguity.

  8. Eugene van der Pijll said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 9:46 am

    I have to correct my previous post: ND's site does not close on sundays; I was confusing it with another small Dutch newspaper.

  9. Keith said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 10:51 am

    You were not supposed to click over the part of the image on this page that says "In Dutch"… all that this does is embiggen the image.

    If you follow the link (first line of the post) you get to the article on the website.

    But there, the "In Dutch" link is not to the Dutch language version of this article, it simply takes you to the front page of the Dutch section of the site.

    Searching for "SkyNRG", the joint venture named in the article, finds only this English language article.

    I suspect that there is not a Dutch language version at all.

    Indeed, SkyNRG's own website seems to be entirely in English.


  10. Geoff Bolton said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 11:45 am

    What numbers will the fat heads be on the Dutch take away menus? Will they come with or without rice?

  11. Eric P Smith said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 11:58 am

    It’s a wonderful Crash Blossom.

    What most misled myself as a British reader is that in Britain a headline is very rarely in the form of a sentence. A British paper wouldn’t have “Oil Heads for Holland”: it would have “Oil Bound for Holland” or “Oil Heading for Holland” or “Oil on Way to Holland”. The last way I should expect to read heads is as a finite verb.

  12. michael farris said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

    Just ran across another serious crash blossom.

    Report slams denied ambulance call death

    Details (tragic) at:

  13. John Roth said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

    What I find interesting about this one is that it doesn't resolve. My brain insists on shifting back and forth between the two readings, sort of like the two faces – vase optical illusion.

  14. Elijah said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

    Lexical differences affect these too. "Cooking fat" as a term for "cooking oil" always seemed distinctly UK, at least to me. This means I parsed the sentence as [Chinese [cooking [fat heads]]]… as well, rather than [Chinese [cooking fat] heads]… .

  15. Ellen K. said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

    My experience is quite different from John Roth's (a couple posts above). In my case, I was not able to get any other parsing of the headline other than the correct one until after I'd given up and clicked into the post.

    I did get the alternative reading of "Chinese cooking fat heads", but I just could not (initially) sensibly connect "for Holland" to that. Cannibalism (cooking fat heads) was not combining in my brain with one country doing something for another.

  16. Ellen K. said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 5:47 pm

    P.S. Plus, I think once I got the directional meaning of "heading for Holland" that interfered with getting any other reading of "for Holland".

  17. Andrew Baker said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 10:39 pm

    My confusion was deepened by my familiarty with the large-format—and largely sports-related—wall graphics available at (I'm not affiliated with that site in any way.)

  18. Brett said,

    March 27, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

    @Elijah: To me (an American), it's true that "cooking fat" generally does not refer to cooking oil. However, I do a fair amount of cooking with solid fats, and those I would refer to as "cooking fat" generically.

  19. Nathan Smith said,

    March 31, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

    A good one from a couple weeks back: "SW Missouri Tourist Mecca of Branson Turns 100" [1] – which I took to mean a person named "Mecca of Branson" was celebrating a 100th birthday. ;-)


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