Risk Coffin Crash Blossom

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Nick Edwards, "Analysis: China currency move nails hard landing risk coffin", Reuters 4/14/2012.

Screen shot from the Reuters site:

And another from Yahoo News:

Several readers sent this one in.


  1. The Ridger said,

    April 15, 2012 @ 7:03 am

    Cripes. I had to read the lede to get the meaning – and they had plenty of room to put in a "shut" or reword slightly.

  2. Jon Weinberg said,

    April 15, 2012 @ 7:52 am

    I want to believe this was done on a bet or a dare (although the fact that it came from the combined efforts of Mr. Edwards and the headline writer gives me pause).

  3. Conor Quinn said,

    April 15, 2012 @ 8:41 am

    Ironically enough, reads more like Classical Chinese than anything else. Which has long seemed to me to be a worthy comparison, i.e. English headlinese vs. Classical Chinese. I'm a big fan of Bring Your Own Syntax-type parties like this. So do you Language-Log folks have some nice references on research into headlinese?

    Also, I once took a class on Mandarin headlinese. Suffice to say, it was intense.

  4. Alacritas said,

    April 15, 2012 @ 9:53 am

    @ Conor Quinn: an entire class, just on Mandarin headlinese? Wow, that's so specific!

  5. Henning Makholm said,

    April 15, 2012 @ 9:53 am

    Even after reading the lede, I cannot make out what this is supposed to mean.

    Is the world economy now ready to be lowered into the grave (with a hard landing at the bottom)? Or is it the fear of economic trouble that are being nailed into a coffin?

    The text tells me that there is now no doubt whether it is one or the other. But I'm still left ignorant of which it actually is.

  6. sarang said,

    April 15, 2012 @ 9:59 am

    Maybe the problem is that "nailing a coffin shut" is — to my ear — a pretty nonstandard way of saying "being/putting the last nail in a coffin." But then I don't read the financial news.

  7. michael farris said,

    April 15, 2012 @ 10:00 am

    I understood the syntax of the headline just fine the first time through and partly understood the metaphor behind it.

    What I couldn't understand (until the third paragraph) was whether the writer thought there was going to be a hard economic landing.

    That is, I couldn't tell whether it was the hard landing or the Chinese economy that was in the metaphorical coffin.

  8. Ben said,

    April 15, 2012 @ 10:17 am

    I saw this headline on Google News and immediately thought, I bet someone has posted about this on Language Log.

  9. Sniffnoy said,

    April 15, 2012 @ 10:49 am

    It seems odd to me to even mention the metaphorical coffin in the headline at all. This reads almost like it was machine-generated.

  10. Emily said,

    April 15, 2012 @ 12:24 pm

    At first read I took "nails" to mean "strikes head-on," (meaning that the currency changes had successfully struck down a risk, which seems to be more or less correct) but couldn't figure out what the word "coffin" was doing on the end. The connection to "final nail in the coffin" and similar expressions just didn't click; "nailing a coffin" strikes me as unidiomatic.

  11. Glenn Bingham said,

    April 15, 2012 @ 4:01 pm

    I was all set to send this in with the comment that after reading the article, I still don't know what it means.

  12. Ginger Yellow said,

    April 16, 2012 @ 5:42 am

    It's terrible writing, exacerbated by bad headlinese. That first paragraph should never have got past the editors, and the headline looks to be a direct result of a sub not trying to compress a very confused lead into a headline.

  13. Jason said,

    April 16, 2012 @ 9:09 am

    I agree with Ginger Yellow. I have no clue what this is supposed to mean. The lede should be taken out and shot and the headline is pythonesque. What kind of coffin is it? A hard landing risk coffin. What's being done to it? It's being nailed shut by a China currency move.

    I think the writer was trying to say that the latest currency depreciation has settled any doubt that China's economy is heading for a hard landing. That Reuters writer better have been drunk or high or very, very tired, because if they write like this every day, a new line of employment beckons.

  14. xyzzyva said,

    April 16, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

    Conor was making a pun.

  15. rvman said,

    April 16, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

    My first read of the headline was that this was about this summer's Olympics – the Chinese gymnastics team had developed a new dismount from some apparatus called the "currency". This move is so difficult that even getting it right (called 'nailing the landing' or dismount) risks death.

  16. Andrew Filer said,

    April 16, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

    It took me far too many tries to parse this one correctly, though it finally clicked when I read it as "China currency move nails hard-landing-risk coffin".

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