Offensive crash blossom

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Steve Kleinedler spotted this crash blossom on the home page of the New York Times today: "G.O.P. Critics of Immigration Bill Plan Offensive." Screenshotted for posterity:

The article itself has the less interesting headline, "G.O.P. Opponents Plan Immigration Bill Attack."

Here's a syntax tree for the intended reading:

In the crash-blossomy reading, plan switches from verb to noun and offensive from noun to adjective (with an implied copula are, which would be deleted in headlinese):

One's opinion of the lawmakers in question will, of course, prime the crash-blossom pump.


  1. Toma said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

    Casting my vote for the second tree. Based on headline writers usually omitting be verbs, of course, not for political reasons.

  2. Zubon said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

    Switch "bill" to a verb and "plan" to a noun. The immigration critics billed the plan as being offensive. Proper headlinese, however, might dictate putting "offensive" in quotes for that blossom reading.

  3. Ed said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

    hunh, i had no problem with parsing this one. of course, you could go down the garden path other places too, closing off the subject NP after "immigration" and interpreting "bill" as a verb.

  4. Faldone said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

    I think I'm with Ed, here; plan doesn't attach easily to immigration bill. Then, with bill as a verb I'd more likely see it as the opponents of immigration sending an invoice to the plan offensive.

  5. RF said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

    Alternately, you could go with a Brit-style noun pileup, making the entire headline a noun phrase concerning members of the GOP who are critics of the offensive for the immigration bill plan.

  6. KevinM said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

    Peasants Revolting

  7. Steve said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

    Another ambiguity, which is less amusing but which did actually throw me off, is whether "GOP critics" refers to a group who are criticizing the GOP, or members if the GOP who are critics of something else (here, the Immigration Bill). I hadn't heard of this bill before, and had no idea whose immigration bill this was, so it seemed equally plausible that the dems had submitted it and that GOP would be critical of it (and, thus, the GOP would plan an offensive against it) or that the GOP had proposed it (and critics of the GOP would, thus, plan an offensive against it).

  8. uebergeek said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

    I did initially parse this in the crash-blossomy way, and it took me a few beats to figure out that "plan" was intended to be a verb. Now that Faldone points out the awkwardness of an "immigration bill plan," I suspect my reading was based on my expectation for political bureaucracy. I.e., "the immigration bill plan" follows on the heels of the recent "debate on whether to debate" the gun control bill, etc.

  9. Nathan said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 2:22 pm

    Steve, I think having "of" right after "critics" prevents me from getting your reading.

  10. Paul said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

    Why would it be "screenshotted" rather than "screenshot" or "screen shot"?

  11. Ken Brown said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

    So "New riders of the purple sage" tells us that the new riders of the purple are wiser than the old ones?

  12. MonkeyBoy said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

    While not a real crash blossom, I enjoyed how the noun "call" has 2 senses in this headline I just saw:

    West Homestead police lieutenant responds to call for theft of wife's political signs

  13. Jeff Carney said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

    I noticed my 16-year-old daughter using screen-shotted the other day. Google turns up hits in the usual centers of pop culture.

  14. Ellen K. said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 5:14 pm

    Why would it be "screenshotted" rather than "screenshot" or "screen shot"?

    Because it's a verbing of the noun "screenshot", in past tense, not a past tense of a verb "screenshoot".

    Similar to how we (generally) say "he flied out to right field".

  15. Aaron Toivo said,

    May 7, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

    When I first read it I got all three parsings at once, and the blossoming confusion crashed my brain. These things are well-named!

    As mentioned by Zubon, the third reading is where the plan is billed "offensive" by critics of immigration.

  16. Roger Lustig said,

    May 8, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

    A classic version, as recorded in CJR's anthology of clippings, Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim is "Mondale's Offensive Looks Hard to Beat"–the headline next to a picture of the candidate.

  17. Robert said,

    May 9, 2013 @ 12:40 am

    It could also be read as "GOP (says) critics of immigration bill plan (are) offensive" which would suggest it was a GOP bill under discussion.

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