Tesseract Space Stone

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Penny Arcade for 6/14/2021:

The link was sent in by Marinus F., who wrote:

I thought this webcomic may interest you, because it combines two common LLog themes: language in the comics, and crash blossoms. This one is a comic about crash blossoms, with the punchline being that SEO and algorithmic authorship may make crash blossoms somehow even less transparent, as they try and put every keyword into the title.

I'm sufficiently out of it, MCU-wise, that I have no idea what the alternative parses are…



  1. Seth said,

    June 15, 2021 @ 10:11 am

    Not a "real" parsing, but a hypothetical meaningful one could be:

    Could Loki finally (in the) MCU (use the) Marvel Infinity Stones (to make a) Tesseract (composed of) Space Stone (material).

  2. Dan Romer said,

    June 15, 2021 @ 10:38 am

    Thanks, Seth! Now I just need to learn what a crash blossom is!

  3. Marinus Ferreira said,

    June 15, 2021 @ 11:23 am

    @Dan Romer,

    In addition to the large amoung of examples collected under the 'crash blossoms' tag, you can see the original coining of the term in this old post: https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1693

    The idea is that a crash blossom is a rarefied kind of garden path sentence you get in headlines because of how compressed they are. A garden path sentence in turn is where there is a nonsensical reading of the sentence which you are lead to by an ambiguity in the sentence. This may not be the best example (I say, even after I suggested it), because there may well not be a correct way to parse it: in Seth's heroic attempt (and undoubtedly the one meant by the comic) the main verb has been elided completely. But it certainly is misleading! Reading the sentence, I find myself trying to find out how to use 'MCU' as a verb, even though I know perfectly well that (the) MCU is a proper noun.

  4. Philip Taylor said,

    June 15, 2021 @ 1:36 pm

    I suppose that it will come as no surprise to learn that at least one regular reader of Language Log had absolutely no idea what "MCU" was, and conjectured (wrongly, as it turned out) that it was some variant of "MUD" (="multi-user dungeons and dragons") which he had been forced to research when he encountered that acronym for the first time not so long ago …

  5. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 15, 2021 @ 1:54 pm

    Dan Romer: https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1693

    I figured out "MCU", but I had to look up "SEO".

  6. Lance Nathan said,

    June 15, 2021 @ 3:57 pm

    Is it clear that this is a crash blossom, i.e. a string of apparent nouns that can be read as a headline, as opposed to an unparseable string of nouns whose only purpose is to be picked up by search engines?

  7. Terry K. said,

    June 15, 2021 @ 6:16 pm

    I parse this as MCU being used as a verb, meaning make what follows a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). After Googling (and finding a helpful Wikipedia page), it does read as comprehensible headline, though one guilty of aiming for search engine optimization (SEO). (MCU and SEO I also needed to Google.)

  8. Michael Watts said,

    June 16, 2021 @ 5:37 am

    Is it clear that this is a crash blossom, i.e. a string of apparent nouns that can be read as a headline, as opposed to an unparseable string of nouns whose only purpose is to be picked up by search engines?

    The reverse; it is clear that this is a string of nouns with no internal structure.

  9. Terry K. said,

    June 16, 2021 @ 10:07 am

    Perhaps I should, to go with my last comment, put my interpretation:

    Could the show "Loki" finally make Marvel's Space Stone, which is housed in the Tesseract and is one of the Infinity Stones, a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

    Some definite SEO redundancy, but parseable.

  10. Mark F said,

    June 16, 2021 @ 12:08 pm

    People are confusing two bits of headline terminology used on LL. A crash blossom is a headline that at first seems to have one interpretation, until you realize that makes no sense and (if you're lucky) figure out the correct one. From a post linked above, here is eponymous example:

    Violinist linked to JAL crash blossoms

    (If this seems a bit opaque, and it should, the story is about a young violinist whose career has prospered since the death of her father in a Japan Airlines crash in 1985.)

    The headline here is not that, since there is no interpretation that jumps out.

    On the other hand, a noun pile is a sequence of nouns that is hard to make any kind of sense of unless you know headlinese. This headline is mostly a noun pile except that it does have some non-nouns.

    I agree with those who say it's not actually meant to have a coherent interpretation at all.

  11. Terry K. said,

    June 16, 2021 @ 3:27 pm

    If it's not meant to have a coherant interpretation, then how come it does?

  12. Kris Rhodes said,

    June 17, 2021 @ 2:59 pm

    @Terry K., Creativity.

  13. Terry Hunt said,

    June 17, 2021 @ 5:49 pm

    @ Terry K. — The human mind can find (or create) meaning(s) emerging from ambiguous or random 'information', hence multiple, equally valid interpretations of deliberately obscure poetry, and the phenomenon of pareidolia.

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