Monday, July 5, 2010

Crash Blossoms

A crash blossom is an ambiguous headline: a line of text in large type (usually in a newspaper or magazine) that conveys (often unintentionally) more than one meaning. Also known as a two-faced head. See the blog -

Crash Blossom.

"Last August [2009], . . . in the Testy Copy Editors online discussion forum . . ., Mike O’Connell, an American editor based in Sapporo, Japan, spotted the headline 'Violinist Linked to JAL Crash Blossoms' and wondered, 'What’s a crash blossom?' (The article, from the newspaper Japan Today, described the successful musical career of Diana Yukawa, whose father died in a 1985 Japan Airlines plane crash.) Another participant in the forum, Dan Bloom, suggested that 'crash blossoms' could be used as a label for such infelicitous headlines that encourage alternate readings, and news of the neologism quickly spread."

(Ben Zimmer, "Crash Blossoms." The New York Times Magazine, Jan. 31, 2010)

Some notable examples -

"Kids Make Nutritious Snacks"
"Miners Refuse to Work After Death"
"Teacher Strikes Idle Kids"
"US President Wins on Budget, but More Lies Ahead"
"Stolen Painting Found by Tree"
"Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge"
"Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half"
"Include Your Children When Baking Cookies"

("Sample Ambiguous Headlines" in Using Newspapers in the Classroom, by Paul Sanderson. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999)

"Doctor Testifies in Horse Suit"
"Stud Tires Out"
"American Ships Head to Libya"
"Enraged Cow Injures Farmer with Ax"

Readers are invited to send in more examples.

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