Sunday, July 22, 2018

Crash Blossoms



I’m giving a luncheon presentation to a social group called the Noontiders this coming week in Glen Arbor, Michigan. It will be the usual informative-humorous mix that puts a strain on no one, and this time I will include a short section on crash blossoms.

Ben Zimmer reported on the name and the occasion for it nearly a decade ago, giving credit to Dan Bloom for coming up with a memorable name. Essentially, crash blossoms are ambiguous headlines. By their nature, headlines are compressed communications; they rely on short words with multiple meanings capable of being used as multiple parts of speech. It is not unusual to have to read a headline several times to extract its exact meaning. In fact, that is a telling sign that you are in the presence of a crash blossom.

The name crash blossom came from a specific headline spotted in Sapporo, Japan:
“Violinist Linked to JAL Crash Blossoms.”  Multiple readers puzzled, What the heck are crash blossoms? Here’s how to parse the headline. Diana Yukawa, whose father died in a 1985 Japan Airlines plane crash, was enjoying a successful musical career. Blossoms is a verb in this headline, not a noun: Violinist (who was linked to a JAL crash) blossoms.

As you go through the examples that follow, stay mentally flexible. Quickly sift through multiple meanings, test for different parts of speech, and fill in missing prepositions, verbs, auxiliary verbs, etc.

Police Recruit Dead                                  
Police (adj.) Recruit (n.) is Dead (pred. adj.)

Eighth Army Push Bottles Up Germans    
Push = n., not v.    Bottles up = v., not n.

British Left Waffles on Falklands               
Left = n., not v.  Waffles = v., not n. (hesitates)

Skeletons halt work on clinic
Bishops agree sex abuse rules
Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim
Lawmen from Mexico Barbecue Guests
Genetic Engineering Splits Scientists
Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case
Two Found Dead In Cemetery
Gator Attacks Puzzle Experts
3 dead Detroit marathoners said to be healthy
Giant Waves Down Queen Mary’s Funnel
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge
Editor Protests Paper Cut
McDonald’s Fries the Holy Grail for Potato Farmers

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find some podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.

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