04 February 2010

Crash Blossoms

These headlines, from several long-lost sources, have been stored on my hard drive for years.  The term "crash blossoms" was introduced at Language Log last fall, and mentioned in the New York Times Magazine last week. 

Some of these depend on noun/verb equivalents, others on misplaced modifiers, etc.  All can be called "infelicitously worded" headlines.  I think many or most are contrived rather than historically real, but there are still quite a few enjoyable ones.  I've boldfaced some of my favorites:

Blind Bishop Appointed To See
L.A. Voters Approve Urban Renewal by Landslide
Patient At Death's Door - Doctors Pull Him Through
Stadium Air Conditioning Fails - Fans Protest
Queen Mary Having Bottom Scraped
Fund Set Up for Beating Victim's Kin
Never Withhold Herpes Infection From Loved One
Autos Killing 110 a Day - Let's Resolve to Do Better
Blind Woman Gets New Kidney from Dad She Hasn't Seen in Years
Flaming Toilet Seat Causes Evacuation at High School
Defendants Speech Ends in Long Sentence
Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
Stiff Opposition Expected to Casketless Funeral Plan
Collegians are Turning to Vegetables
Quarter of a Million Chinese Live on Water
Farmer Bill Dies in House
Eye Drops off Shelf
Reagan Wins on Budget, But More Lies Ahead
Miners Refuse to Work after Death
Two Sisters Reunited after 18 Years in Checkout Counter
New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
Deaf College Opens Doors to Hearing
Prosecutor Releases Probe into Undersheriff
Old School Pillars are Replaced by Alumni
Sex Education Delayed, Teachers Request Training
4-H Girls Win Prizes for Fat Calves
After Detour to California Shuttle Returns to Earth
Air Head Fired
Alcohol Frequently Seen In Cases (from the Colorado Daily News)
Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
Ban On Soliciting Dead in Trotwood
Bank Drive-in Window Blocked by Board
British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands
British Union Finds Dwarfs in Short Supply
Chef Throws His Heart into Helping Feed Needy (from the Louisville Courier Journal)
Child's Death Ruins Couple's Holiday
Deer Kill 17,328
Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case
Drunken Drivers Paid $1000 in `84
Enfields Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide
Enraged Cow Injures Farmer with Ax
Heat Wave Linked to Temperatures (from Daily Sun Post)
Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors (from the Providence Journal)
Include your Children When Baking Cookies
Infertility Unlikely To Be Passed On (from the Montgomery Advertiser)
Iraqi Head Seeks Arms
Jerk Injures Neck, Wins Award (from the Buffalo News)
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
Killer Sentenced to Die for Second Time in 10 Years (from the Post News)
Lack of Brains Hinders Research (from The Columbus Dispatch)
Lansing Residents Can Drop Off Trees
Lawyer Says Client is Not That Guilty
Lawmen from Mexico Barbecue Guests
Legislator Wants Tougher Death Penalty
Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half (From the Valley News)
Lung Cancer in Women Mushrooms
Man Jumps Off Bridge. Neither Jumper nor Body Found
Man Minus Ear Waives Hearing (from The Sun)
March Planned For Next August
Messiah Climaxes In Chorus Of Hallelujahs (The Anchorage, Alaska Times)
Milk Drinkers are Turning to Powder
New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
New Vaccine may Contain Rabies
Official: Only Rain Will Cure Drought (from The Herald-News, Westpost, Massachusetts)
Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over (from The Overland News)
Plane Too Close to Ground, Crash Probe Told
Prostitutes Appeal to Pope
Putting Mattress On Floor Prevents Fall From Bed (from the Associated Press)
Queen Mary Having Bottom Scraped (from The Times, in the U.K.)
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge
Safety Experts Say School Bus Passengers Should Be Belted
Shot Off Woman's Leg Helps Nicklaus to 66
Some Pieces of Rock Hudson Sold at Auction
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says
Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim
Steals Clock, Faces Time
Stolen Painting Found by Tree
Stud Tires Out
Study Finds Sex, Pregnancy Link (Cornell Daily Sun, December 7, 1995)
Survivor of Siamese Twins Joins Parents
Teenage Girls Often Have Babies Fathered by Men (The Sunday Oregonian)
Two Convicts Evade Noose, Jury Hung (Headline from the Oakland Tribune)
Two Soviet Ships Collide, One Dies
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
War Dims Hope for Peace
Woman Improving After Fatal Crash


  1. Hi i am the dan bloom in the Times story who coined the term crash
    blossoms or crash blooms, haha. i was JOKINg and the term took off.
    who knew? by the way, can you blog one day on this new coinage of
    mine, pro or con, dan bloom, Tufts 1971, in Taiwan forever now,
    marooned here. and love it here. I wrote THE SNAILPAPER STATEMENT
    today, and here's a preview:

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that while the Digital Age
    is upon us fast and furious, the print newspaper -- hereafter dubbed
    the "snailpaper" -- shall persevere as a good daily read, a
    fascinating look at the world around us and a valuable tool for
    understanding oped pundits and above the fold headlines. Sure, the
    dear snailpaper will also be seen as a useful tool

    for wrapping fish at the Fulton Fish Market or lining the bird cage in
    the den, but all kidding aside -- har! har! -- the daily snailpaper
    can hold its head high and be certain of its place in the culture.
    While news migrates in pixels and bytes to the Internet at an
    exponential rate, piling breaking story upon breaking story and
    turning everyone and his mother into a 24/7 news freak and RSS
    aggregator, the plodding snailpaper will nevertheless remain the
    bedrock of analysis and insight, from sea to shining sea, delivered at
    a snail's pace, yes, read at a snail's pace, yes, and absorbed, word
    for word -- on glorius printed paper! white newsprint reflecting inked
    letters! -- at a snail's pace, yes, as long as the Republic of Letters
    shall live."

    Full blast here:


  2. i can barely keep from laughing out loud at these!

  3. I see by the snailpapers in Britain that a major literary agent has signed up a top journo there to write an "on language" type of book about CRASH BLOSSOMS in the English-language media the world over, for publication in 2012 -- and advance of US$25,000 is being reported, the writer keeping low profile, book capitalizing on Ben Zimmer's recent New York Times "On Language" article about said "crash blossoms" and how they, er, bloomed, er, blossomed ..... THE BOOK SHOULD BE A WINNER! BRAVO!

    No, the book won't be Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim, and Other Flubs from the Nation's Press published by Columbia Journal in 1980, before the term "crash blossoms" bloomed, and no, it won't be titled Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge a 1987 tome by Gloria Cooper. The title of the Crash Blossoms book is still tentative but for sure CRASH BLOSSOMS will appear in the title. Any suggestions for what to call this book? I will forward them on to the literary agent, the editor and the author.

    The book also will not be titled Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language which Richard Lederer did in 1987.


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