[Ads-l] WSJ: harder to catch the disease

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 16 15:04:09 UTC 2021

Dave Wilton wrote:
> Crash blossoms usually (always?) involve reanalysis of the sentence where a noun is read as a
> verb, or vice versa. So I don't think this is one. This is just confusion between two senses of the
> verb "to catch," 1) to be infected with a disease, and 2) to identify.
> This is just bad writing, the kind of thing that happens when you fire all your copy editors.

Thanks for your response, Dave. In a New York Times article about
"crash blossom" from 2010 Ben Zimmer mentioned "Red Tape Holds Up New
Bridge" which appeared in an anthology of ambiguous headlines
published by The Columbia Journalism Review.

The ambiguity for this headline is caused by two different senses of
"holds up". So I think there are examples of crash blossoms that do
not display noun-verb ambiguity. On the other hand, Ben states that
"Nouns that can be misconstrued as verbs and vice versa are, in fact,
the hallmarks of the crash blossom."

Here is a link to Ben's article.

Newspaper: New York Times
Title: On Language: Crash Blossoms
Author: Ben Zimmer
Date: Jan. 27, 2010


The Wiktionary definition for crash blossom is rather broad.

[Begin Wiktionary excerpt]
crash blossom (plural crash blossoms)
A sentence, often a news headline, that is subject to incorrect
interpretation due to syntactic and/or lexical ambiguity.
[End Wiktionary excerpt]


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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