25 December 2010

Crash Blossoms

There's a good summary of the concept in this NYT column by Ben Zimmer. When language is compressed in newspaper or web headlines, ambiguity results, sometimes with bizarre or comic effect. Confused readers step back and reset. There's a long and delectable tradition of such occurrences: ask your favorite search engine, e.g., about "British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands".  I experienced this the other day, observing a BBC headline of "Web attacks plague rights sites", with surprise that there might be a significant number of web sites devoted to plague sufferers' rights and that they'd become likely attack targets by the Web as a whole.  The full story made the context clearer.

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