The big titles of newspapers often distort the story they are supposed to help tell

This is the Grammar Guy column, a new weekly report written by Curtis HoneyCutt.

Have you attended the Blossom crash reunion tour this summer? If you missed it, it is because the Blossom crashes are not a real group. They sounded like a unique success group from the middle of the late 90s, whose number one song was called something like “Hey Monica” or “We put in the Cat Room”.

In fact, a crash flower is something that I find just as fun, even if I would have certainly lowered the windows and lit the radio for “Hey Monica”. A crash flower is a news title whose unclear formulation can lead to confused meanings. The term found its name in 2009 when an American publisher in Japan fell on a title that said “violinist linked to Jal Crash Blossoms”. The publisher, after reading the title, wondered what a “crash flower” was. In fact, it had to do with the violinist – whose father died in a plane crash in 1985 – advancing his musical career. The title was misleading.

Let’s look at some examples. An opinion column of the 2012 New York Times included a title which said “Israel Duck on human rights”. These were not ducks from Israel and their human rights reflections (as opposed to duck rights). In fact, the essay deplored that the Israeli government has shown a tendency to avoid getting involved in cases where foreign governments have committed human rights violations.

More of the grammar guy ::The horrors of “taboo” language

A report by the 2012 BBC has confused more than one when he led with the title “A found girl living in France kills a car”. To help you understand what really happened here, let’s look at a title of CNN on the same story: “shooting in France: a girl hid under corpses in a car”. What happened here is that a woman was found alive among the corpses inside a car linked to a series of murders in France.

Curtis HoneyCutt

The big ambiguous titles make me laugh out loud, but what would you expect from a former student in English? “Police cannot stop playing.” “A blind bishop named to see. “Children make nutritious snacks.” “Milk drinkers turn into powder.” “An ideal children’s stool for use in the garden.” “Squad helps the victim with a dog bite.” You cannot invent this kind of thing, and I can’t wait to see how my publisher will change the title that I initially written for this column.

More of the grammar guy:How to succeed in pretending the wisdom of words

With column widths and a limited space on a physical page, copy publishers are forced to truncate the titles of the items. Of course, this assumes that publishers always provide for titles and limits of number of words based on a physical journal, which, for the most part, is always the case. This is why we are perplexed when we read a title that says “Gator Attacks Puzzle Experts”. I recommend that you read beyond the titles so that you get the full story.

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