Say what?

Ben Zimmer devotes his “On Language” column in the New York Times Magazine ( to “Crash blossoms.” That’s a new term for “double-take headlines” — the sort immortalized in the Columbia Journalism Review’s “Lower Case” feature (“Squad helps dog bite victim” and “Red tape holds up bridge” are classics of this genre).

That prompted me to recall some of the crash blossoms I have seen in decades of working for newspapers, reading newspapers and reading about newspapers, in the Lower Case and other vehicles:

“Here’s one way to lick Doberman’s leg sores”

“Teenage prostitution problem is mounting”

“Third Reich field goal lifts Hawkeyes”

“War dims hopes for peace”

Feel free to share your favorites.

Slightly off topic, but still amusing and worth remembering, I recall a Dave Barry column written for a trade publication years ago — a “guide” to aspiring journalists — in which Barry said that headlines should sound as though Tonto spoke them (“Reagan to Congress: Give me tax cut”) or completely unintelligible (“House unit airs solons’ parley plea”). Seriously, we would all benefit from headlines that are not so cryptic as to be problematic — and from much-needed changes in modern newspaper design that would allow for more space to write something decent.


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