Life As We Know It: July 1, 2013

     The newspaper headline caught my eye: “Grandmother of 8 Makes Hole in One.” I am happy to report that the other seven children were unharmed. One of my hobbies is collecting newspaper headlines that sometimes convey an unintended second meaning. There’s even a name for them: crash blossoms.

     The term originated with a group called Testy Copy Editors (a redundancy, I know).

     Somebody in the group shared a headline he had seen that said “Violinist Linked to JAL Crash Blossoms.” The story related the growing professional success of a young Japanese musician whose father had been killed in a plane crash.

     The group quickly embraced the term “crash blossoms” as a handy label for headlines that have an accidental and usually humorous second interpretation.

     First, a word in defense of my Blade colleagues, testy or otherwise, who are charged with the task of putting a headline on an often lengthy and complex story. Usually they nail it, summarizing in eight or 10 words what the author of the piece – me, for example – might have failed to convey in 800.

     But it’s because they almost always get it right that the few instances where they don’t are invariably funny and worth remembering, even if they can force the victimized copy editor to contemplate falling on his double-edged sword – figuratively of course.

     Here are a few crash blossoms from my collection.

     “Reagan Wins on Budget But More Lies Ahead.”  This was the Great Communicator?

     “Shot Off Woman’s Leg Saves Par.”  Gruesome for sure, but first place was at stake.

     “Gator Attacks Puzzle Experts.”  That’s it. I’m swearing off Sudoku.

     “Miners Refuse to Work After Death.”  Hey, who can blame ’em?

     Occasionally a headline can overstate the obvious

     “War Dims Hopes for Peace.”

     Or a word can be either a verb or an adjective:

     “Court to try shooting defendant.”  Cruel and unusual punishment, yes, but at least it’s justice swiftly applied.

     Sometimes misplaced modifiers are the culprit.

     “Meat head fights hike in minimum pay.”  C’mon, you meat head. That’s just not right.

     “Two Sisters Reunited After 18 Years at Checkout Counter.”  And Kroger has the nerve to call it the Express Lane.

     “Tuna Biting Off Washington Coast.”  I guess we shouldn’t be alarmed until Seattle disappears.

     “Firebombing Jury Takes Weekend Off.”  No need to cancel that picnic at the park after all.

     “Farmer Bill Dies in House.”  I didn’t even know he was sick.

     “Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case.”  Sure it’ll be cramped, but he’s got his hip flask.

     “Blind Woman Gets New Kidney From Dad She Hasn’t Seen in Years.”  I’d say things are looking up.

     And once in a while, the culprit is that eternal nemesis, the typographical error:

     “Police Union To Seek Blinding Arbitration.”  

     Here’s a good one a friend sent me: “One-armed man applauds kindness of strangers.” I just hope he wasn’t a paper-hanger.

     How about this one: “Teen pregnancy drops off after age 25.” As a matter of fact, I would guess it drops off to about zero.