Tuesday 22 December 2020

syntactic ambiguity

Popularly known as crash blossoms (though named after an incongruously tragic air disaster from an equally amphibolic test headline), such constructions in a telegraphic economy of copy that often omits copulas (to be, feels, gets, seems and words that serve similar functions in languages that are less reliant on agglutination) can result in (usually) unintended vagaries that can lead to humorous or dark interpretations. Some classic—albeit possibly apocryphal or used as homage—examples include “Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge” or “Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim” with plenty of more examples at the link above. The paraprosdokian, anticlimactic comedy of Groucho Marx also elicits a similar response. “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”