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Crash blossoms: Christmas edition

Posted by Jan Freeman, keep until April December 24, 2009 03:20 PM
Over at Headsup: The Blog a few days ago, fev found a headline from the Columbus Dispatch confusing:

Children's major player in tumor war

Having lived around Boston for decades, I had no trouble interpreting it; I'm sure there have been plenty of Globe headlines that referred to our Children's Hospital the same way. But it reminded me of a headline that did mystify me, several years ago, in one of the suburban weeklies:

Fate of Infant Jesus unclear

Wait, what? Isn't the fate of Infant Jesus one thing Christians of all stripes have pretty much agreed on, at least in its broad strokes?

But reading on, I found that Brookline had a Catholic church called Infant Jesus-St. Lawrence, one of the churches the archdiocese put on the list for closing in 2004, and one whose parishioners were putting up a fuss. If the church had been St. Paul's or St. Mary's, there wouldn't have been even a whisper of ambiguity. As it was, the paper produced one of my all-time favorite crash blossoms.
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Rules and realities of English usage from Boston Globe Ideas columnist Jan Freeman.
Jan Freeman, a former Boston Globe editor, has been writing the weekly column The Word since 1997. E-mail her at freeman@globe.com.
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