I saw the following information in an on-line news item. A newspaper headline called out: “Violinist linked to JAL crash blossoms.”
The sentence was intended to indicate that a certain musician’s career had flourished after a painful time following the plane crash which took the life of her father. The odd and unintended combination of “crash blossoms” actually confuses the reader and appears to be nonsense. The example quickly mutated into a term, which was soon picked up by John McIntyre, a retired copy editor (Baltimore Sun) and teacher at Loyola of Maryland since 1995.
The Columbia Journalism Review has been on the “crash-blossom” case a long time, inspiring laughter with such gems as “Lawmen from Mexico Barbecue Guests,” “Genetic Engineering Splits Scientists,” “Milk Drinkers Turn to Powder”, “War Dims Hopes for Peace,” “Greeks Fine Hookers,” “Prostitutes Appeal to Pope,” and “Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant.”
It just got me thinking how many “in- house” expressions there are which people use, rarely comprehending how confusing or even nonsense-like they might sound to others.
For example, consider “Have Faith.” If faith is a gift, how can anyone be commanded to have it? Or, how about the gambit, “Brother – are you saved?” What response is being sought by such a quiz? – Approval by some pop-up judge? Is the question comprehensible?
Even favorite Bible verses, quoted out of context, can sound meaningless to all but the people who are familiar with a lot more than a few words and phrases. The famous placard held up before dozens of football fans on the 50- yard line (and effectively blocking their view just when the best action on the field is finally nearest to them!) either says “John 3:16” or prints it out, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” I admire the zeal of the attempted evangelist, but I am curious as to how many people, reading that for a first time at a ball game, would ever find meaning in it. Does not such brevity of word most effectively inspire derision instead of heart-felt persuasion?
I like the one-liner attributed to St. Francis of Assisi – “Preach the Gospel Always: When Necessary, Use Words.” Living a moral and decent life declares more effectively the spirit of true faith than many words.
It was Paul the apostle who preferred to speak five words intelligently than thousands of words in strange “tongues”. [I Cor. 14:19] And St. Augustine advised, “Love God and do what you please.” [It’s a catchy way of using the Latin language structure to attract attention, surprise, and insight: the words say literally “Love God and do what pleases you.” With a proper spirit, the things that please are far from the libertine’s “Do whatever you want!”]
As we project the care and concern of faith, we challenge ourselves on the effectiveness of our transmission techniques, lest we fall into so many crash blossoms! Speak the love of God and lead the neighbor to give God the praise; lead them into the very heart of thanksgiving!