In my first-year poetry class, when introducing the idea of poetic ambiguity (rich ambiguity), I like to begin with a few examples of every-day ambiguity, in the form of so-called “crash blossoms“, those newspaper headlines that can go in two often amusing directions (e.g.: “Friends help murder victim’s family“).
This morning my #CapeCod Twitter stack brought this wonderful news: “Sandwich Police say drugs stashed in breakfast burrito”. And so it was:
The ambiguity in this case doesn’t come from the concision typical of headlinese, as in most crash blossoms, but rather from the already amusing location of the cocaine stash, which activates the other more common sense of “sandwich”, allowing a reanalysis of “Sandwich Police” as “sandwich police”, or even “The Sandwich Police”.
As it turns out, I’ve been making a version of this terrible little pun all my life, since as early as I can remember, our yearly drive past this sign would inevitably result in someone announcing the arrival of a “Mashed-pea Sandwich”:
Groans all around. There was even an invented back-story in the family that the sign had been changed at some point, from Mashpee/Sandwich to Sandwich/Mashpee, in order to prevent such derisive punning.