Sunday, February 14, 2010

dang me, dang me, they ought to take a rope...

I'm as sorry about Alexander McQueen's death as anyone who has never met the guy and doesn't really know much about him.
But something like that does set you thinking: why is there a difference between hanged and hung.
Both refer to a similar physical act of suspension, right?
Hanged, I looked it up just to make sure, refers to the execution of a death sentence. Then, I don't know when, suicides got tacked on. At least that's how it appears in the dictionaries I've seen. Is it because so many suicidal hangings occurred in jail cells? Or because it is a death sentence to oneself?
Either way, saying "hung" instead of "hanged" seems - nowadays - to be a victimless grammatical crime. I mean, the person whom it most affects is not around to complain. It's like those people who tell me not to call a spider an insect, "It's an arachnid!"
I'll bet spiders don't give a flying filament either way. They probably call themselves a collection of clicks that means "the tribe" or "winners" or some such.
Back to hanging. Sure, it could offend those who passed the death sentence by suspension, but those days are gone, we have more sophisticated methods now.
It makes me wonder, though, having kids, how that word came about.
I'm guessing in the days of the Wild West the lynch-mob justices were as grammatically savvy as Coco when he was three, and when they came home after a hard day of justice-dispensing and were asked what they did, they answered,
"Oh, we hangded a cattle thief."

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