round robin / hung vs. hanged

Discuss word origins and meanings.

round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu May 31, 2007 3:42 pm

In the posting Jack Robinson's barn [or Robin Hood's barn] the phrase ROUND ROBIN came up and was discussed and I am posting it here as the separate topic that it is.

ROUND ROBIN has an interesting history and even has some meanings that I wasn't aware of - so I'll share with you what I've found. For starters, here are the definitions provided by Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary:

1a) A written petition, memorial, or protest to which the signatures are affixed in a circle so as not to indicate who signed first. b) A statement signed by several persons [[frequently in alphabetical order to indicate that responsibility is shared]].<“A round robin signed by 15 senators, who declared that . . . they would not vote to convict the governor”—Hodding Carter”>. c) A letter sent in turn to the members of a group (as a college class) each of whom signs and forwards it sometimes after adding information or comment. <“A round robin letter to religious leaders in the community requesting that they pass the bibliography on to the next person on a list.”—American Library Association Bulletin>

2) A talk or meeting in which several participants share: round table. <“Got together on a round robin telephone hookup”—‘Newsweek’>

3) A tournament in which every contestant meets every other contestant in turn. [[originally U.S. and frequently attributive; today used to describe any event, most often a sporting event of some kind, where everyone takes a turn]].

4) Series, sequence, round. <“A round robin of price boosts”—‘Newsweek’> <“round robin of colorcasts for all the regular shows on the network”—‘Advertising Age’>
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Our archived Ask the Wordwizard (by Jonathon Green, author of Cassell's Dictionary of Slang) has addressed the origin of round robin, but I’ll add some further detail, borrowing from Word Detective (http://www.word-detective.com/back-m.html#robin), Facts on Filed Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, and Urdang’s Picturesque Expresssions:

ROUND ROBIN: The robin in this expression has nothing to do with the bird of the same name. This robin is derived from the French ruban, or ‘ribbon,’ which prompts one to ask how a 'ribbon' became a 'robin.' The story is said to have begun during the 17th and 18th centuries in France. Petitioning the crown (and some say the captain of a ship in the French navy), even with a just grievance, was a dangerous course of action. A not uncommon response of a monarch (or the captain of a ship) to a distasteful petition from his subjects (or crew) was the beheading (or hanging) of the man (men) whose signatures were first on the list. Some clever petitioners, looking for a way to complain without losing their heads, came up with an ingenious idea for signing their names, which took one of two forms:

1) Petitioners signed their names on an actual ribbon, a ruban rond, round ribbon, which was joined into a circle and attached to the document bearing their grievances. In this way no signer could be accused of signing the document first and run the risk of having their head chopped off (or of being hung hanged) for instigating trouble. Later, English sailors are said to have appropriated the French phrase but reversing the wording to ‘round ruban,’ and finally further corrupting it to the familiar ‘round robin.’

2) Petitioners signed their names at the foot of the document as if the signatures were spokes of a wheel radiating from its hub. Some say that this method originated in the British Navy, where in the days of Lord Nelson and earlier, a ship’s captain had the right to order the hanging of the first man signing a petition of grievance. The fact that his signature was at the top of the list was considered prima facie evidence that he was the instigator of mutiny (see 1730 quote below).
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ROUND ROBIN – the document
<1730 “A ROUND ROBIN is a Name given by Seamen, to an Instrument on which they sign their Names round a Circle, to prevent the Ring~leader being discover'd by it, if found.”—‘Weekly Journal,’ 3 January, page 3/4>

<1731 “The Method used by Sailors when they mutiny, by signing their names in an orbicular manner, which they call a round Robin.”—‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ I. page 238>

<1742 “The sailors on board the fleet, signed, what is called by them, a ROUND ROBIN, that is, a paper containing . . . their names subscribed in a circle, that it might not be discerned who signed first.”—‘Lives of the Admirals’ (1750) by James Campbell, II. page 98>

<1755 “If I thought it could be of any use, I could easily present them with a ROUND ROBIN to that effect of above a thousand . . . names.”—in ‘World,’ Chesterfield, No. 146, 8>

<1791 “I enclose the ROUND ROBIN. This jeu d'esprit took its rise one day at dinner at our friend Sir Joshua Reynolds's.”—in ‘Boswell’ (Oxford edition) by Sir W. Forbes, II. page 60>

<1816 “Such a ROUND ROBIN of mere lies, that you knew not which to begin with.”—‘Lay Sermons’ (Bohn) by Samuel Coleridge, page 349> [[transferred sense]]

<1828 “If thirteen physicians . . . had written what seamen call a ROUND ROBIN to an authority.”—‘The Lancet,’ 21 June, page 382/2>

<1829 “Last week the whole of the tenants . . . sent a ROUND-ROBIN to his lordship's steward.”—“Farmer’s Journal,” October, page 330>

<1847, “I proposed that a ‘ROUND ROBIN’ should be prepared and sent ashore to the consul.”—‘Omoo’ by Herman Melville, xx>

<1870 “[He] so tormented his crew that they signed a ROUND ROBIN, and sent it to the Admiralty.”—‘A Tour Round England’ by Thornbury, I. page 192>

<circa 1859 “He tried to induce a large number of the supporters of the government to sign a ROUND ROBIN desiring a change.” — ‘Biographies Contributed to the Encyclopedia Britannica’ (1867) by Macaulay, page 217>

<1896 “The headmaster suggested our signing and sending a ROUND ROBIN of congratulation.”—‘Eton in the Forties’ by J. D. Coleridge, page 133>

<1929 “. . . he had circulated a ROUND ROBIN to which he had secured 20 signatures of Senators pledging themselves to oppose the unqualified passage of the treaty.—‘Time Magazine,’ 21 January>

<1978 “Writers of ROUND ROBINS (‘We, the undersigned, each in his or her personal capacity . . .’) also choose The Times for preference, the second elevens being accommodated elsewhere.”—B. Levin in ‘The First Cuckoo’ by K. Gregory, page 13>

<1990 “In the first years of exile, several key members of the Tillich circle maintained an extensive ROUND-ROBIN correspondence, aiming at eventual. . . publication of the articles . . .”—‘The American Journal of Sociology,’ Vol. 95, No. 6, May, page >

<2004 “The key counsel from the Senate was the ‘ROUND ROBIN’ signed by thirty-seven Republican senators on March 4, 1919.”—‘The American Journal of International Law,’ Vol. 98, No. 4, October, page 704>

ROUND ROBIN – the tournament (also used attributively and figuratively)
<1895 “The so~called ROUND-ROBIN tournament, where each man plays every other, furnishes the best possible test of tennis skill.” Ibid. “No one would . . . argue that a man of that rating could win in a round-robin.”—‘Official Lawn Tennis Bulletin,’ 3 January, pages 1/2 and 3/1>

<1904 “Invitation tournaments are of American origin, and the matches are generally played on what is called the ‘ROUND ROBIN’ system, each of the players meeting all of the others in turn.” Ibid. iv. 65 “The British visitors next played a ROUND-ROBIN at Chicago.”—‘Lawn Tennis’ by J. P. Paret, iii. page 24 and, iv. page 65>

<1943 “In a ROUND~ROBIN tournament among teams of four or two we must arrange a schedule by which every team meets every other just once.”—‘Mathematical Recreations’ by M. Kraitchik, ix. page 231>

<1952 “Arrange the players in groups, and have the winners, or the first two or three of each group, play a final ROUND ROBIN.”—‘Chess Secrets’ by E. Lasker, page 379>

<1974 “The ‘Aces’ of America [sc. a bridge team] held their own against the Italians in the preliminary ROUND-ROBIN to decide who should compete in the final.”—‘The Times,’ 20 April, page 11/1>

<2000 “Into this ROUND-ROBIN of self-congratulation, the Chief of the Air Battle Anaylysis Center . . .interjected that he was uneasy about relying on intuition . . .”—‘Social Studies of Science,’ Vol. 30, No. 2, April, page 202>

ROUND ROBIN – the sequence or series
<1966 “The idea, advanced by President Kennedy, was to put through a big ROUND ROBIN of tariff reductions.”—‘Time Magazine,’ 23 September>

<1977 “As if to point up the homosexual theme, rather than to offer a ROUND ROBIN of sexuality.”—‘New York Review of Books,’ 4 August, page 7/1>

<1989 “After an inconclusive ROUND ROBIN of talks in Cairo, Washington and New York, Mubarak went home warning -- not for the first time -- that a ‘golden opportunity’ was about to be missed.”—‘Time Magazine,’ 16 October>

<2001 “Instead, he chooses a ROUND ROBIN of interior monologues from Luc, his parents, his aunt and uncle, and his cousin Cléine.”—‘The French Review,’ Vol. 74, No. 4, March, page 846>

(quotes from Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources)
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Ken G – May 31, 2007
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by Bobinwales » Thu May 31, 2007 4:16 pm

Ken Greenwald wrote:

In this way no signer could be accused of signing the document first and run the risk of having their head chopped off (or of being hung) for instigating trouble.
I am interested in the word "hung" Ken. I was always told that meat is hung, people are hanged. Was my teacher misinformed think you?
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by trolley » Thu May 31, 2007 5:05 pm

My teacher explained the rule similarly. Inanimate objects are hung. Animate objects are hanged. I guess if you hanged someone, after a minute or two, he could be considered,well,hung.
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu May 31, 2007 5:51 pm

Take our word for it explains 'hung/hanged' as follows:

"The spelling hanged, referring to execution, came about because before the 16th century, hanged was the past participle of hang. In the 17th century hung became the standard past participle, but hanged was retained in law and as an extension of legal use, as in the pronouncement of punishment, including execution."

Grammarphobia says:

"Both past tenses have been around for hundreds of years, but it’s been customary since the 16th century to use "hanged" for executions and "hung" for other meanings. Why? It’s an impossibly complicated history and takes up about a zillion (give or take) pages in the Oxford English Dictionary. I'll summarize.

The story begins with several different verbs that were imported into different parts of England by different invaders who brought with them different forms of old Germanic tongues. In these different regions, different dialects evolved. Over the centuries, the English present tense (variously "hing," "hang," "heng," "hong") stabilized as "hang."

Meanwhile, the past tense and past participle eventually stabilized as "hung," a form popular in northern England that by the 16th century had spread to the south and superseded the many older forms for those tenses.

However, one old past tense and past participle, "hanged," survived in a single sense: to put to death by hanging. The OED suggests that this archaic form was preserved in legal language, since it was used by judges to pronounce sentences in capital crimes."
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu May 31, 2007 8:10 pm

Thanks Bob for raising the question and Erik for answering it. I had never been aware of this distinction and it is a complete surprise to me. So let's see now. If a good job of hanging has been done we should say that the victim has been well hanged. I got it! (&lt)

Note: A search across respectable sources such as newspaper archives (NY Times - 26%, Google News - 22%, etc.), Time Magazine - 21%, JSTOR scholarly journal archives - 19%, etc. revealed that on average HUNG BY THE NECK comprised something over 20% of the the total hits for HUNG BY THE NECK + HANGED BY THE NECK occurrences. A Google 'web search,' which includes hits from a lot of disreputable sources like me, was good for 32%.
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Jun 01, 2007 10:46 am

I thought that perhaps hanged as opposed to hung would be a legal term. There is a verbatim report of the sentence passed by an American judge here, and another by a British judge here, both of whom use “hanged”.
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Fri Jun 01, 2007 1:42 pm

In Spain, of course, the condemned person's neck was wringed.
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by trolley » Fri Jun 01, 2007 5:08 pm

Well, I'll be dumg.
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Jun 01, 2007 8:15 pm

Before any changes could be wringed to the victim, it would be necessary to remove any surplus Spanish mane from the neck area.
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Mon Jun 04, 2007 9:17 am

Wasn't it Drake who sung the King of Spain's beard?
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Jun 04, 2007 4:57 pm

A singing beard would be a wonder to behold. Especially on the chin of the King of Spain's daughter.
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by Phil White » Tue Jun 05, 2007 10:38 pm

So it would be right to claim that Saddam was "not well hanged" and wrong to claim that he was "not well hung"?
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by trolley » Tue Jun 05, 2007 10:52 pm

I heard that they gave him too much slack.
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Jun 05, 2007 11:22 pm

John, That's noose to me!
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round robin / hung vs. hanged

Post by Shelley » Wed Jun 06, 2007 1:58 am

Hey, it's been on my mind for a week to mention how a person might be "hung for a sheep as a lamb". Now, I'm glad to know the rule about hung vs. hanged, and I'll try to apply it whenever I remember. I think it's worth pointing out that the above misuse of the word hung has been committed by a few writers who might have known better. From Michael Quinlon's World Wide Words:
This example is from Sons and Lovers by D H Lawrence, of 1913: “It seemed as if she did not like being discovered in her home circumstances... But she might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb. She invited him out of the mausoleum of a parlour into the kitchen.”
And, in Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?, well, I guess she can and did:
As well hung for a sheep as a lamb, thought Kifner, and ate the other half.
Maybe it's something about the tone of the expression that allows one to play fast and loose with the rule.
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