Hanging

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Hanging

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Jul 16, 2014 12:43 pm

I always thought that meat and pictures were hung and people were hanged.

I have just read an American publication which said that someone was hung. Is this normal Ameng?
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Re: Hanging

Post by Phil White » Wed Jul 16, 2014 4:19 pm

As far as I can judge, it's pretty widespread on both sides of the pond. I remember raising an eyebrow a couple of weeks back when it was used on the BBC news.

But as far as I can remember, it's always been in widespread use. I have always assumed that it is one of those nonsensical things that self-appointed guardians get hung up about (and should be hanged for it), but which real speakers don't take seriously.

Certainly, most of the discussions on the Web are on sites that tend towards prescriptive approaches to grammar.

There are several ideas as to how the distinction emerged. The most plausible to me is that the past form "hung" emerged later, and the earlier form "hanged" was retained in conservative legal language.

Other discussions point to entirely separate verbs in Old English, but they appear to have fused before the distinction emerged, with "hanged" being used as the past form for all meanings.

My guess is that the distinction is not upheld by many speakers simply because there is no risk of confusion. We don't distinguish the meanings in the present, so why should we in the past? We do not imagine that "she is hanging the curtains" means that she is executing them (although I have seen curtains worthy of extermination), neither do we think that "they still hang people in some countries" means that they suspend them with curtain hooks.

The distinction is by no means dead, but I suspect it already has one foot on the trapdoor.
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Re: Hanging

Post by Phil White » Wed Jul 16, 2014 8:07 pm

Interestingly, I cannot make my mind up about the intransitive version:
  1. He will hang for his crimes
    Sounds fine to me
  2. ?He hanged for his crimes
    Sounds odd to me.
  3. ??He hung for his crimes
    Sounds even odder to me.
What do others think?
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Re: Hanging

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Jul 16, 2014 8:35 pm

Your sense regarding the intransitive versions accords with mine. I think in the case of 2), the reason it sounds odd may be because that usage is rare and thus relatively unfamiliar. In the case of 3), it may be because with a construction that begins "He hung...", what the reader expects to come next is a description like "the Christmas decorations on the chimney" or "necklaces on street signs", where the verb is transitive. (The second of those examples sounds odd too, of course, but for a quite different reason.)
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Re: Hanging

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Jul 16, 2014 10:51 pm

Chicken out Phil, "He was hanged for his crimes"!

Having said that, "He hanged for his crimes" does feel marginally better. But it is a mongoose situation. (Dear Petshop, please send me two mongooses. Please send me two mongeese. Please send me a mongoose. Better still, make it two.)
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Re: Hanging

Post by Phil White » Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:34 pm

Sort of "hanged if you do, hung if you don't".
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Re: Hanging

Post by Phil White » Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:45 pm

Interestingly, Google gives around 28000 hits for "he hanged for his crimes" and around 10000 for "he hung for his crimes", but the first couple of pages of hits for "hanged" appear mostly to be quoting Websters and the first couple of pages for "hung" appear to be genuine uses.

Another case of the dictionaries being out of step with reality?
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Re: Hanging

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Jul 17, 2014 5:51 pm

In my neck of the woods just now, Google searches returned the following statistics:

"He hanged for his crimes" - 39 hits
"He hung for his crimes" - 19 hits

(For comparison, I rang the same searches without the enclosing quote marks, and obtained the following results:
He hanged for his crimes - 66,700,000 hits
He hung for his crimes - 286,000,000 hits

I then switched from my direct US internet connection to two proxy connections: one UK-based (Maidenhead), the other Netherlands-based (Haarlem). In both cases I got very similar numbers to my US-based results for the searches with the enclosing quotes, but very different ones for searches without quotes. For both the European connections:

He hanged for his crimes - 97,900,000 hits
He hung for his crimes - 447,000,000 hits)

Capitalizing or not capitalizing "he" made no difference to the results.

Results that diverge so wildly from yours, Phil, call the reliability of the Google statistics as a guide to genuine prevalence rates into very serious question -- as do the different results with the proxy connections.

Perhaps other members would like to run the same searches and report back their findings here?
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Re: Hanging

Post by Phil White » Thu Jul 17, 2014 7:49 pm

Just checked again here. 27900 for "he hanged for his crimes" with quotes and 6900 for "he hung for his crimes" with quotes.

I may previously have read "6900" as "9900". Happens.

I use google.com, not google.co.uk from the UK.

If I turn "SafeSearch" on, I get 26700 and 9700 respectively (i.e. turning the filter on gets me more results for one search and less for the other - bizarre).

Only showing English results.
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Re: Hanging

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Jul 20, 2014 10:43 am

.. another time when hung and hanged sound odd when transposed >>

1. My boyfriend is well hung.
2. *My boyfriend is well hanged.*

.. doesn't work for me ..

WoZ who got the chair
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End of topic.
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