or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Self Service

I bumped into the appalling "suicided" yesterday and in an uncharacteristic display of generosity, I'm going to provisionally allow it into the language, with severe restrictions.

First, "suicide" is Latin for "killing of oneself": no surprise there, and it's broken down into a nicely literal "sui-", "of the self", and "-cide", "to kill". ("Sui-" is also seen in the phrase "sui generis", meaning "unique"--literally, "of its own kind"). So "suicided" can't possibly exist as a past-tense verb. You can't suicide yourself, since the "yourself" is built into the word, you can't suicide someone else, and someone else can't suicide you. "Suicide", in short, oughtn't to be a verb at all; it's a noun.

But "suicided" has appeared in the language with a narrow, specific usage, and I'm not a huge fan of it, but I can see how it serves a purpose. If someone is thought to have committed suicide, but there is a suspicion that he or she didn't do it voluntarily but was killed so as to make it look like a suicide, it's sometimes said that they "were suicided", often with quotation marks around the latter word to make the writer's point perfectly clear. I think they're unnecessary: the strangeness of the word ought to demonstrate the irony without the help of any quotes, real or air. The word does have a place in the language. If I see anyone using "suicided himself", though, there'll be hell to pay.


Post a Comment

<< Home