“Hung” or “Hanged?”

Hung or hanged? Pictures are hung, people are hanged. The word “hang” is a homonym, a word having different meanings but are spelled and pronounced exactly the same.

More examples of homonyms are rose, lie, bear, bow, lead, fair, and battery. Bass and tear would be homonyms except they sound different. That makes them heteronyms.

The homonym with the most alternate meanings is “battery.” This can be the battery in your car or smart phone, a fortification of artillery, a battery of questions, series of similar articles, machines, parts, etc., a crime consisting of a physical beating, or the pitcher and catcher as a unit. There are probably more, “battery” is a prolific word.

The homonym “Hang” has two meanings each of which has a different form in the past tense. While it commonly refers to anything other than a human being that is suspended from a rope, line, hook, etc. Call that the common form. When used to indicate hanging by the neck of a human being to cause death the past tense is “hanged” not “hung.” Call that the special form.

Each of these separate meanings have the same spelling, except in their respective past tense form. For example, we might say a rock climber lost his grip and fell a short distance before he was caught by his belay rope, from which he “hung” for a time. This is the common form of the word “hang” and its correct to use “hung” is its past tense. The climber is hanging from a rope around his waist, not this neck. The rope is not meant to put him to death, it’s meant to save him from death.

In that instance the past tense of “hang” is “hung” for the rock climber just as it would be for any other object.

But when “hang” is used to denote a sentence of death to be legally carried out against a criminal, or illegally performed by unlawful means, it has the special form meaning. It is a word spelled the same but with at least two  distinct meanings, a homonym. When it denotes the hanging of a human being by the neck to cause death, whether legally, illegally or to commit suicide, its past tense form is not “hung.” It is “hanged.”

Please try to remember that. It’s finger nails on the black board to me when I hear some say a criminal was “hung.” Ugh.

It was pounded into me in the second grade at Cole Elementary School in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1952 by Mrs. Green, and I shall never forget it. Or Mrs. Green. I loved Mrs. Greene not only for her tough stance on grammar and English usage (Pssst — contrary to popularly belief kids love learning proper grammar), but because I spent a couple of months in the hospital after being struck by a car (my fault, it was a child dart-out). Mrs. Greene came to the hospital about 3 times a week to tutor me so that I wouldn’t have to take the second grade over again.

This is a story from “the good old days” when teachers taught. Education no longer exists, it’s been replaced by political indoctrination. That is such a shame. Kids are being cheated out of an education.


Extra credit: What is the difference between “flaunt” and “flout?” “Infer” and “imply?” Allusion, illusion, delusion? eminent/imminent/immanent? affect/effect? [one is always a verb, the other can be either a verb or a noun] principle/principal?

This is fun, right? Imagine a bunch of second-graders baiting each other with this stuff. They’re having great fun and they’re learning things as well. Whoever killed grammar schooling for children is an idiot. A background in English grammar is helpful if one ever wants to learn one of the romance languages, Spanish, French, Italian, etc.

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