[lit-ideas] Drowning by Numbers

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 7 Dec 2013 12:40:16 -0500 (EST)

In a message dated 11/30/2013 1:46:31 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx writes in a post about World Wide Words on 'drown':

"I have been aware of a gap between some kind of legal or medical  
definition and the more common sense since a friend died in the late seventies  
early eighties of "near drowning."  It didn't seem like the sort of  thing a 
person could die of."
This from today's "World Wide Words", 
World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion 2013
re: "a weakening in sense of drown drew numerous comments"
It may have Griceian implicatures. Or not.
"John Douglas noted that a similar shift has already occurred with  
electrocute, which originally meant to execute a person by means of 
It soon shifted to include dying by an accidental shock and has since come to 
 mean suffering either injury or death. Gregory Harris similarly commented 
on  starve, which originally meant to die by any means (a close relative, 
German  sterben, retains that meaning) but in Middle English that sense was 
passed to  die, a word from Old Norse, and starve took on the specific sense 
of dying  through hunger; it has now become diluted in meaning to the point 
that it can  colloquially mean merely that the speaker is very hungry; we 
have to say starve  to death to make it clear that the process has been fatal. 
Michael Moore pointed  out that a parallel change is beginning to take place 
with drown because we are  seeing examples of drown to death."
"Dr John Smith commented, “Common usage in the US medical community  
describes near-drowning as the condition following immersion from which  
resuscitation is successful. If unsuccessful, the patient’s death is due to  
"The fuzziness about the finality of drown is not new. Dick Kenney  
reported, “In 1970, I went with a fellow worker onto a Massachusetts low tide  
to dig clams. He told me on the long way out that he drowned once and was  
wary of incoming tides. I was kind of startled by this statement as he 
looked  pretty much alive as far as I could tell. Since then, I’ve heard other 
uses of  drowned where the victim survived.” On the American Dialect Society 
list, John  Baker noted a couple of examples from 1869 that referred to a 
person having  drowned but then been resuscitated."

Other related posts:

  • » [lit-ideas] Drowning by Numbers - Jlsperanza