Hung up on Word Choice
When I was in middle school, one of my teachers would go on an hour-long tangent whenever someone got “hanged” and “hung” mixed up. I don’t remember what exactly these long-winded lectures usually entailed, just that I thought she was kind of crazy and nitpicky. However, over the years, I have found myself increasingly less and less forgiving of the same mistake. For me, what started out as a mild annoyance caused by a very adamant middle school social studies teacher would eventually become something that will drive me off a wall.
Put simply: “hung” and “hanged” are not interchangeable.
The verb “to hang” is usually changed to “hung” when put into the past tense. For example: my jacket was not “hanged” up, it was “hung” up. Many people tend to carry this rule over when referring to someone who has died by hanging. This is a logical conclusion to come to, since the context seems to be the only major change to the verb. However, this conclusion is dead wrong.
A person is never, ever “hung,” to death, a person is “hanged.” When someone says “Jack was hung” they are, albeit unintentionally, equating Jack with an inanimate object such a jacket or a handbag, which is a pretty shitty thing to do to be honest. Using “hung” when “hanged” should be used devalues the individual who has died; they are no longer a person, they are now a thing, an object. Simply put, it’s dehumanizing.
The English language has given us two separate words for the past tense of “hang,” one for inanimate objects and another for human beings. It’s important to learn the difference between the two and in which context they are both appropriate, because getting them mixed up is not only a huge pet peeve of mine, but it can also come off as rather disrespectful.