Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hang it all out

Months ago someone mentioned to me that they don't like the way people use hung when they should use hanged.

It wasn't something I have given much thought to, but then today I was thinking to myself, would that person say "I just hanged out the washing" which sounds ok-ish to me but I would most likely say "I've just hung out the washing".

I decided to ask the question in social media land to see what they said.

The answers were fast. The rules were simple.

Pictures are hung. People are hanged. Coats are hung, unless they are on the backs of the hanged.

Except English is never that simple.

Because as @meaganpitt suggested, sometimes people are hung. A man for instance may be "well hung". You wouldn't say, I met a man who was well hanged, unless he was dead and even then I am not sure anyone would say that.

You can also hang your friend out to dry.

Your brother might hang you from a hook - but not to kill you just to be funny - if you have a brother that can lift you and a coat on.

The girl who wore the odd shoes to work, she should hang her head in shame for making such a fashion blooper, and if she did, does she say to her friend, "Yesterday, I hanged my head in shame when I noticed my shoes." Or is her head the object and so it's "Yesterday, I hung my head in shame when I saw my shoes."

Some people, they get a hangover and then later they talk about being hungover, they are not hangedover. Ever.

So hanged is just for people who are left to die by hanging.

But not those that are crucified. Jesus was hung from the cross and left to die, but he wasn't hanged. ONLY if he was hung from a rope, around the neck, then he was hanged.

However, then we have the song from My Fair Lady, with the following lines:

By law she should be taken out and hung
For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue

Ummm...shouldn't that be hanged?

A very popular song, sung a gazillion times. Apparently changed because it made it easier to rhyme with, but it didn't bother song writer Alan Lerner all that much nor the people who watched the performance year after year. Hung was very easily changed from hanged decades ago and not many minded.

In Australia we don't hang people any more and the term hanged is used less and less and it is not often we see the word in that context.

You never know where words might take you though. Google + now has 'hangouts', people go 'hanging out' with their friends.

Some people just let it all hang out, others say "'hang it all, who cares?"

Tell me, how ya hangin' and do you like to play hangman?


  1. I love you! Brilliant, just brilliant. X

  2. I would only use hanged in terms of people killed by that method. So that means hangman was hanged. And now the words hanged and hung just sound really funny because I've thought about them too much. Weird. Yes.

    1. YES! They more I wrote and read about hung and hanged the more I was starting to think I was using the wrong one every time.

  3. It's like when you think too hard about your pin number and then you don't know it at all isn't it ....? Actually, on reflection, it's not like that at all is it ...? I'll be hanged - you've totally confused me ;-)

  4. I saw this subject pop up in my FB feed yesterday and I got to thinking I wonder if the same applies to danged and dung? Or is that dang and dunged? Oh dang it! Thanks for popping over and commenting about the play dates. I totally agree. What ever happened to kids in the street just hanging out (pardon the pun)? LOL

    Anne xx

  5. This makes my head spin! I feel for teachers who have to explain English to little ones at school. I often hear sank and sunk mixed up a lot too, and if I think about it too much, I just confuse myself. :)

  6. Ah yes, one of life's little mysteries. Looks like you've cleaned it up then *wipes hands of this*
    Visiting from the Rewind :)

  7. Pretty sure we never have to talk about this again... You've sorted it. Thanks for Rewinding.

  8. Hi Claire, I thought I'd commented but can't see it.. is it an active/passive thing... I hanged him out to dry/he was hung... or is that just confusing myself more!!

    1. Hi Seana, - I have no idea! From what I can read up though you "Hung him out to dry" unless you killed him and in that sense, he was hanged.

  9. Hmmm, curious. The English language is a crazy beast. I do like Hangman though.

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  11. Thanks for sorting this out, Claire. Grammar is so fraught at times.

    My little man discovered Hangman recently, except he liked to play it with sentences not words.


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