Peeved about "slay"

More
The redoubtable Grammar Girl has announced her No. 1 Pet Peeve for 2008: the use of "slay" as a noun -- as in the headline "Slay Suspect Amanda Knox Stars in Feature Film in Jail."

Huh. I have as many peeves as the next grammarian, but "slay" doesn't particularly bother me. It's no farther off-kilter than "pix" in the beloved 1935 Variety headline "Sticks Nix Hick Pix" (translation: Small-town and rural viewers aren't responding positively to movies set in rural milieux). 

Headlines are often highly condensed -- I've put in my time as a newspaper editor deleting unnecessary syllables to get the danged thing to fit on one line. And "Slaying" is at risk of being read as a participle rather than a noun-adjective -- as in "Slaying Suspect Amanda Knox, Mystery Killer Vanishes." 

In any case, I probably don't need to worry that "slay suspect" will turn up in The Atlantic anytime soon.


Jump to comments
Presented by

Visit Barbara Wallraff’s blog, at barbarawallraff .theatlantic.com, to see more commentary on language and to submit Word Fugitive queries and words that meet David K. Prince’s need. Readers whose queries are published and those who take top honors will receive an autographed copy of Wallraff’s most recent book, Word Fugitives. More

Barbara WallraffBarbara Wallraff, a contributing editor and columnist for The Atlantic, has worked for the magazine for 25 years. She is also a weekly syndicated newspaper columnist for King Features and the author of Word Fugitives (2006), Your Own Words (2004), and the national best-seller Word Court (2000). Her writing about language has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wilson Quarterly, The American Scholar, and The New York Times Magazine.

Wallraff has been an invited speaker at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the National Writers Workshop, the Nieman Foundation, Columbia Journalism School, the British Institute Library of Florence, and national or international conventions of the American Copy Editors Society, the Council of Science Editors, the International Education of Students organization, and the Journalism Education Association. She has been interviewed about language on the Nightly News With Tom Brokaw and dozens of radio programs including Fresh Air, The Diane Rehm Show, and All Things Considered. National Public Radio's Morning Edition once commissioned her to copy edit the U.S. Constitution. She is a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel. The Genus V edition of the game Trivial Pursuit contains a question about Wallraff and her Word Court column.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Where the Wildest Things Are

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where the Wild Things Go

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Adults Need Playtime Too

When was the last time you played your favorite childhood game?

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Entertainment

Just In