Peeved about "slay"

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.


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