Saturday, February 2

If it's unwitting, can it be suicide?

Technically, no.

At least that was the argument a feisty* co-worker and I put forth last night when we got the first-edition edition papers and were looking through them for errors.

"Unwitting suicide bombers" — that's the phrase that keeps popping up in all the reports. It may seem completely stupid for me to quibble with semantics in the face of such a horrific act as strapping explosives to mentally disabled women and blowing them up in crowded markets to murder as many people as possible, but I don't ever think that accuracy is a bad thing. And I happen to feel like it underscores just how horrific the extremist mindset is when we have to think of completely new phrases and concepts to describe the type of violence they are employing.

I know "unwitting suicide bomber" was chosen by reporters or editors because it so closely describes the scenario in as few words as possible. You take a familiar template — the suicide bomber with explosives strapped to his/her chest — and inject "unwitting" in there in the hopes that people understand that it means that the people getting blown up weren't hip to the plan.

Except that when you don't know you're doing to die, you're not doing it intentionally, it's not technically suicide. You take the intent out of it and we've got something altogether different.

I'd like to see the Language Log guys' opinions on this.



*Hee hee, she'll punch me for saying that.

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2 Comments:

Blogger palm tree said...

I agree with you. The word "suicide" should be dropped altogether. I think "unwitting bombers" gets the point across enough.

Sat Feb 02, 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger Tangential said...

Naw, I'll just shoot dirty looks at you and pretend I'm offended.

Did you like how quickly they reacted to some of my comparisons? If you compare to something not of the same species, suddenly people think it's "unfair." If it's comparable, I'm sorry but it's comparable. Sadly that's reserved for insults in our culture.

So then I compare it to a small child and suddenly they see the point.

Best line from the argument. "NYT has it that way. You want to call them up and tell them they're wrong, too?" You'd think by now they'd realize I'd be all for it.

Sun Feb 03, 11:58:00 AM  

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