HANG ON IN THERE!

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of th­ese ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Eubon­ics may be de­fined as the set of ver­nac­u­lar or non stan­dard va­ri­eties of English spo­ken by work­ing class African Amer­i­cans or by other African Amer­i­cans try­ing to sound and show sol­i­dar­ity with the work­ing classes; in other words Black Amer­i­can English. An ex­am­ple of this ver­nac­u­lar would be “How's it hang­ing?” as a ca­sual en­quiry as to some­one's well­be­ing with­out the an­tic­i­pa­tion of any mean­ing­ful re­sponse.

Some­what sur­pris­ingly, this ‘po­lite­ness phrase' greatly re­sem­bles the Saint Lu­cia Cre­ole en­quiry as to some male ac­quain­tance's health, "Ki manye kal-la ka kalé?" as "How's your cock hang­ing?" which brings me to to­day's topic.

There is a good amount of con­fu­sion re­gard­ing the verb hang and its var­i­ous tenses, though noth­ing so awe­some as the ab­so­lute an­ar­chy sur­round­ing lie and lay, but more of that an­other day. Is hanged or hung cor­rect? Are they in­ter­change­able? If not, what is the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two, as that eter­nal pro­cras­ti­na­tor Ham­let was wont to say.

Hang has a few dif­fer­ent uses and mean­ings, for ex­am­ple: to fas­ten from above with no sup­port from below; to sus­pend. I'm go­ing to hang this picture on my bed­room wall. Hang can also mean 'to hold or de­cline down­ward; to let droop'. You should hang your head in shame. A third use of the word hang is quite spe­cific and special: to pay strict at­ten­tion. She hangs on the priest's ev­ery word. And fourthly hang can mean 'to cling tightly to some­thing' as in 'hang on to the side of the boat for dear life'.

Hanged is quite a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish. It is the past tense and past par­tici­ple of the verb hang only when used in the sense of 'put to death by hang­ing'. For ex­am­ple, the mur­derer was hanged for his crimes.

By the way, a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish refers to an al­ter­na­tive; a dif­fer­ent thing al­to­gether, some­thing dif­fer­ent from the thing be­fore, but be­fore we can get to grips with a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish we need to know what a ket­tle of fish is. Nat­u­rally, a fish ket­tle isn't the kind of ket­tle you would use to make tea, it's just a fish saucepan - usu­ally one large enough for a whole fish. A dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish means, for ex­am­ple: I might of­fer to help him for a few days but to prom­ise to help him for a few months would be a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish al­to­gether.

Now we've cleared that up we need to un­der­stand that the ex­pres­sion a pretty or nice ket­tle of fish means a mess or a mud­dle, which is quite dif­fer­ent mean­ing. For ex­am­ple: She took on much more work than she could han­dle and now she finds her­self in a nice ket­tle of fish. So I hope I have made my­self clear; a nice ket­tle of fish, and I have to say it, is a dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish.

By the way, the ex­pres­sion dates from the late 19th century and was found most com­monly in Scot­land and the north of Eng­land. This early ci­ta­tion comes from a re­port of a par­lia­men­tary de­bate on the Ir­ish ques­tion, in the Carlisle Pa­triot news­pa­per, of June 1889: To en­able them to man­age their own lo­cal af­fairs will not sat­isfy Ir­ish­men. What they want is a very dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish.

But let's get back to our main topic. The crim­i­nal was hanged in the pub­lic square for his crimes.

It's im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that hanged has a very spe­cific use. We only use hanged when we are re­fer­ring to the killing of a hu­man be­ing by sus­pend­ing the per­son by the neck. With all other past tenses of hang, you will want to use hung. And if death is not in­tended or likely, or the per­son is sus­pended by a body part other than the neck, use hung. For ex­am­ple: His ac­com­plices hung him out to dry and he was left to take the blame. Think of th­ese two sen­tences, only one is cor­rect: He was hung up­side down till he fi­nally died and He was hanged up­side down till he fi­nally died.

Hung is the reg­u­lar past tense of hang: I hung the picture on the wall. They hung their heads in shame.

I hung on his ev­ery word. She hung on to the rope. All inan­i­mate ob­jects, such as paint­ings, shelves, doors or Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions are hung.

Now you might be won­der­ing why there are two dif­fer­ent past-tense forms of the same word. Well, in Old English there were ac­tu­ally two dif­fer­ent words for hang: hon and hangen, and they be­came en­tan­gled with time which is why we have two past-tense forms for the same word in modern English. Our an­ces­tors have a lot to an­swer for.

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