On Writing: Hung vs. Hanged and why the difference matters.

This is something that has been getting my goat for the longest time.

It’s a basic thing that a lot of writers now don’t seem to give two shits about and is apparently interchangeable in some peoples eyes (pro tip, they’re fucking wrong).

The issue of hung vs hanged. It happens everywhere, books, TV, films, games… It’s ridiculous, it’s lazy, and worst of all it shows a great lack of respect for one of the oldest forms of execution known to man. It show’s a lack of caring to the numerous people of colour who have been lynched in societies past, and it shows even less respect to those who have lost loved ones to this method.

I know it’ll largely be seen as a trivial argument but I firmly believe if you’re going to be referring to a death by hanging then the past tense of it is hanged. And I know there will be people who say “but saying hanged sounds stupid. a picture isn’t hanged on a wall” and to them I say shut the fuck up and allow me to hold your head under the putrescent waters of knowledge.

When you hang something, it’s an article of clothing or a picture. It is not a person, unless they’re still alive. And that is the distinction between the two words. YES they are both past tense descriptors for the word hang. But there is a very valid distinction between the usage of the two words as a whole.

2012-01-24-hanged-vs-hung

When I read, see, or hear some random character say something along the lines of “they were found hung” I eyetwitch, especially if they don’t elaborate with by the wrist or ankle or whatever. You cut to whatever the next scene is and there’s the corpse hanging from a, usually improvised, noose by the neck. This method of taking a life ins hanging, and they have been hanged. Do you see the distinction? is it getting through at all? It’s really not that hard if you actually give a shit about what you’re writing.

It’s mostly about respect. This is a method of killing people that has been used for fucking centuries, by just about every fucking nation ever. If you cannot respect one of the most effective methods of killing a person without bloodshed, then what the fuck it wrong with you. A person hanged from a noose is a universally powerful and unsettling image because instinctively everyone knows what it means, even children.

So please, I ask you, respect this thing. Respect the deaths of others. Respect the method used to end a life even if you don’t respect the person it had been applied to. And mostly, respect it because it’s not that fucking hard.

Please use your brain and understand the difference and the power that words have. I have personally have friends hang themselves and I have been at the point where I was one wobbly stool away from doing it myself. If that’s not reason enough to use the right word for the right context, then maybe this will be…

Soviet partisans hanged by German forces in January 1943.
Soviet partisans hanged by German forces in January 1943.
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