TeeJaw Blog

More Grammer — Sorry, This is Required

Posted in Culture, History by TeeJaw on Saturday, January 7, 2012, 8: 06 PM

The post below harangues you for not using the subjunctive mood of the verb to be when the sentence or clause requires it.  So now I may as well go off on another grammatical error that is frequently encountered and that I find particularly annoying.

The following sentence is not correct:  “Tom Horn was found guilty of murder, and he was hung in 1903.”  It is not correct because Tom Horn was a man; he was not a picture.

The following sentence is correct:  “A picture of Tom Horn when he was hanged was later hung on the wall.”

That’s right.  Pictures are hung.  Men are hanged.  The past participle is used when human beings are stretched on a rope as a form of execution, and the past tense hung is used to describe the occurrence after the hanging of all other things, such as pictures on the wall or keys on a hook.

It doesn’t matter whether the hanging of a man by the neck has already occurred, is presently occurring, or is to occur in the future.  Thus, the following are all correct:

“Tom Horn is to be hanged a week from today for his crime.”

“Tom Horn is at this moment being hanged in Cheyenne for the killing of Willie Nickell.”

“Tom Horn was hanged at dawn this morning.”

My neighbor has suggested, quite reasonably I’d have to say,  that I wear the t-shirt with the inscription, “I’m silently correcting your grammar.”  But I’m doing it overtly, not silently.  Here’s hoping that you find it instructive and fun, and that you don’t wish for me to be hanged.

Trivia questions.

Where was it alleged that Tom Horn committed murder?

Answer:  At Iron Mountain, Wyoming which is about 50 miles NW of Cheyenne and about 30 miles NE of Laramie.  He was tried and found guilty in Cheyenne.

Was there anything unusual that occurred in the hanging of Tom Horn?

Answer:  Yes, Tom Horn was hanged by an automated gallows in which the pressure of his body weight released a lever with a counterweight that gradually rose to pull out the support beam under the trap door.  In effect, he hanged himself.

Where is Tom Horn buried?

Answer:  Boulder, Colorado

Why was he buried in Boulder, Colorado?

Answer:  Not because of any family connections, but he had been a Pinkerton detective working out of the Denver office before he went to Wyoming as a “range detective.”

Was Tom Horn really guilty of the crime of killing Willie Nickell?

Answer:  No one will ever know for sure.  It is entirely possible that as a range detective for cattle interests he was caught in the middle of two opposing forces at the tail end of the Johnson County wars in Wyoming between cattle interests wanting free range and homesteaders who fenced their land to keep roaming cattle out.  The boom and bust of the cattle business in the last quarter of the 19th Century made millionaires of cattle ranchers in short order, and sent them to broke just as fast. Laying blame on sheepherders and farmers was all too convenient, and violence was common.

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Wyoming Speed Limit Sign

Posted in Culture by TeeJaw on Saturday, January 9, 2010, 9: 57 PM

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