Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Sun Jul 21 17:40:02 UTC 2002

> It's not in the online version of the article, either.

The online version is an abstract of the article, not the article itself.

> But this article made me aware that I carry with me a rather
> narrow view of the term lynching, shaped, I suppose, by too
> many westerns.  While I understand it to be an extralegal mob
> action to hang a person (with overt racial overtone outside of
> western movies), the article uses it for ANY extralegal mob
> killing based on race, making the terrible dragging-behind-a-
> pickup-truck death of James Byrd up in Jasper, Texas, a
> lynching by this standard.  While I was aware there were a
> lot of terrible ways for a mob to kill a black, I'd just never
> come across the term used outside of a hanging.  What's the
> etymology of lynch/lynched/lynching?  And who was Lynch?
> or does it derive from Linch--a ledge or a right-angled
> projection?

The exact etymology is unknown. The most likely explanation is that it
refers to Captain William Lynch (1742-1820) who led a vigilante tribunal in
Pittsylvania, Virginia during the American Revolution. The earliest recorded
use of the term (in OED2), in 1811, refers to him.

Another common explanation is that it is after a judge named Charles Lynch
who served in Virginia and is credited (perhaps wrongly so) for presiding
over mob trials of Tories during the American Revolution. Supporting
evidence for this explanation is sketchier.

The racial connotation is not original, but rather arose in the post-Civil
War South.

And as for metaphorical use of the term, Clarence Thomas referred to the
Anita Hill hearings in Sep. 1991 before the Senate Judiciary cmte. as a
"high-tech lynching for uppity blacks." I'm sure he wasn't the first to use
it metaphorically.

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