"Drowned Alive"

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon Aug 22 16:43:50 UTC 2005

On Aug 22, 2005, at 9:07 AM, Barbara Need wrote:

> I don't remember what station or what the program was, but I heard an
> ad for some "news" program which was describing the activities of a
> young man who tied a couple up and then they were "drowned alive".
> Thoughts?

there are a modest number of Google hits for (passive) "drowned alive".

i'd guess that the model is "buried alive", which *is* semantically
compositional, unlike "drowned alive".  the true watery parallel to
"buried alive" would be "Xed alive", for some verb X that means
something like 'hold/confine underwater'.  unfortunately, english
seems to have no such verb.  '"immerse, "submerse", and "submerge"
lack the component of being trapped underwater; immersion etc. can be
brief, temporary.  ("plunge", "dip", and "duck" are explicitly
brief.)  that pretty much leaves "drown", which as a simple
transitive verb with animate objects ("We drowned the witch") entails
death (though there are non-fatal extended senses, as in "We drowned
Kim in praise" and "We accidentally drowned Kim in chocolate sauce").

so "drowned alive" is the best we can do for a compact expression
denoting being held underwater, while (initially) alive, for an
extended period of time -- an event that will eventually result in
death, just as being buried alive will.  alas, "drowned alive" is an
oxymoron.  but that sort of thing doesn't necessarily bother most

arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu)

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