"Drowned Alive"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Aug 23 14:14:50 UTC 2005

At 9:11 PM -0400 8/22/05, Michael McKernan wrote:
>John Baker wrote:
>>         The odd thing is that drowning, like other kinds of suffocation,
>>need not necessarily result in death.... (Of course, many people do
>>use "drowning" to refer only to drowning incidents that result in
>>         So "drowned alive" is not necessarily an oxymoron.
>>Nevertheless, while it is possible to survive being drowned alive, just
>>as it is possible to survive being buried alive, I daresay that almost
>>all of those drowned alive were in fact drowned to death.
>It's also interesting to note that a dead person cannot (technically)
>drown:  you have to be alive, in order to breathe in the water or other
>fluid which causes drowning. Bodies immersed in fluid post mortem do not
>'drown.'  So one can't possible be 'drowned dead.'

Au contraire.  One can be drowned dead (technically), just as one can
be shot dead or one can eat one's knuckles raw.  The key is the
difference between the depictive reading and the resultative reading.
If I eat my knuckles when they're raw (or when I'm raw), that's
depictive; if I eat them until they become raw, that's resultative.

I painted the house red   (resultative)
I painted the house nude  (depictive)

Note that depictives can modify either subject or object, while
resultatives involve a change of state undergone by the object.


>In light of this, perhaps it is reasonable to consider 'drowned alive' as
>approaching tautology rather than oxymoron.
>Michael McKernan

More information about the Ads-l mailing list