victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 6 07:22:59 UTC 2011

Two issues here--one related to a particular use of passive and one how
"torch" verbs are covered in the OED.

The fires in Texas have now claimed nearly 500 homes, with about the same
number still in danger. But, for much of the afternoon, the top headline on
Google News was

Video: 300 Homes Torched in Texas Wildfire TIME

This was a bit of a head-scratcher. If "torched" is past tense, then what
did those homes torch? And if it's a participle, then who is the agent of
the torching? (Other headlines suggest "fire", but that sounds wrong).

Clicking through at about 10 pm showed that Time actually corrected the

> WATCH: Bastrop Fire Torches 300 Homes in Central Texas

This one certainly has no issues of the same type. But it has since been
updated again.

Video: 500 Homes Torched in Texas Wildfire

A part of the problem is that "torch" is normally transitive, but there is a
bit more.

OED torch v.1 (v.2 is unrelated, as is v.1 3.):

1. a. trans. To furnish, or light, with a torch or torches.(See torched
> adj., and cf. torcher n.1 1.)
>  b. To set alight, to set fire to, esp. in order to claim insurance money.
> slang (orig. and chiefly U.S.).
> 2. intr. To flare like a torch; to rise like smoke from a torch. dial.

I suppose, there is a possibility that the Time editors resurrected an old
regional version (2. only has one quotation and that's tagged 1847-78). But
the meaning does not fit, and it's more likely that "House [has been]
torched" for the editors implies the same thing it implies for me--someone
had set it on fire (i.e., fire cannot be a self-agent). But no
arson/incinerate meaning of "torch" is listed in the OED.

> Convictions upheld for Concord man who killed 2, torched them in car

> Hazer: No, I'm not in Mitrovica... We've torched all the churches in
> Prizren.
> Muharem: Hell, torch them all!
> Hazer: We've already torched them all, turn on the television so you can
> see them burning!
> Muharem: I just turned it on.
> Hazer: They're showing Prizren right now... All the church have been
> torched, not one is left.
>   [NSFW]

>  They should have torched them
> Then you wouldn't have no bodies  [Bonus: Mexghanistan]

> Mexico: 2 dozen gunmen storm casino, torch it, kill at least 53

Torched adj. does not help:

Furnished with a torch or torches; lighted with torches.

There is also one meaning of torch v. that's missing:

Team A has torched Team B for X points/goals.


Player Y torched Team Z for X points/yards.

[Both US]

If this doesn't ring any bells, here are a couple of examples:  [football]

> Idaho torched them [USC] for over 300 yards last week
>  [football]

> 0 bids because he torched them last game.
>  [football]

> Peyton and Company are going to Miami to torch Chicago's secondary in a
> inferno not seen since Mrs. O'Leary's cow burned down half the city.
>  [basketball]

> P.S. Savanovic torched them!
>  [basketball]

> J.J. Barea once again carved Miami up, sending the Heat’s once formidable
> defense scrambling every which way as he torched them for killer threes and
> backbreaking layups.

There are several other fairly recent uses of the verb.

1) using a utility or kitchen butane torch to caramelize, melt or singe the
surface of food, e.g., crème brûlée, novelty sushi, etc.
2) welding something (with a welding/acetylene torch)
3) generalized "destroy" (rare)


(1)   [See the whole article for more details]

> "We add a little sake and soy sauce for flavor," he says, "then we torch
> it."  [Complete with pictures--but only has "blow torched"
rather than "torched", but same idea]

>  What would crystallize sugar?  *Heat!  *So Alejandro coated his sushi
> with diluted soy sauce and rolled it in sugar... and then... ...he blow
> torched it.

> I put a little Saikyo Miso on top of Tofu, and torched.. a little Shiso and
> red chili pepper for extra flavor...


> Can I torch galvanized steel for jewelry - will the end melt to a ball -
> thanks molly


> So, if J-schools are of only marginal value to the publications they
> allegedly serve, why not torch Columbia and the other hundred-plus
> degree-awarding journalism programs and have done with it?
>  [I'm actually not sure if it's (2) or (3)]
Starter clutch bolt, please, before I torch it.

> I replaced my starter clutch. Great. The bolt that goes through the center
> will not stay tight for sh1t. I over tightened it once, and have been trying
> to get it right for several days. I don't remember there being a lock washer
> on it. The schematic doesn't show one. My manual has been used so much that
> the pages I need are split off somewhere I can't find them . Help please.
> Losing my head. Its a 93 KZ1000p. Thanks in advance.

Interestingly, not all uses of the verb with food imply (2)--sometimes the
butane torch is used to actually light up a morsel:

> Then [], he put a pieces of vanilla bean on a plate, torched them and
> turned his cocktail glasses upside over it. The sides of glass became coated
> with burnt vanilla flavors.

The whole article needs an update.


The American Dialect Society -

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