[Ads-l] Back-formation of death--to lethal-inject

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Jun 16 14:22:37 EDT 2017

In keeping with our earlier thread on drunk driving and nude sunbathing, it seems as though to lethal-inject someone is not (just) to lethally inject them but more specifically to apply a lethal injection as capital punishment.  The bad guy can inject the victim with a lethal toxin (or one can lethally inject a substance into oneself either deliberately or accidentally), but if my guess is right, that wouldn’t be described X lethal-injecting Y.

The first of the examples below I noticed in the wild, the others were all sourced via Google.  

From _Memory Man_, a  2015 mystery by David Baldacci:
"But regardless of these heinous acts, he is entitled to counsel. And if he’s found guilty they can lethal-inject him without one complaint from yours truly. That I promise.”

From a 2016 mystery by the same David Balducci; the speaker is once again Baldacci’s detective, Amos Decker:
“I’m not here to ask you to confess. That’s not going to happen. You’ll play stupid till they lethal inject you.”

"They could burn you in Alabama, gas you in Arizona, lethal inject you in Colorado, riddle you with bullets in Idaho, Utah, and Oklahoma, and hang you in Washington"

“Surprisingly beheading isn’t really that American,” I say.  “The closest we had was scalping.  Or when they fucked up a hanging and the guy’s head would snap off…"
That’s America. We will electrocute you, gas you, lethal inject you, shoot you… but for the most part we won’t chop your head off.

A number of other examples that don’t involve the actual quarry:

Tennessee Supreme Court to decide if lethal inject is unconstitutional

But that’s a truncated noun compound rather than a backformed verb

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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