[Ads-l] "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row."

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Nov 12 20:09:15 EST 2018

Well, if the history of that one is too complicated for QOTY consideration, here’s another candidate, courtesy of—yes, Kellyanne Conway, explaining why the altered video released by the White House (via InfoWars) of the Jim Acosta incident hadn’t actually been doctored:

"That’s not altered. That’s sped up. They do it all the time in sports to see if there’s actually a first down or a touchdown."

Yes, the refs in a football game are always using extra-fast-mo camera work to see what really happened during a play that was too slow to follow live.


> On Nov 12, 2018, at 7:55 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> On Sun, Nov 11, 2018 at 9:29 PM Ann Burlingham <ann at burlinghambooks.com>
> wrote:
> Google Ngrams tells me that "to a public hanging" has been used in a tiny
> fraction of books from 1800-2018, so I'm curious whether any on this list
> know if "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row" or
> some version of it is a common phrase, sentiment, or saying, as the
> Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith seems to imply:
> https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/mississippi-senator-praises-man-public-hanging-remark-59127299
> A newly published video shows a white Republican U.S. senator in
> Mississippi praising someone by saying: "If he invited me to a public
> hanging, I'd be on the front row."
> Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who faces a black Democratic challenger in a Nov. 27
> runoff, said Sunday that her Nov. 2 remark was "exaggerated expression of
> regard" for someone who invited her to speak and "any attempt to turn this
> into a negative connotation is ridiculous."
> See the New York Times article:
> ---
> https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/us/politics/public-hanging-cindy-hyde-smith.html
> Paul Reed, a University of Alabama professor who specializes in the
> sociolinguistic history of Southern and Appalachian English varieties, said
> that the phrase first appeared in written works in the United States in the
> mid-1800s and that its usage peaked during the civil rights era in the 20th
> century.
> He said that the phrase had indeed once been used as an expression of
> regard. People would use the idiom to convey that they thought so highly of
> someone they would attend something as distasteful as a public hanging with
> him.
> But given its clear negative connotation, Mr. Reed said, most people would
> not dare to use the phrase in 2018.
> "It has fallen so far out of favor," Mr. Reed said in an interview. "I
> cannot believe that someone would use that today."
> ---
> I asked Paul on Facebook for more info, and he said: "I did a quick ngram
> search, and there weren’t any hits for 'invite to a public hanging'.
> However, for 'public hanging' the first appearances were in the 1840s, with
> a few more through the rest of the 19th century. The frequency of 'public
> hanging' really increases from 1920 on... I heard the phrase a couple times
> as a young kid, but nothing since I was about 10."
> I'm having trouble finding any historical examples of this "saying," but
> perhaps I'm looking for the wrong phrasing.
> --bgz
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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