"fiend": in anyone's active vocab?

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Wed Nov 9 00:32:59 UTC 2005

Now that I've gotten done with the hard work of voting
for Barry for Beep, I'd like to visit another NY topic:
tabloid headlines.

A news story that has been in the NY tabs for the last week
concerns a man who dressed up as a firefighter, started a fire
as a distraction, and sexually assaulted a woman. Both
tabloids have used the word "fiend" in front-page descriptions
the man; the N.Y. Post, for example, has had "HUNTED: Fire
Fiend Stalked his Sex Victim", "Is This Fire Sex Fiend?", and
"FIEND'S LAIR", while the N.Y. Daily News has had "Cops
Zeroing in on Perv Fiend".

I have to say, the word _fiend_ is not really in my active
vocabulary. When I hear or see it, I get an image of a man
twisting the ends of his moustaches--they are plural, and are
spelled with -ou---while wearing an opera cape and cackling
demonically. It's up there with "evildoer" as a pejorative I
simply can't take seriously. This is not, of course, to
minimize the horrific nature of the alleged attack, just to
question the word used of the alleged attacker.

I find _sex fiend_ more acceptable, and I do note that in the
articles themselves, both tabs use this form: the News had
"Cops have a suspect - and a good sketch - of the Halloween
sex fiend who dressed up as a firefighter, stalked his victim
and then attacked her...", and the Post "A Chelsea woman was
duped by the sickest of sex fiends....", inter alia. But the
cover had bare _fiend_, and not always in the alliterative
_fire fiend_.

Anyone else? I assume the point of this is to arouse passion
and anger, but it generates the opposite reaction in me. I
note that my wife, who pretty much shares my age and cultural
background, does _not_ agree with me; she thinks the word is
still usable.

Jesse Sheidlower

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