"fiend": in anyone's active vocab?

Brenda Lester alphatwin2002 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Nov 9 01:45:48 UTC 2005

I was sure that "fiend" had gone the way of
"slattern," "strumpet," and "mountebank."  In my
youth, the early 60s, "dope fiend" was a common term
for a person with an uncontrollable addiction, who
would do anything for a fix. Today, I hear about
"crack-heads" and "crack-whores," but never

--- Jesse Sheidlower <jester at PANIX.COM> wrote:

> 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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