"hard landing"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Mar 2 16:18:28 UTC 2007

The OED def. would seem to make "hard landing" synonymous with the more familiar yet less soothing "crash landing."  My naive interpretation has always been that a "crash landing" may occur from any emergency cause and, while necessarily damaging the aircraft does not necessarily "destroy" it. A "hard landing," however, must result in only limited damage.

  So whether euphemism is at work today is not clear to me. One can make a "hard landing" - as described- for any reason. A helicopter may be hit by enemy fire without being "shot down" or destroyed, and may make an emergency "hard" landing that is only partially "uncontrolled."

  While "deniability" obviously can't be ruled out as a factor in diction, use of "hard landing" may also result from temporary uncertainty about what caused the landing, combined with the imperative to report.

  If, however, a destroyed helicopter was described as merely making a "hard landing," I stand pre-corrected.


Charles Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Charles Doyle
Subject: "hard landing"

In an aeronautical (and more-or-less literal) sense, the OED defines "hard landing" as "an uncontrolled landing in which the vehicle is destroyed," with citations from 1958 and 1967. Google Books seems to give numerous instances of aviation uses from as early as the second decade of the 20th century, perhaps without the requirement that the vehicle be totally destroyed. (The OED appears to overlook the metaphorical application of the term to economic or monetary matters, prevalent since the 1980s or so.)

Now "hard landing" has become something of a military euphemism (dutifully adopted by the media) to refer to the way a helicopter comes to the ground after it has probably--but, for the moment, deniably--been shot down by enemy fire.


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