dying a death

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 19 21:16:17 UTC 2010

Browsing some UK football (soccer) pages, I came across the headline:
> Debate - Is cup football dying a death

In fact, it's not just one page, but similar pages on three different UK

I tend to react with curiosity rather than prescriptivism to expressions
I find unfamiliar. And "dying a death" jumped at me as
tautological--something that a Russian speaker would refer to as
"?????-????????" ("maslo maslianoe"--buttered butter).

A quick search revealed a number of similar recent uses, including a
2006 "Dying a death" paper by a Latrobe University researcher Allan

> Are PC games dying a death? Yes I would say they are but not because
> of a lack of customer demand as much as there is nothing coming to
> market that is interesting or compelling.

> Cricketer's Diary: Alcohol dying a death

> Snooker is dying a death

> Are celebrity fashion lines dying a death?

[plus headline]
> Robinson's Fruit Shoots published earlier this week has highlighted
> that playground games are dying a death as a result of our cotton wool
> culture and overly protective nanny state.

> "I look at boxing from a different angle now and it is dying a death
> compared to the fashionable Ultimate Fighting Challenge," he said.

[headline--closing post of a blog]
> Dying a death in 2007

> While the rest of nation is basking in Ashes glory, spare a thought
> for the Jewish game which is fast dying a death.

All but one are from 2009. In particular, compare the headline from the
last link:

> Forget the Ashes, it's our game that's dying a slow death

Nothing wrong with "dying a death" if death is modified. A different
sort of example:

> The irony of the book's title is that originally it means planning a
> death that will be one's own, but finally means dying a death that
> proves to be one's ...

Dying a slow death, dying a death of a thousand cuts, dying a death that
makes the headlines or dying a death so gruesome it defies imagination
won't perk anyone up. My problem is just with the plain vanilla,
unmodified "dying a death". OK, maybe "dying a death at the hands of a
stranger" is problematic too, but I could not find one of those.

It looks like mostly British use, the Australian paper (published in
Tokyo) notwithstanding. I checked GB and could find not one example that
was unmodified (or was not a false positive due to ignored punctuation),
so it is strictly recent UK periodicals, blogs and comments of recent
vintage. A snowclone in the making?


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

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