dying a death

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Tue Jan 19 23:58:52 UTC 2010

On Jan 19, 2010, at 2:50 PM, Robin Hamilton wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Robin Hamilton <robin.hamilton2 at BTINTERNET.COM>
> Subject:      Re: dying a death
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> 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
>> Kellehear.
>        [SNIP]
>> 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?
>>    VS-)
> Sounds like a recent variant of the phrase (or cliché) "dying the death" or
> "died the death".  (1,610,000 goggle hits for "dying the death" vs. 375,000
> for "dying a death".)  Usually something which expires slowly, never the
> literal sense of death, and possibly connected with the showbiz use of
> talking about a play or show dying when it bombs.
> The original is so familiar in the UK that I wouldn't have thought twice if
> I came on it, and confronted by "dying a death," I'd think it was someone
> trying to be clever and extend the original slightly.
> Strange that it doesn't run in America -- is there a USA equivalent?
> Robin

I think an adjective makes it much more acceptable, particularly "slow:"

My car died a slow death


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