Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Jan 11 18:11:37 UTC 2013

On Jan 11, 2013, at 1:00 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> OED seems not cover this recent nuance: "scientific data or information."
> CNN touts a news show: "Anderson Cooper investigates the frightening
> science behind the deadly flu epidemic."
> To my antediluvian ears, these words suggest that Evil Scientists created
> the virus in their Mad Science lab.  But that's not what is meant.  The
> "frightening science" is why (as well as "that")  this year's flu may be a
> little more virulent than last year's and may possibly cause a somewhat
> higher mortality.
> Note too the surprising connotative difference between "deadly flu
> epidemic" and "killer flu epidemic."  The latter sounds far more lethal. To
> me, anyway.
Yes, my intuition is that "deadly" is for things like poison that will get you dead if you don't manage to avoid them, but "killer" is for things that chase you down and make you dead.  Whence "killer bees" as well as "killer whales".  This is why there are significantly more hits for "killer tornado(es)" than "killer earthquake(s)", and why "deadly curve" sounds more natural to me than "killer curve", although they're both attested.  Or "deadly pileup" ("about 16,000")  vs. "killer pileup" (15 actual g-hits, with duplication).



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