deadly vs. killer

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 11 20:31:45 UTC 2013

As Larry subliminally suggests, "killer flu" sounds like a flu that is
ordinarily fatal, while with "deadly flu" you have a better chance.

Nobody said language has to make sense.

Well, they did, but they were wrong.


On Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 3:20 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
> Subject:      Re: deadly vs. killer
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 1/11/2013 01:11 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
> >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).
> >
> >YMMV.
> So a tornado can chase someone (getting back at the
> tornado-chasers?), but a pileup can't (even though it could be caused
> by a chasing -- such as speeding -- vehicle)?
> Joel
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