Disappeared as transitive

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Mon Mar 18 18:28:20 UTC 2013

Thank you for that.

The OED says that the origin is "desaparecido." It's an odd jump to go from a foreign noun (derived in Spanish from a past participle adjective) to a verb. Could it a translation of something like "he was a desaparecido" to "he was a disappeared" or "they were desaparecidos" to "they were disappeared," which then wound up being reanalyzed as passive in English?

The reason for the quotation marks still seems murky. It seems odd for a newspaper to go out of the way to include a word that they judge to require quotation marks.

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA

On Mar 17, 2013, at 6:08 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU> wrote:

> OED has transitive "disappear" from 1897, and it has the relevant sense with
> reference to Latin American political abductions (after Sp. "desaparecido")
> from 1979. I reproduced the citations in this Language Log post:
> http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3652
> On Sun, Mar 17, 2013 at 7:51 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> Heller used this near the end of Catch-22, IIRC. That would have been in
>> 1961.
>> It was popularized, possibly via a parallel inspiration in Spanish, during
>> the military dictatorship in Argentina.
>> On Sun, Mar 17, 2013 at 7:36 PM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>>> The election of Argentinean cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as papa has =
>>> brought Argentina's dirty war into the news.
>>> Twice I've seen "disappeared" used as a transitive verb in quotes in the =
>>> Seattle Times without any explanation or reason. It seems more difficult =
>>> to use "disappear" this way and add the quotes than to say "make someone =
>>> disappear," so I'm puzzled by this use. An example can be seen in the =
>>> Washington Post as well =
>>> (
>>> http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/vatican-defends-pope-francis-a=
>>> gainst-argentina-dirty-war-allegations/2013/03/15/d4a11e3c-8d90-11e2-9f54-=
>>> f3fdd70acad2_story.html)
>>> -----
>>> But questions about the activities of Bergoglio from 1976 to 1983, when =
>>> a military dictatorship terrorized much of Argentina and =93disappeared=94=
>>> thousands of its own citizens, remain a cloud over his papacy=92s =
>>> otherwise bright early days.
>>> -----
>>> I assume this comes from Spanish. Here again, though, nobody is being =
>>> quoted, either in Spanish or Latin.
>>> Wiktionary claims a transitive meaning of "disappear" =
>>> (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/disappear) with a 1973 Heller citation, =
>>> and provides desaparecer as the Spanish translation (though =
>>> http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/desaparecer#Spanish doesn't provide a =
>>> transitive meaning, it could just be incomplete).

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