[Ads-l] coward

Chris Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Wed Dec 18 09:19:30 UTC 2019

On Tue, Dec 17, 2019 at 3:48 PM Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at gmail.com> wrote:

> I have always thought this sense of coward means someone who kills or
> commits violence without giving the victim a chance to fight back.
> https://www.nytimes.com/1986/09/06/world/hijacking-in-karachi-reagan-brands-hijacking-of-jet-a-cowardly-act.html

Yes, me, too. My feeling for this comes from German and French though, TBH.
But "eine feige Tat" / "un acte lâche" (a cowardly act) has been in my
vocabulary since I acquired it, and I'm sure there are many older examples.
The idea I have is along the lines of "someone was able to solve their
problems only by applying excessive, overwhelming force to unarmed
innocents". The cowardice attaches to the person indirectly, via the
action. It is cowardly because the alternative - facing up to frustration,
convincing people, solving material or personal problems - would require a
lot more bravery than killing others. (Now that may be arguable for those
who think nothing can possibly require more bravery than throwing away
one's own life, but I would, on consideration, disagree.) To me, it never
meant that the person was squeamish about endangering themselves.

Chris Waigl . chris.waigl at gmail.com . chris at lascribe.net
http://eggcorns.lascribe.net . http://chryss.eu

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

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