Deadly homicide

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As opposed to the salubrious kind, presumably….

FOX 5 DC News (3/3/19) headline:

"Fairfax County police identify victims of deadly triple homicide in Springfield"

Fairfax County police have identified the three people found shot dead at a home in Springfield overnight.

As Bob Dylan and Paula Cole might have sung, "Where have all the editors gone …"

[h.t. Don Keyser]


  1. Chips Mackinolty said,

    March 3, 2019 @ 9:53 pm

    Maybe in Aboriginal English, where deadly means "awesome", "great", "wonderful" and the like.

    Maybe not!

  2. ft said,

    March 3, 2019 @ 10:37 pm

    while i agree it's technically redundant, i think "deadly" is being used as an intensifier, to make the seriousness of the situation clear at a quick glance. "homicide" is a somewhat dry, technical term and doesn't immediately leap out in the same way "triple murder" would; but presumably they can't call it a murder until more details emerge.

  3. Gregory Kusnick said,

    March 3, 2019 @ 10:55 pm

    I'm guessing it originally said "deadly triple shooting", and it was an editor who changed it to "homicide".

  4. Peter S. Shenkin said,

    March 3, 2019 @ 11:32 pm

    Bob Dylan and Paula Cole might have sung it, but Pete Seeger might have written it.

  5. loonquawl said,

    March 4, 2019 @ 6:06 am

    I once picked up a novel at the airport whose blurb quite unironically shouted: 'Indy takes to the sky to stop a deadly rain of death!'

  6. maidhc said,

    March 4, 2019 @ 7:03 am

    Chips Mackinolty's comment is a usage that can also be found in Ireland. I'm not sure about other places.

    It's a variant of a usage that can be found back to the 1850s, where the big Irish gang in New York was the Dead Rabbits.

    At the end of Asbury's book is a list of several hundred words and phrases called "The Slang of the Early Gangsters," which was excerpted from an encyclopedic underworld dictionary compiled by a onetime New York City police chief and warden of the Tombs Prison, George W. Matsell.

    In Matsell's dictionary, the word rabbit is "a rowdy," and a dead rabbit is "a very athletic, rowdy fellow." Rabbit suckers are defined as "young spendthrifts." A slew of other slang terms in Matsell's dictionary jump out at you from the soundtrack of Mr. Scorsese's film: ballum rancum for a wild party, crusher for a cop, mort for a woman and lay for one's criminal leaning or occupation.

    These ancient terms are the secret language of the Irish crossroads. They are the beginnings of an Irish-American dictionary concealed within a centuries-old camouflage of English phonetics and spelling, finally reclaimed and reracinated into the American-Gaelic tongue.

    In an Irish-English dictionary published in Dublin in 1992, the Irish word ráibéad is defined as a "big, hulking person." It is that word, ráibéad -along with the slang intensifier dead , meaning "very"-that provides the simple solution to the 150-year-old mystery of the moniker "Dead Rabbit."

    We also say things like "He's a dead shot" or "It's a dead cert".

    In reference to the original headline, I feel that "deadly" is being used because 3 people were killed rather than just one. But "triple homicide" does the job. There's no reason to add "deadly". Some kind of editing mixup, I suppose.

  7. Karl Weber said,

    March 4, 2019 @ 11:13 am

    I am always bemused by news anchors who habitually refer to murders as "senseless killings." I am still waiting to hear a news story about one of the other kind, i.e. a "sensible killing."

  8. David L said,

    March 4, 2019 @ 11:44 am

    Where have all the editors gone? Easy answer: cost-cutting. Traditional media are under siege, and as various TV channels and newspapers and the like have been bought up by people or corporations with little history in journalism, getting rid of editors — rather than reporters or ad sales teams — must seem like an obvious way to trim expenses.

  9. Roscoe said,

    March 4, 2019 @ 12:49 pm

    Karl Weber –

  10. Lex said,

    March 5, 2019 @ 6:14 am

    @Karl Weber.

    "I am still waiting to hear a news story about one of the other kind, i.e., a 'sensible killing.'"

    I think this quote from Don Corleone in (the book) The Godfather has the gist of what you're looking for:

    "There are men in this world," he said, "who go about demanding to be killed. You must have noticed them. They quarrel in gambling games, they jump out of their automobiles in a rage if someone so much as scratches their fender, they humiliate and bully people whose capabilities they do not know. I have seen a man, a fool, deliberately infuriate a group of dangerous men, and he himself without any resources. These are people who wander through the world shouting, 'Kill me. Kill me.' And there is always somebody ready to oblige them."

  11. Gabriel said,

    March 5, 2019 @ 8:19 am

    I'm also unclear on whether the deadly killings took place in Springfield, or if the bodies were moved there for later identification.

  12. Cervantes said,

    March 5, 2019 @ 9:37 am

    Well yes, but "hot water heater," "tuna fish," and "free gift" are standard, among many other pleonasms. Don't know why.

  13. Ed Rorie said,

    March 5, 2019 @ 5:41 pm

    Seeger certainly did write it. The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, and Mary are at the top of the long Wikipedia list of people who recorded it, which includes Bobby Darin and Bernie Sanders. Bob Dylan sang it on stage with Joan Baez and Paula Cole had a hit single with a song called "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?"

  14. Andrew Usher said,

    March 6, 2019 @ 7:01 pm

    Why not 'identified three victims of Springfield murder [or homicide – I think they're perfect synonyms in this context]'? Omit senseless words …

    I'm pretty sure that the phrase 'senseless killing' has undergone a debasement in some people's language. Originally it must have distinguish those minority of killings having no comprehensible motive, but yes, some news people seems to be able to use it for any murder at all.

    k_over_hbarc at

  15. Assistant Village Idiot said,

    March 7, 2019 @ 3:53 pm

    @ Ed Rorie – Peter Schenker's comment plays off the word "might" used in the OP.

    While I engage in the same humorous exercise myself, using the "as opposed to" phrasing, I think ft is onto something that in a headline, writers are likely to seek intensifiers and splash. I am also more forgiving of grocer's quotes now that I have decided they are merely using the punctuation marks according to a different convention than is used in formal prose.

    Though they are all still funny.

  16. Eli Bishop said,

    March 7, 2019 @ 10:24 pm

    Doctor Who has done at least two variations on this: "The Curse of Fatal Death", where the title was a deliberate joke, and "The Deadly Assassin", where I don't think it was.

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