Hang, Hanged & Hung

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

I came across a newer Western the other day where someone talked about someone getting hanged. I had to rewind to make sure I heard that right. Yep, the cowpoke said, “hanged.”

The reason I rewound was that “hanged” was the wrong word to use in that instance.

People are hung. Everything else is hanged.

There are two past tense forms of to hang–hanged and hung. The reason is Old English had a couple of different words that merged into the one we have today, which of course, is confusing.

The way I learned to know which word was correct was to think of the ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas story where the narrator says, “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.” Stockings are things, not people, so they were hung.

If someone committed murder or horse theft in the Old West, they were hanged.

Incorrect: Dale was hung for stealing his neighbor’s horse.

Correct: Dale was hanged for stealing his neighbor’s horse.

Incorrect: Andy and I hanged Christmas lights.

Correct: And and I hung Chrismas lights.