Literacy’s last gasp?
by Chip_Latcham
 Off the old block
Dec 03, 2010 | 1174 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink


The sinister-looking photo and lead story in Wednesday’s Bee-Pic about the new law implemented to increase the severity of punishment of those committing assault against family members most certainly grabbed many readers’ attention.

I commend the DA’s office and local law enforcement officers for doing all in their power to prevent these disturbing cases of family violence which are expected to increase with the upcoming holidays.

Yet, I’m still confounded by the large number of “strangulation” cases being prosecuted in our county.

Admittedly, I’m hopelessly old school, but as an editor, I was taught that strangulation meant death.

Where are the bodies? According to recent grand jury reports, they should be stacking up like cordwood around town. 

It’s sort of like in the late 1800s when so many people were hanged from the old oak trees on the courthouse square.

Oh, wait a minute. That didn’t really happen here either. Must be confused with Goliad again... 

After changing the term strangulation to choking or attempted strangulation several times in police and sheriff’s stories, I checked with my dictionaries to make sure the meaning hadn’t changed.

My online version reads: strangle – to squeeze or constrict the neck of (a person or animal), esp. so as to cause death.

My little worn desktop Webster’s (yes, I still refer to printed reference books) states: strangle – to choke to death. And my tried and trusty large Random House Dictionary offers: strangle – to kill by squeezing the throat in order to compress the windpipe and prevent the intake of air, as with the hands or a tightly drawn cord.

So, I am not imagining this. Even in this modern age when communication includes poorly written blogs and such clever phrases as: CU l8r or luvD yr msg, LOL.

However, according to the new statute, a respected investigator said, “If they put their hands on your neck and squeeze any length of time, that’s strangulation.”

No offense to the authorities, but I don’t remember the Boston Strangler employing the catch-and-release method.

Reminds me of the countless times I have watched TV news reports of a drowning victim who recounts the traumatic ordeal outside the swimming pool, or the poor fellow who had been electrocuted but is expected to make a full recovery.

Really? Is that you, Lazarus?

I’m so thankful my dear mother, who in addition to being the office historian served as our longtime expert in several languages, isn’t around to witness these errors.

She would have reminded me that some folks simply are guilty of murdering the English language.

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