Here is one of the many questions I’ve received recently:
I was reading a story in the paper and the writer wrote “He hanged himself.” My coworkers and I thought it should be, “He hung himself.” Are we all wrong or is the journalist?
Here is my answer:
I’m sorry to report that you are wrong, not the journalist. Pictures can be hung, but people are always hanged. It’s an odd quirk of the English language. Here is a usage note on the word “hang” from the American Heritage Dictionary:
Hanged, as a past tense and a past participle of hang, is used in the sense of “to put to death by hanging,” as in Frontier courts hanged many a prisoner after a summary trial. A majority of the Usage Panel objects to hung used in this sense. In all other senses of the word, hung is the preferred form as past tense and past participle, as in I hung my child’s picture above my desk.