Column: Hung up on hanged

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Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

Do you remember William Hung? He auditioned for “American Idol” back in 2004 and became famous for how delightfully bad his performance was. Hung’s version of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” for the judges was so bad, it actually endeared the nation to him. As a result, Hung had 15 seconds of fame performing the equivalent of lousy karaoke on various television shows.

That’s not the type of “hung” I want to tackle today. We’re here to discuss hang, hung and hanged. This tricky trifecta trips up the best of us. Let’s get it straight, shall we?

“Hang” is a present tense verb with a handful of meanings. It means to fasten, to let droop, to pay close attention, or attach tightly to something. It’s also an informal term for spending time with friends. Hang your coat on the hook. Hang out with the wrong crowd, and you’ll end up in jail. I like to hang from the monkey bars. I’m hanging by a moment here with you. You don’t really need me, but you keep me hanging on. Yes, those last two examples were song lyrics.

“Hung,” on the other hand, is the past tense form of “hang.” Almost always, “hung” is the proper past tense version of “hang” to use in your everyday vocabulary. William hung the curtains. We hung onto every second of William’s terrible audition. As a result, Hung hung out with other D-list celebrities. The public hung William out to dry after his novelty act wore off.

When it comes to “hanged,” we need to be very careful. It is the past tense and past participle of “hang” and should only be used when you’re talking in the past tense about a person who got put to death via hanging. According to the AP Stylebook, “One hangs a picture, a criminal or oneself. Use hanged for executions or suicides; use hung for other actions.” That’s clear enough for me!

Remember it this way: curtains are hung and outlaws are hanged. I could keep talking about hang, hung and hanged, but my stomach is starting to growl at me. I’m going to wrap it up because when I have to wait too long for meals, I get hangry, and you won’t like me when I’m hangry!

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