Thursday, 18 July 2013

"Electrocuted" boy lives

Updated July 19
Yesterday's online edition of the Toronto Sun was updated at 2:07 p.m. to correct the headline and the lead for the story mentioned below. 

The revised headline: Teen, nearly electrocuted, falls from tree in Oakville

The revised lead: A small Oakville country club remains closed and without power after a 13-year-old boy was nearly electrocuted there Wednesday afternoon.  

On behalf of Sun readers, thank you Toronto Sun for not allowing the error to linger. 
TSF's original post:
Toronto Sun online story July 17:
Boy, 13, electrocuted, falls from tree in Oakville

Say what?

We'll ignore a teen being called "boy," but having him in serious but stable condition in hospital after being electrocuted is inexcusable for the reporter who wrote the story and the editor who wrote the headline.

One more time:
vb (tr)
1. to kill as a result of an electric shock
2. (Law) US to execute in the electric chair

But with minimal, overworked staff, Sun readers can expect this quality of journalism in print and online.  


  1. John, with respect, not all dictionaries agree with you. I just checked Oxford online and it defines electrocute as "to injure or kill somebody by passing electricity through their body." So it's at the very least debatable, not "inexcusable." Language, like tortoises, plankton and newspaper columnists, evolves. Cheers. Strobel.

    1. One of the reasons I live in Canada and write using Canadian English is I don't like Oxford snobbery and indeed Downing College is at Cambridge (for those who insist on being a snob. ) Gage Canadian Dictionary says electrocute is killing. It doesn't mention injuring. My entire life, including a few years in journalism, the writers and neighbours and editors around me all meant killed by electricity when they talked about electrocution. With respect, of course, a term that lawyers use when they say the other lawyer is full of shit.....john downing

  2. This is obviously a hot topic. From the dictionary on the Apple computer:
    electrocute |iˈlektrəˌkyo͞ot|
    verb [ with obj. ]
    injure or kill someone by electric shock: a man was electrocuted when he switched on the Christmas tree lights.
    • execute (a convicted criminal) by means of the electric chair.
    electrocution |iˌlektrəˈkyo͞oSHən|noun
    ORIGIN late 19th cent.: from electro-, on the pattern of execute .

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    e·lec·tro·cute (-lktr-kyt)
    tr.v. e·lec·tro·cut·ed, e·lec·tro·cut·ing, e·lec·tro·cutes
    1. To kill with electricity: a worker who was electrocuted by a high-tension wire.
    2. To execute (a condemned prisoner) by means of electricity.

    Collins dictionary defines it as either injure or kill.

    Unfortunately, I couldn't find any discussion on electrocute in the CP Style Guide. which should be the final arbitrator of the usage of controversial words in Canadian newspapers.

    1. With respect to all of the participants, I don't think the real point is the true or proper meaning of the word "electrocute," but instead the fact that there is no longer the time nor the body on hand to initiate this kind of conversation in the first place. A single set of eyes is the general rule now, and that's the real travesty.

      Wayne Janes

    2. Wayne, the lack of eyes is well understood. I remember, every now and then, I would stop typing mid-story and walked across the newsroom to ask Lew Fournier about the proper usage of a word. I loved having the ability to do that; the time and the resource. Unfortunately, that's no longer true and doing it here emphasizes your point more than anything else.