by Christopher Paslay
Last week in English class I decided to hang myself in front of my students. I did so by taking a picture of yours truly and hanging it up on the wall behind my desk.
“Look everyone,” I said to the class, “I’ve just hung myself.”
The class let out a chuckle.
Why would I do such a thing? As a grammar lesson to teach the difference between hang, hung, and hanged, of course. The lesson was a perfect “Do Now” activity for The Crucible, the Arthur Miller play we’ve been studying for the past month about the Salem Witch Trials.
The play, which serves as an allegory for McCarthyism, details the hanging of 19 Puritans who were believed to be in cahoots with Lucifer himself. The frequent use of the noose inevitably caused my students to ask: What is the difference between hang, hung, and hanged?
Here it is (from Daily Writing Tips):
Hang derives from Old English and means to be attached from above without support below. This is one of the core meanings, as shown in the sentence: The picture hangs on the wall.
However, there are several other related uses, for example:
- To let droop or fall – hang your head in shame.
- To fall in a certain way – this costume hangs well.
- To pay attention to – I hang on your every word.
- To hold on tightly – My daughter is hanging onto my skirt.
- A way of doing something – She couldn’t get the hang of it.
- To be oppressive – a cloud of gloom hangs over him.
The regular past tense of hang is hung, which would be used in all the examples listed above. However, there is one difference when it comes to hanging someone by the neck. In this case the past tense is hanged which means killed by hanging.
In other words, the Puritans in Salem were hanged, not hung.