If you watch a lot of crime-related TV series you will need this vocabulary. Or if you decide to kill someone in the United States, you need to know enough to do it in one of the 21 states where capital punishment is not legal. However, the death penalty is still legal in 29 states, which is more than half of the country. If you are not the criminal type, what follows is necessary vocabulary for understanding the news and/or watching movies or TV series.
Lethal injection with a combination of drugs is the primary means of execution, but occasionally electrocution, gas, hanging, or a firing squad is still used. In 2018, 25 death row inmates were executed in the U.S.A. Twenty-three of them were executed by way of lethal injection and two by electrocution.
Lethal injection is said to be the most humane of the five methods because the inmates are supposed to be sedated before they die. But because many drug manufacturers no longer want their products associated with executions and won’t sell them or even make them anymore, many prisons have been improvising with mixtures of drugs that are not always efficient. There have been some long and poorly carried out executions by way of botched lethal injections in the past few years.
Electrocution is carried out in electric chairs, and the prisoners are strapped into a chair. Then they have sponges that have been soaked in saline placed on their skin to ensure conductivity of the electrodes that are placed on top of the sponges. Electrocution usually kills the inmate by sending him or her into cardiac arrest, and the executioners normally give the person a couple of jolts. They can’t give just one long jolt, because that could set the inmate on fire.
The gas chamber is not a good place to die in. Inmates are strapped into a chair or onto a table and cyanide gas is pumped into the gas chamber. The inmates suffocate while they are fully awake and conscious.
Hanging used to be the principal method of execution in the United States, but is almost never used nowadays. However, it is still there as a cheap, legal back-up method if necessary. Many of us remember seeing the video of Saddam Hussein hanged in 2006. The prisoner stands over a trap door with a noose around his neck, and when the trap door is opened, the prisoner falls. It is supposed to quickly break the prisoner’s neck, but sometimes prisoners are decapitated when they fall and at other times they strangle for several minutes before they die.
A firing squad is also used only occasionally. The prisoner is strapped into a chair and a cloth target is placed over his heart. Some shooters are given blanks, and one or two are given real bullets. If the shooters are good at their job, someone hits the prisoner’s heart, rupturing it and killing him quickly.
In the beginning of July 2019, there were 2,632 prisoners on death row in the United States. Fifty-five of them are women. 1,192 are black, 1,135 are white, 28 are Native American, and the rest are Latino or Asian, except for one who is of unknown ethnicity. Four of the death row inmates are military people.
All of the prisoners currently on death row have been convicted of murder. The current Trump administration has a plan to impose the death penalty for drug overdose deaths in the hope of decreasing the opioid public health crisis. But so far, it is only a plan.
The word cliffhanger comes from cliffs. Duh. Cliffs are vertical, or nearly vertical, rocks that have been formed by erosion and weathering. There are lots of famous cliffs, but the first ones that come to my mind are the White Cliffs of Dover, probably because there was a popular World War II song about them that was part of my childhood, and also because they are on the historical English coastline.
When one thinks of cliffhangers, England and its gothic novels always come to mind. Cliffhangers are the kind of story, book or movie that uses suspense either at the end of an episode or a scene. A good example was the way the final episode of Game of Thrones, season 5, was done. Jon Snow was dead. Or was he? Those of us who sweated it out until season 6 was aired were never really sure. The writers used old-fashioned melodrama, suspense and uncertainty, and the audience was left as if hanging from a cliff in a state of tension and apprehension. And that’s a true cliffhanger.
This part of the blog will not be able to offer any nail-biting cliffhangers, but it will have classes in series, and I hope they will be interesting enough that you will want to come back and read what happens next, even if you don’t lose sleep anticipating the next chapter. Enjoy.
FYI is an acronym, and an acronym is a word formed by combining the first letters of each word of a name, such as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) that is frequently seen in the news. Another one you probably know is AIDS, which is an acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Sometimes acronyms are pronounced as a word as in NATO and AIDS, and sometimes the letters are pronounced individually, such as FYI (for your information). And most of the time they are not even pronounced, as they are used mostly in social media, business communication and Internet. But we do hear CNN (Cable News Network) reporters saying ASAP frequently, which means As Soon As Possible and is hard to pronounce.
Sometimes acronyms become words, such as the word scuba. Everybody knows that word, but few know it started out as an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.
Another acronym that became a word is laser, which began as the acronym Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Most of us are very pleased that these two words became acronyms.
For now, try to incorporate FYI and ASAP into your daily communications, and don’t spend too much time remembering what AIDS and LASER and SCUBA really mean. But you should be able to recognize NATO as it has become a big issue in North America and Europe.
Here are six business acronyms that you should know if you are a businessperson, and maybe aspire to if you are in middle management. Which one would be the lowest stress and the highest salary?