Hurray for “Slew!”

By Maeve Maddox

I saw a headline in my morning newspaper (Yes, I still read print!) that renewed my hope that one of my favorite irregular verb forms, slew, is going to survive after all.

U.S. says
raid slew
leader of
terror cell

Ever since Buffy the Vampire Slayer ruled the television waves, the regularized form slayed has been gaining ground.

The traditional simple past form, slew, was slipping away, but between headline writers and writers of fantasy, it may have a new lease on life.

Slew has fewer letters than slayed and in writing headlines, short words trump long words.

I like slew because it sounds more deadly, serious, and final.
Buffy slew the vampire.
David slew Goliath.
Saint George slew the dragon.

If you’re going to opt for slew for the simple past, you’ll want to use the past participle form slain:
Buffy has slain the vampire.

On the other hand, I can think of at least one context in which it would be more suitable to use the -ed form. A common figurative expression to describe the effect of a funny comedian is to say, “He slays me.” Ex. That Jerry Seinfeld just slays me! Translation: “Jerry Seinfeld makes me laugh.” It would sound odd even to me to put it in the past as “The other night at the club, Jerry Seinfeld just slew me.”

When it comes to killing unusual creatures, however, or writing tight headlines, you can go with the irregular forms of slay/slew/slain.

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6 Responses to “Hurray for “Slew!””

  • Jeff Bauer

    Here’s a headline for you:

    Speeder sped, then pled.

  • Maeve

    Vanessa,
    I’m with you.

  • Maeve

    Yipeng,
    I wouldn’t attempt to formulate a rule–except for myself.

    My rule is to use slay/slew/slain in every context and leave “slayed” to people who don’t feel chills when they hear it or see it.

    ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Vanessa

    My vote for irregular verb form to remain in use: pled. As in “the suspect pled guilty to the charge of murder.” Every time I see “pleaded” used in this context it irks me.

  • yipeng

    So “Slew” is inappropriate used trivially….

  • Brad K.

    That, and “The Orange Slayed the Rake” line in the infamous “llama song” flash video. Llama, llama, duck.

    Thanks!

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