Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: slay / slew / slain (1).

slay / slew / slain (1). Today: Generally. "Slay" = (1) to kill; or (2) to overwhelm, often with delight. In sense 1, the verb has gradually been disappearing from common use except in poetry, headlines, and references to crime victims — e.g., "her son was slain by a stranger in 2002." Even that usage is unusual; the more usual word would be "killed" or "murdered." But as a past-participial adjective, "slain" has few if any suitable alternatives — e.g.: "He was the host at a Rose Garden ceremony in which he signed into law bills to fight legal drugs, keep track of sex offenders and provide college funds for the children of slain police officers." Adam Nagourney, "Clinton in North, Dole in South, Study for Debate," N.Y. Times, 4 Oct. 1996, at A1. Many would use a wordier phrase such as "police officers killed in the line of duty." Next: *"slayed" for "slew." *Invariably inferior forms. For information about the Language-Change Index, click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: "Students of Latin who find the case system intolerable may expect a ‘primitive’ language like Yidiny, spoken by Australian aborigines, to be easier, only to find that it has more cases than Latin — absolute, ergative, genitive, locative and instrumental, ablative, dative, purposive, and aversive — and that its 'this' and 'that' forms vary according to distance (close at hand, farther away, remote, not visible). . . . Language flowers in ways that English will never understand. It is a phenomenon showing an incredible variety of sounds and shapes, and it is all made out of a mouthful of air." Anthony Burgess, A Mouthful of Air 399-400 (1992).
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