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usage of "dies" Options
modernzz
Posted: Monday, March 30, 2009 1:11:56 PM
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Let's say John Doe has just died. Why the news always reports "John Doe dies" even though it obviously happened in the past? I guess after a week you have no choice but to say "John Doe died." Also, a week later I can probably refer to him as "the late John Doe," but what about a year later? five years later? Is there a time limit for using this expression?
Shelley
Posted: Monday, March 30, 2009 2:56:54 PM
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Good question; to which I have no answer. But the same applies to sports reporting: 'John Dow scores a tri' (or whatever the American football equivalent might be). Or 'Barak Obama triumphs!'. Perhaps it has something to do with the notability of that moment.
I hope for a more educated answer from someone...
kaliedel
Posted: Monday, March 30, 2009 3:16:32 PM
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I can easily see "John Doe Dies" being used in a newspaper headline, but it seems ill-used anywhere else, such as in a conversation (and I can't, for the life of me, see where you actually could use it.) However, the "late so-and-so" I've heard used for any number of years after the subject's death, so I can't say for certain there's a time limit on that, either.
arthbard
Posted: Monday, March 30, 2009 6:46:12 PM
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You wouldn't normally see a phrase like "John Doe Dies" being used in an actual newspaper article. Headlines, however, are normally written in the present tense. I couldn't tell you the origin of this tradition, but it's the way most headlines are written (no matter how long ago John Doe might have died).

There are some other odd headline practices, also. You won't normally see articles (a, the, etc.) in a headline, for example.
Bruna
Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 8:16:33 AM
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It is called "Historical Present" and it refers to the use of present tense to describe historical events happened in the past. As far as I know it was used by Julius Caesar in De Bello Gallico (about the war against Galois), his report about the war against Celts in what is now France (Gallia). I do not now about other earlier usages.
kaliedel
Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 3:43:00 PM
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Bruna wrote:
It is called "Historical Present" and it refers to the use of present tense to describe historical events happened in the past. As far as I know it was used by Julius Caesar in De Bello Gallico (about the war against Galois), his report about the war against Celts in what is now France (Gallia). I do not now about other earlier usages.


Interesting. I wonder if it's used to recant important events in celebratory ways? Caesar, of course, was a master politician and manipulator of public sentiment; he could easily glorify his conquests by using "historical present" to make them more fresh and alive. Newspapers may do the same thing to make the news more appealing.
krmiller
Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 5:08:13 PM
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How interesting, Bruna, I had no idea it was used for history in that way.

I do know that when writing about literature, the present tense is always used; I think it was explained to me that literature is seen as always happening, since it can be read at any time. The same probably applies to other story-based entertainment, like TV shows and movies. For example, it wouldn't be correct (at least in an academic paper) to say "Harry Potter met Hagrid in July," even though that happens in the first book and might be considered the past; you would say "Harry Potter meets Hagrid in July" instead. (Unless, of course, you're writing from the perspective of someone in the Harry Potter world!) I don't know if that convention has any connection to newspapers though.

kaliedel (since this is, after all, the English vocabulary forum): Are you sure "recant" is the word you want there? http://www.thefreedictionary.com/recant
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