to Westinghouse

Electric chair used in New York's Sing SIng prison

Shocking vocabulary

Electrocute means, and only means, to put to death by means of a powerful electric current. It should not be used for a mere electric shock. This was a distinction I hadn’t full appreciated until reading Mind the Gaffe – something of a pedant’s handbook. Its first recorded use in English was on 7 June 1889 when New Jersey’s Trenton Times described how a prisoner had volunteered to be ‘electrocuted’ by “testing […]