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shot or hit? 
Posted: 23 December 2011 10:02 AM   [ Ignore ]
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"Rachel Yoder was shot in the head Thursday night while traveling to her home in Wayne County, between Columbus and Akron.” In the article we are informed that bullet came from a man clearing a rifle 1.5 miles away.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/ohio-freak-death-man-fires-gun-air-bullet-travels-a-mile-kills-15-year-old-amish-girl-article-1.994626

Reading this tragic article alerted me to a nuance of the way I that have heard the usage of “shot”. When I think of someone being shot, I think of it as an intentional act. When I think of an accidental shooting, I think of “hit”, as in:  ‘Two members of a rival gang were shot in the drive by, and one bystander was also hit.’

I think ‘hit’ by a stray bullet, but either ‘hit’ or ‘shot’ by a sniper. ‘Hit’ seems to cover intentional and non intentional, but the ‘shot’ seems to imply the former.

Have I just misheard (again), or has any else noticed this nuance?

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Posted: 23 December 2011 10:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I don’t have that nuance; for me, “she was accidentally shot in the head” is fine.

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Posted: 23 December 2011 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I agree with LH.

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Posted: 23 December 2011 12:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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languagehat - 23 December 2011 10:49 AM

I don’t have that nuance; for me, “she was accidentally shot in the head” is fine.

Here I agree; but I think you affirmed my hunch. Notice that you put in “accidentally”.  Had you written “the man was shot in the head”, I would assume shot intentionally, but I need to know in which part of his body he was shot.

We add “accidentally” when we use “shot” to make it clear that it was an accident. You have to use “shot” in that case, because “hit” does not tell us by what. We can use “hit” if by context we know that it was gunfire, but want to indicate inadvertence.

If one wrote, “there was gunfire on the streets of Baghdad, and three persons were hit”, i would assume unintentionally. If we said “three persons were shot” I would tend to think that the wounds were intentionally inflicted.

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Posted: 23 December 2011 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I think you are grasping at straws in parsing LH’s comment.  I see no implication of intentionality in “shot” (especially not in the passive voice).  I’d suggest you review web coverage of VP Cheney’s shooting of his hunting partner to see examples of how people typically use the word.

[ Edited: 23 December 2011 01:09 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 23 December 2011 06:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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"Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a campaign contributor during a weekend quail hunt on a friend’s South Texas ranch, local authorities and the vice president’s office said Sunday.’ CNN

“President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a prominent Austin, Tex., lawyer on Saturday while the two men were quail hunting in South Texas” NYT

Not trying to grasp at straws, but rather assemble examples in order to point out a usage I had not noticed before.  Just noting that “shot” more often than not implies intention, unless clarified.

I don’t think coverage of Cheney is a fair example since so much of the press wanted to implicate Cheney somehow. Compare the coverage from Fox News to Huffington Post, which one uses “accidentally shot” and which one uses “shot” more. Lots more suspicion of something awry on the HP.

I tried this:  googled “accidentally shot”, and then reworded each article without “accidentally”. “woman accidentally shot in home” vs. “woman shot in home”.  “deputy dismissed after accidentally shooting his son”, vs. “after shooting his son”. “accidentally shot my cat in the face” vs. “I shot my cat in the face” I stopped at about 20 examples.

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Posted: 23 December 2011 06:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Shot doesn’t have any hint of intention for me, Reb.

e.g. the following seems okay to me, even though Connally was not the target.

tergeist.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/the-shots-that-killed-jfk
“As this was happening, over a period of seconds, Connally was shot in the back, chest and wrist .”

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Posted: 24 December 2011 02:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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But headlines are a rather special case, being governed by a need to squeeze all the essential elements of the subject matter into a very limited space. “Rachel Yoder was hit in the head” would convey an entirely false idea, and “Rachel Yoder was hit in the head by a bullet” is three words longer. Even if the sub-editor (or whoever on a newspaper does write the headlines - I’m no expert) would instinctively have written “hit by a stray bullet” when decribing the event in normal prose, it makes perfect sense to save that phrase for the body of the article and put “shot” in the headline.

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Posted: 24 December 2011 04:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I’m with LH and Dr. T on this one. Shot, in and of itself, has no connotation of intentionality. Any intentionality is derived from the context—which is why newspapers often add accidentally, to establish the context.

“Cheney shot a campaign contributor” is an ambigious statement. The next question the reader has is “did he mean to?” Adding “accidentally” clarifies the context, it does not nullify an existing connotation of intentionality.

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Posted: 24 December 2011 10:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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If we said “three persons were shot” I would tend to think that the wounds were intentionally inflicted.

I would not.

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Posted: 26 December 2011 02:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I’m inclined to agree with the Reb that to me “shot” has implications of intentionality that “hit” does not, and if I were reporting a story involving an accident with a weapon, I would most probably write “three people were hit by stray bullets” rather than “three people were shot” or even “three people were shot accidentally”. But it doesn’t surprise me, nor does it bother me, that others don’t have these nuances, and I wouldn’t bridle at “shot” being used where I would use “hit” or vice versa.

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Posted: 26 December 2011 05:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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If you say “hit” then you need some context to indicate that it was “hit with a bullet” so I’d say it’s a wash.

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Posted: 28 December 2011 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Having actually been hit by a ricochet during a training exercise, I can say that I was definitely not shot. To add to what others say, I believe a shot has a certain intent, and comprises of the shooter, the target, the weapon and the motive as well as the bullet, whereas a hit, even with a bullet, only sometimes indicates that intent (target shooting), but often indicates collateral impacts that were not the primary aim of pulling the trigger, and just deals with the end impact, not the whole shooting process.

Edit - a man who shoots someone is one who successfully shoots at someone, whereas a man with a rifle who hits someone with a bullet was not necessarily aiming at them, or for that matter anyone in particular.

[ Edited: 28 December 2011 08:57 AM by Noggin ]
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Posted: 28 December 2011 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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a man who shoots someone is one who successfully shoots at someone, whereas a man with a rifle who hits someone with a bullet was not necessarily aiming at them, or for that matter anyone in particular.

The first man could have been aiming at anything.  The second man could have been aiming at anything, too.  On the whole, though, I agree with zythophile.

[ Edited: 28 December 2011 10:57 AM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 28 December 2011 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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This all reminds me of a joke in the shipping industry. “Some guys are truck drivers and some guys just happen to be driving a truck.”

The difference between the two becomes apparent when you see a guy with a double trailer backing into a crowded loading dock.

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Posted: 29 December 2011 06:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Maybe it’s worth looking at other nuances here, such as the difference between firing a rifle, shooting a rifle, and firing off a rifle. To my mind the first is more a reference to the process of loading, pointing, pulling the trigger and repeating. The second implies more the act of using a tool to its designed end, hitting something with a bullet, whereas the last is usually the act of pulling the trigger to empty a loaded rifle, with no real intention of hitting anything, or even the expressed desire not to, although ‘an enemy patrol ahead fired off some shots in our direction’ seems perfectly good and quite deliberate, although probably unsuccessful. All very contradictory.

But perhaps if there is a greater distinction among those, then to be shot implies a gun being shot, to be hit implies a gun being fired or fired off, with the correct usage dependent more on the weapon and it’s handler rather than the victim?

[ Edited: 29 December 2011 06:21 AM by Noggin ]
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