[D8933ABD], Letter from Eugene Howard Lewis to Sherburne Blake Eaton, June 1st, 1889


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[D8933ABD], Letter from Eugene Howard Lewis to Sherburne Blake Eaton, June 1st, 1889

Editor's Notes

I hand you Mr. Tate's letter of the 20th inst., enclosing a letter of inquiry from the Editor of "Notes and Queries" to Mr. Edison.##I think that the words which Mr. Edison suggests, namely, ''ampermort'', ''dynamort'' and ''electromort'' are all open to the same objection, as proposed words to signify the set of execution by electricity. The trouble with them lies in the termination. The termination "mort" does, in fact, mean death, coming from the Latin MORS, but it carries with it the signification of death ONLY, that is to say, simple, passive death, with no idea involved in it OF BEING PUT TO DEATH. I think the termination of a compound word, coined with the purpose of signifying the idea in question, should properly be taken from a verb, an active verb.##The word "dynamort" is objectionable upon the additional two grounds, first, that it is made up partly of Greek and partly of Latin, DUNAMIS being the Greek for "power" or "force," and "mort" being, as I have said, from the Latin for death; and secondly, that there is no suggestion in it, of death from any PARTICULAR KIND of force, but only from force. "Dynamort" would express death from any violent cause.##Keeping these conditions in view, I have formed a word from the word ELECTRICS (which is the Latin form of the Greek ELECTRON meaning "amber") and the word DAEDO, ENEDERE, meaning "to kill", and I propose the word "electricide" as a word most nearly signifying "the act of killing by electricity". It has its analogies in our language already, in the words "homicide, "suicide", etc. These words are not deprived of their character as analogies from the fact that in each of them the prefix is the object of the verb, while in the proposed word the verb does not have an expressed object but the prefix represents the means of accomplishing the result.##The above are merely suggestions, however, and I offer them only for your consideration.##There is one other word which I think, under the circumstances, might be used with some propriety. It can be used as a verb and as a noun to express kindred ideas. The word is "westinghouse." As Westinghouse's dynamo is going to be used for the purpose of executing criminals, why not give him the benefit of this fact in the minds of the public, and speak hereafter of a criminal as being "westinghoused," or as being "condemned to be westinghoused": or, to use the noun, we could say that such and such a man was condemned TO THE WESTINGHOUSE. It will be a sublte compliment to the public services of this man. There is a precedent for it, too, one that could not be more apt or authoritative. We speak of a criminal in France as being guillotined, or condemned to the guillotine. Each time that word is used it tends to perpetuate the memory and services of Dr. Guillotine, who afterwards died by the same machine that he had invented. The adoption of the word westinghouse for a like purpose will go far towards rebutting the claim that Republics are less grateful than Empires. Yours very truly Eugene H. Lewis




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Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
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