We all know what the death penalty is. It’s killing somebody who has been convicted of a particularly heinous crime.
It’s strange to see these two words, death and penalty, together. Death couldn’t be clearer. Somebody dies. But penalty? That sounds like an irritating fee hidden in the small print of a contract — maybe five minutes on the bench, for you sports fans — but what’s really happening is that your state’s government has decided to kill you.* Well, not YOU, probably, but someone.
Whatever you think about this practice — killing somebody because they do something horrible — I’m sure you’ll agree that “penalty” is a pretty soft word for a person dying at the hands of his or her jailers. It also adds an air of bureaucratic inevitability to the “death” part. Just like your bank has no choice but to charge you $85 if your balance dips below $100, we have no choice but to kill people who do awful things.
*Put that in your “nanny state” pipe and smoke it.