LOMOV: Excuse me; I cannot continue this discussion: my heart is palpitating.

NATALYA STEPANOVNA: I've noticed that those hunters argue most who know least.

LOMOV: Madam, please be silent. ... My heart is going to pieces. ... [Shouts] Shut up!

NATALYA STEPANOVNA: I shan't shut up until you acknowledge that Squeezer is a hundred times better than your Guess!

LOMOV: A hundred times worse! Be hanged to your Squeezer! His head ... eyes ... shoulder ...

NATALYA STEPANOVNA: There's no need to hang your silly Guess; he's half-dead already!

LOMOV: [Weeps] Shut up! My heart's bursting!

NATALYA STEPANOVNA: I shan't shut up.

(This extract is from The Proposal by Anton Chekhov. "Guess" and "Squeezer" are the names of the characters' dogs.)

What does Lomov mean by "be hanged"?

  • 1
    You might want to add who translated it and how long ago. "x be hanged" is usually equivalent to "x be damned" but here there is also a connection to "hang" in the retort, referring pretty clearly to execution.
    – Chris H
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 13:02
  • 1
    @DanBron You don't have to be so succint. How about adding "asphyxiating him and blocking blood flow to his brain, until he loses consciousness and dies of lactic acidosis due to oxygen deprivation, a few minutes later"? :-)
    – Centaurus
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 13:27
  • 2
    @Centaurus If there's one thing I'm known for, it's my laconicity: my complete, total, and uncompromising economy of words. I'll tell you, I'm one man who knows when what's got to be said has been said, and when to shut up and stop talking. Why once, Henry and I got to talking, and I says to Henry -- I says -- boy Henry, you sure do know how to yammer on, and then Henry s....
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 13:31
  • 2
    @DanBron Done properly, execution-by-hanging should result in speedy death from a broken neck. Strangling is a sign of an incompetent executioner. Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 15:45
  • 1
    @AndrewLazarus "Strangling is a sign of an incompetent executioner." sigh Everyone's a critic... Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 6:11

2 Answers 2


The use of "hanged" in this context is entertaining. Up until about a hundred years ago, "I'll be hanged" was a fairly common euphemism for "I'll be damned". It was an effective euphemism since it was obviously possible for the speaker to be literally hanged, and allowed formal uncertainty about the statement (although there was little practical doubt). So "Be hanged to your Squeezer" would nowadays be replaced with "Your Squeezer be damned" or "To Hell with your Squeezer". That is, it expresses a contemptuous dismissal of Squeezer's virtues.

This is possibly a fairly sophisticated choice by the translator, since the original was in Russian, and I have no idea if "hanged/damned" was also used in Russian at the time.

It seems possible that such a correspondence (or something similar) did exist, since the subsequent line takes the euphemism at face value and turns it back on Lomov. Or it may just indicate a very good translator.

With the increased secularization of the English-speaking world, along with the decline in hanging as an execution technique, the euphemism declined in frequency, and nowadays is fairly rare. https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=I'll+be+hanged&year_start=1800&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2CI%20%27ll%20be%20hanged%3B%2Cc0


It's a curse:

I say "[You should] Be /damned/cursed/hanged/" to your dog!

From the greatest grammarian of the English language (and he was not to the manner born :-))

Selected Writings of Otto Jespersen (Routledge Revivals)

Here the phrase be damned, or its substitute be hanged, has become an exclamation, and to you is added as if "I say" was understood.

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