Patricide is a good word

pat·ri·cide: noun

  1. the killing of one’s father.

Patricide is a noun that describes an action. It is also, of course, the name one can give to a person who has killed their own father. In general, when we refer to people based on their actions, we use the active -er form of the word: one who programs is not a “program” (verb: to write computer programs), they are a programmer. And yet, you would never think to call one who has murdered their father a “patricider,” they are simply a patricide.

This is a wonderful grammatical oddity, which is quite enough for me to love the word all on its own. It is also, of course, a subtle linguistic hint that, after killing one’s father, that fact becomes one’s whole identity. There is nothing left of you: you are no longer Alexander, who is a programmer, you are simply Alexander the patricide. Or, in a culture that wishes to basically expunge you from history, just “Patricide,” although that might get complicated if there is a father-killing spree in your town.

So that’s great too. I mean, I actually hate language that boxes people in and represents them as less than their whole selves, but it’s a very powerful idea. I think we should do it with more words. Take the verb form of your occupation and describe yourself as that. Alexander, the program. Embrace your job as your whole identity; it’s what the industry wants!

Note: the word “engineer” already follows this mold, which is hilarious and didn’t occur to me until after i had written this post and was proofreading it.

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