Yesterday’s Rachel Maddow Show looked at the Mitt Romney campaign as illuminated by the movie Rocky IV (“Rocky Balboa, secret Romney campaign advisor?”), and a couple of minutes into the show we get the innovation boxercide.

(Hat tip to Victor Steinbok.)

It starts with John Kerry:

Mitt Romney talks like he’s only seen Russia by watching Rocky IV.

Rocky IV? Maddow consults her executive producer Bill Wolff (a great Rocky fan), who summarizes the plot of the movie, referring to the heavyweight bout between the Russian villain Ivan Drago and the American Apollo Creed, in which Drago kills Creed:

He kills him, he kills him dead; it’s boxercide, he kills him.

Here’s more detail, from Wikipedia:

Ivan Drago (Russian: Иван Драго) is a fictional character that appeared as Rocky Balboa’s rival in the 1985 film Rocky IV. He is portrayed by Dolph Lundgren. The character and his catchphrases have gone on to inspire multiple mentions in popular culture …

Former champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), now 42 years old, comes out of retirement to challenge Drago to an exhibition match, promoted by Creed’s former rival Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). Creed arrives to the ring wearing his signature Stars & Stripes boxing garb to “Living in America,” sung by James Brown, upon a huge stage that is lowered into the ring. Before the match begins, Drago ominously mutters “You will lose.”

During the fight, Apollo is no match for the Russian fighter. In Apollo’s corner, Rocky contemplates whether to throw in the towel and surrender the fight (against Creed’s earlier instructions), but instead he decides to hold onto the towel. Defenseless, Apollo continues to absorb blows to the head until Drago finally kills him with a final blow to the head. Drago exhibits no remorse about what happened to the former champion, simply stating in an interview after the fight that “if he dies, he dies.”

In the end, of course, Rocky defeats Drago, in a bout in Russia itself. America victorious over the villainous Russians!

Now, boxercide, with the combining form -cide. From Michael Quinion’s affixes site:

A person or substance that kills; an act of killing.

[Latin -cidium and -cidere, from caedere, to strike down or slay.]

One set of words refers to the killing of one human being by another, or self-killing in the case of suicide (sui, of oneself); terms here either describe the act of killing or the person who kills (so infanticide is either the killing of an infant or someone who kills an infant). Another group concerns the destruction of organisms considered undesirable, a general word for which is pesticide and common group terms insecticide, fungicide, and herbicide; terms here denote the agent that kills. Adjectives are formed in -cidal (fratricidal, homicidal).

What this entry assumes, but doesn’t make explicit, is that the first element in a –cide noun denotes the patient in the event, the thing killed; infanticide is the killing of an infant, an insecticide kills insects, a spermicide kills sperm, etc. Boxercide could be just another instance of this pattern: ‘the killing of a boxer’ (Apollo Creed, in this case). Or Wolff might have been extending the pattern to take in the agent of killing instead: ‘killing by a boxer, death by boxer’ (Ivan Drago, in this case). In fact, the agent interpretation is the one I first got, because Wolff’s account was about Drago; then I realized it could be understood as an ordinary patient-oriented -cide noun (well, two boxers are involved, so it could go either way).

Now I’m wondering if there are clear examples of agent-oriented -cide nouns.



One Response to “boxercide”

  1. mollymooly Says:

    Googling [cide “killing by”] gives “democide” ‘killing by government’ as a term distinguished from “genocide”. That page also mentions “politicide”, killing for reasons of politics, which is a different kind of exception. Another is Ben Zimmer’s discussion of “genericide”.

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