Alleged Alligators

I like this famous expression that comes from Chicago politics:

I deny the allegation and defy the alligator.

My gripe is with the way I heard the passive participle “alleged” used on the morning news show today.  They spoke of the “alleged murder of David Hartley by Mexican Pirates”  in Falcon Lake on the border between Mexico and Texas.

I understand the concept in our legal system that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty.  So it is proper to say “the alleged murderer.”

Allege meant in older days, “to affirm on oath,” then more generally, “to accuse without proof.”  In 1586, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, one T.B. was enlightened enough to say,

wee must not therefore alleadge anie imperfection in the creation of the woman.

In journalism today “allege” means “to accuse of a crime” and “alleged” means “accused.”  So it is proper to speak of the “alleged perpetrator” of a crime, but it is wrong to speak of an alleged victim, or even an alleged crime when the fact that a crime has been committed is obvious.  Tiffanie Hartley has the spattered blood of her husband on her vest.  She was with him when he was shot in the head in Mexican waters by someone aboard a boat.

The word “alleged” should be reserved for occasions when someone has been named and accused of a crime.  Crimes and crime victims should not be “alleged.”