Have you ever wondered about that? Why, when appraising people’s capacity for extreme villainy, or disavowing our own, do we use axe-murder as a catch-all term?
Is axe-murder a particularly horrible form of murder? I’d certainly prefer it to being killed by any number of other esoteric tools. An implement more well-suited to the task, like a machete, strikes me as a lot more brutal; whereas something particularly unsuited to the task, like a two-handed barrette file, must result in a murder so inefficient and laborious that it can’t be satisfying for either participant.
Could it be a generally more concerning form of murder? Well, not really. The overwhelming majority of murder weapons are knives in the UK and firearms in the US. You never hear anyone jokingly say they don’t intend to shiv you. No, there are countless other instruments of death we should be far more worried about.
You could say that it’s the specific nature of the implement that makes it so sinister. If you’re specifically an axe-murderer, shunning all other methods of doing people in, in favour of a relatively obscure piece of killing paraphernalia, that might suggest you’re particularly more horrible than a run-of-the-mill butcher-knife-murderer. Well, maybe, but given how uncommon axes are in this day and age, I’d rather murderers were axe-murderers. Better they require a cumbersome and hard-to-obtain object to do their killings than one which is ubiquitous.
The only explanation I can think of as to why we use axe-murderers in this fashion is because they’re so uncommon and aberrant. I mean, I know they’re axe-murderers and all, but since when has it been considered good form to pick on a minority? As a group, genuine axe-murderers must feel unduly singled out by this practice. Next time you refer to them, spare a thought for their feelings.