General Writing and Grammar Help/meaning of "spill blood"


Dear Ted,
I know that one meaning of the expression "spill blood" means to kill or wound people (you are the one doing the killing). Can it also mean to be killed or wounded (you are the one being killed or wounded)? In other words, does the following sentence make sense?
"Many young Americans spilled blood during the Iraq war."

Dear Glen:

*** YES.  

"Many young Americans spilled blood during the Iraq war."  "Spilled blood" is another way of saying that the soldiers were wounded.  Many people use the phrase to mean that another person has actually died.

There is a related phrase, "drew blood," which means that the person either has injured [NOT killed] another person.  

There is a line in the musical "Les Miserables" that uses "water" as a metaphor for "blood."

The blood of the martyrs will water the meadows of France!

Unfortunately, the phrases "spill blood" and "draw blood" are overused, and many times they are used to mean something other than hurting or killing.

An announcer for a college basketball television broadcast last night remarked that "The Hilltoppers were the first to draw blood."  He meant that the team, nicknamed "Hilltoppers,"
scored first.  That's a little TOO much, in my opinion.


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Ted Nesbitt


I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.


I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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