Drifters vs Passersby


Canadian commentator Colby Cosh calls attention to the way the word “drifter” is used in news reports.  A “drifter” is always up to no good, usually a serial killer.  “Here’s a headline you will never see: “HEROIC DRIFTER SAVES FIVE FROM FLAMING BUS”.”  Someone who performs an admirable deed ceases to be a drifter and becomes a passerby.


  1. cymast

     /  December 18, 2008

    I’ve always found words like “passerby” and “drifter” to be intriguing. “Drifter” makes me think of “grifter.” More in the negative category: transient, vagabond, ne’er-do-well, vagrant, bum, and homeless (as in look at that homeless in the gutter). In the neutral category: passerby, wanderer, wayfarer, sojourner. “Migrant worker” is iffy, unfortunately.

    I always assumed the Walsh case would never be officially solved. I can’t imagine the pain of Adam’s parents, and the pain of Adam’s mother who was watching him when he was abducted. Or the parents of children who are abducted and raped and tortured for years before they are found. It is beyond me how people could be aware of even a 1 in a million chance of that happening to any child and then choosing to bring a child into this world anyway.

  2. acilius

     /  December 18, 2008

    “Drifter” also reminds me of “grifter,” which in turn reminds me that I’ve been meaning to see the movie “The Grifters” starring Anjelica Huston ever since it came out, 20 years ago or so.

    “Passersby” reminds me of “passenger.” Which occasionally reminds me of passenger pigeons, whereof there once were many but ain’t no more.

    My heart goes out to the Walshes as well, of course.

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