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Can you say “I savaged myself” or “He/She savaged himself/herself” for something or someone? For instance, someone was trying to prepare themselves for a contest or a competition, fiercely changing their appearance, behavior etc. and now they are not too happy about it. So is it O’K if this person would use a word “Savage” as a verb for a more dramatic effect (in an interview for example) and say that they savaged themselves for a chance to be on the show?
Thank you!

  • Many people tend to avoid 'savage' to mean "violently attack", these days, because of the racist use of the word when applied to indigenous peoples. Also, I don't think it quite fits the meaning you are looking for. – Michael Harvey Jun 30 at 11:12
  • I'd never have thought of "racist" overtones (it seems a bit of a stretch to me), but I don't think reflexive to savage oneself is a very "natural" usage. Having said that, he savaged himself has occurred in print several times. I don't recommend it though. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 30 at 13:09
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    ...this is off-topic "creative writing advice", but you could use something more colloquially idiomatic, such as He put himself through the wringer to be on the show. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 30 at 13:15
  • Thank you very much for your help! – Scarlett Jun 30 at 13:58
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This is how Merriam-Webster defines the verb savage:

: to attack or treat brutally

If I mutilate myself with a knife, then it would make sense to say I savaged myself. In fact, I'd argue it would be a natural phrase in that context. It's at least one that I've heard applied in such a context before. The reflexive use is also fine in that context.

But simply changing your appearance doesn't have the same sense of permanent harm or attack that savaged would imply. Hearing the verb applied to makeup or clothing would be out of place.


Even if they are trying to use a verb in a dramatically figurative fashion, I think savaged would be taking it a little too far. You likely wouldn't say I brutalized myself or I abused myself in this context either.

It's possible you could use attack, if you qualified it: I attacked myself with new clothing and makeup. If said in the right way, it would convey a mix of imagery and humour.

Otherwise, something more simple like I transfigured myself would be dramatic enough, without also having an implication of harm.


In response to a comment:

changing the appearance in this context implies plastic surgery

In that specific context, the use of savaged might be appropriate—although normally only if the results were undesirable and harmful.

Also, unless you performed the surgery on yourself, the specific phrasing would be I was savaged or I got myself savaged.

  • Thank you very much! And so sorry I did not clarify it in my first post, but changing the appearance in this context implies plastic surgery. So, I guess, since it is a permanent harm, the word "savaged" could be used in this context, right? Thank you, again! – Scarlett Jun 30 at 16:07
  • @Scarlett Ah! Yes. Especially if the plastic surgery produced harmful or undesirable effects. However, unless you performed the surgery on yourself, you would say I was savaged or I got myself savaged. I have updated my answer to include this. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jun 30 at 16:09
  • Got it! Thank you very much, Jason! – Scarlett Jun 30 at 16:15

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