“Go missing”

Verb, intransitive. To disappear or vanish. “A proxy card with 425,000 votes for the Bank of New York – the second largest block of stock in its favor – simply went missing.” (Sarah Bartlett, New York Times, September 18. 1988)/”Later, cell phone records obtained through a court order showed a call to her voicemail was made in Massapequa, a hamlet not far from where her body was found, on the day she went missing, the official said.” (Associated Press, January 27, 2011) Ngram for “went missing.”

5 thoughts on ““Go missing”

  1. I’m conflicted.

    On the one hand, “go missing” seems like a useful way to refer to a frequently-occurring phenomenon: People or things not showing up where they are expected. Standard American English substitutes for “go missing” are more wordy, less elegant.

    On the other hand, “go missing” may be a TOO-useful way of referring to this phenomenon, because it permits a speaker to discuss his ignorance as if it were knowledge. When I say “X has gone missing,” it appears as if I am discussing X. But that appearance is misleading. Rather, I am discussing MYSELF — discussing the state of my ignorance regarding X’s location, and the fact that I had an expectation about X which has been frustrated. The structure of the sentence conceals the real meaning of the sentence.

    In general, if a speaker is ignorant about a fact, I would prefer the speaker declare his ignorance plainly — even if the phrasing is wordy.

  2. Are you sure “go missing” is a NOOB? I hear it on Law & Order: SVU all the time. It’s their line of work, after all. Perhaps the Ngram shows its increase due to its increased usage in American drama?

  3. I’d tend to use “gone missing” to imply intentionality, activity, or for animate beings. A person, a cat, and a piloted plane can go missing; but my remote control has no power of movement, so they’ve just disappeared or vanished.

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