The question came from Lynne Murphy via Twitter: “Have you been hearing any ‘sectioned’ in US?”
Me: “No. What’s it mean?”
Her: “Committed, in the ‘institutionalized’ sense.”
The reason she asked was that one of her Twitter informants, who goes by the handle @ahab99, had heard the word coming out of the mouth of American characters on the American-set Netflix series “Mindhunter.” And sure enough, in Episode One, the wife of a hostage-taker says, “I tried to get him sectioned on Sunday” An FBI agent, apparently hard of hearing, follows up, “You tried to get him sectioned?”
The OED definition of the verb is, “To cause (a person) to be compulsorily detained in a psychiatric hospital in accordance with the provisions of the relevant section of the Mental Health Act of 1983 or (formerly) that of 1959.” All the citations are from British sources, including the first one, from a 1984 article in a medical journal: “Before the 1983 Act came into being no social worker ever refused my request to come and see a patient with a view to sectioning the patient under the old section 29.”
I would venture to say that, until now, the word has never been used in an American context.
And how did “sectioned” get into “Mindhunter”? The answer turns out to be simple. The writer of the episode, Joe Penhall, was raised in Australia but has done all his previous work in British theater and film.
That’s all well and good, but it’s pretty odd, as @ahab99 observed, that “apparently nobody in production or on set said ‘wait, what’s “sectioned”?’”