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In Return of the Jedi, Luke says to Vader:

That was why you couldn't destroy me. That's why you won't take me to your emperor now.

Later, the Emperor says to Luke:

If you will not be turned, you will be destroyed.

And in The Phantom Menace, Mace Windu says with regard to the apparent death of Darth Maul:

But which was destroyed? The master, or the apprentice?

Perhaps most famously (as @Adamant reminded me), Vader in The Empire Strikes Back:

There is no escape. Don't make me destroy you.

And later in the same fight:

Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this!

That's enough to establish a pattern. Why do these characters consistently say "destroy" instead of "kill"? It is just a peculiar force-user mannerism/tradition, or is there some underlying spiritual significance to their choice of words? Am I correct in my presumption that this pattern is exclusive or nearly exclusive to force-users?

Note that there are several places in the scripts where the word "destroy" is used where "kill" would not be a suitable replacement, for example when discussing the destruction of a planet, a ship, or a droid (it's not obvious whether droids are alive to begin with). Those usages of the word "destroy" are not relevant to the question.

I am also aware that there are occurrences of force-users not using the word destroy, such as when Obi-Wan tells Luke that Vader "betrayed and murdered [his] father." That doesn't invalidate the question unless someone can prove that the usages of "destroy" noted above are not statistically significant.

Edit: if there's a simple out-of-universe explanation such as censorship, that's a valid answer as long as it can be backed up by specific evidence. However, I am skeptical of this due to several uncensored usages of the word "kill" in those same movies:

Episode IV:

Vader:

Send a distress signal, and then inform the senate that all aboard were killed!

Obi-Wan:

You'd have been killed, too, and the droids would be in the hands of the Empire.

Luke:

But they're going to kill her!

Episode V:

Lando:

If you put him in there, it might kill him.

Luke:

He told me enough! He told me you killed him!

Episode VI:

I can't kill my own father.

I will not turn... and you'll be forced to kill me.

And perhaps most perplexing/telling of all:

You couldn't bring yourself to kill me before, and I don't believe you'll destroy me now.

It seems as if characters are more likely to use "destroy" instead of "kill" when the person being destroyed and/or killed is a force user. But even if that's correct, it doesn't explain why they use this language.

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  • 2
    Don't make me destroy you.
    – Adamant
    Nov 6 '21 at 2:08
  • 10
    Force users are nothing if not dramatic.
    – Tronman
    Nov 6 '21 at 2:35
  • 3
    I wouldn't be surprised if the reason is censorship. Shows written for children usually avoid using certain words completely, and one of those words is often "kill." tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/NeverSayDie
    – Kai
    Nov 6 '21 at 6:41
  • 3
    Obi-Wan came back to advise Luke, Palpatine returned to do whatever he did in the last movie, I'm not going to look it up, and Legends is positively rife with Force-users outliving their mortal forms. Where the Force is concerned, killing is not enough.
    – Cadence
    Nov 6 '21 at 7:44
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    I was thinking of the usage the other way around - kill the body, or destroy the whole person, body and spirit. But that's mostly me thinking of Vitiate in The Old Republic, who very definitely needed to be destroyed and not merely "killed".
    – Cadence
    Nov 6 '21 at 8:08
3

I think that by using the word "destroy", the Force users (both light and dark) imply that they mean the physical body, while the spirit may be preserved (as a Force Ghost for a Jedi, or as a detached spirit for a Sith; the latter may find him/herself a new body later).

It could also be some dramatization, and/or high language.

1
  • I think this is probably right, or destroy both physical body and connection to the Force, but is there any evidence to back this up?
    – L.T.Smash
    Nov 8 '21 at 16:22

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