fatal demise

fatal demise.jpg


There is actually a band called Fatal Demise.  I wonder if they named it that as a bit of humorous word play.

 Demise is not really a common word. It is one of the many legal words that British English borrowed from the French in Anglo-Norman times. It derives from the Latin demitteretosend away or transfer, with a past participle demissus, and so describes an estate that has been transferred to someone else. The noun demise then came to mean the death that caused the transfer or property, this meaning becoming uppermost in general use.

 Demise means ‘death’ so fatal demise is a tautology. 

I think the problem has arisen with the collocation meet one’s demise.  Death should really only happen to living things but the expression has broadened to cover non-living things. Has football finally met its demise? Has retail met its demise?  This is not so much death as failure, extinction, the end of the road. We need another definition in the dictionary to cover this use which is quite common. The OED comments that this is a figurative use. Macquarie doesn’t comment at all.

 Now that demise is watered down in this way, we feel the need to up the ante when actual death is what we are talking about. Thus the fatal demise, the ending that is concluded by death. Once we have arrived at this new collocation we are stuck with it in all circumstances because anything less than a fatal demise would not impress.

 Thus the fatal demise of the Hindenburg.

 Oct 4, 2018

The largest airship ever built, the Hindenburg met its fatal demise in May 1937 when fire broke out, destroying ...