Apr 29, 2008

Rapid Rhetoric: FELO DE SE

Raphael's depiction of Plato defining the difference between true and false rhetoric This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

felo de se (FEH-low-deh-SAY) n. a person who kills himself; the act of suicide; a person who dies as a result of having committed an unlawful or malicious act.

The translation from Latin is something akin to "evildoer to oneself," but this archaic legal term typically refers to suicide.

Until the year 1823, English citizens were not permitted to bury suicide victims in a cemetery, and such bodies were supposed to be buried at a cross-roads with a stake driven through the heart. Between 1823 and 1882, the burial of the body of a felo de se was allowed between the hours of 9pm and midnight, though religious services could not be administered. These restrictions were lifted in 1882.

The 1834 edition of Henry John Stephen's Summary of the Criminal Law also noted that a verdict of felo de se meant that all real and personal property was forfeited, even property held jointly with his wife.

I'd make a joke about how this would be a stiff sentence, but this would be in poor taste.

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