A fate worse than death   Leave a comment

A fate worse than death

Meaning

Any misfortune that would make life unlivable, especially rape or loss of virginity. The phrase was formally a euphemism for rape.

Origin

This phrase originally attested to the belief that a dishonoured woman was better off dead. It is still used, but ironically of late. The earlier view was expressed in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1781:

“The matrons and virgins of Rome were exposed to injuries more dreadful, in the apprehension of chastity, than death itself.”

The current version of the phrase was used in several works from 1810 onward but was probably brought into public use via Edgar Rice Burroughs’ widely read Tarzan of the Apes, 1914:

“[The ape] threw her roughly across his broad, hairy shoulders, and leaped back into the trees, bearing Jane Porter away toward a fate a thousand times worse than death.”

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: