A fair death honors the whole life.

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Silver

Senior Member
Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
Hi,

I wonder if the expression works in this context:

A-What do you think of the five soldiers in the documentary recommended by our teacher?

B-I know they finally chose to jump from the ravine rather than to surrender themselves to the enemies; I would like to say "A fair death honors the whole life".


Does the expression make sense here?

I asked some friends they said it sounded old-fashioned, especially the term "fair", what's your opinion? This expression is quoted from my teacher's class notes.

Yours

Silver
 
  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Hiya ... it must be at least three days since we saw you, but this is a return to form! Your teacher's class notes are up to their usual trickery!

    The person who advised against it was right.

    If you are keen on this sentence you might use a NOBLE death?
     
    If you are keen on this sentence you might use a NOBLE death?
    I would have said that "honorable death" was the phrase you were seeking, but perhaps you want to avoid it since "honor" is in the next part of the sentence. I do think "honorable" is a good choice, so you could consider changing "honors the whole life" to something like "ennobles the whole life."

    On the other hand, it would also be OK to use "honorable" followed by "honor" if you want to. There is a kind of poetic symmetry in using two forms of the same word so close together in this context, where honor is a key concept.
     

    Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    Well, besides "just," fair can mean pleasing, lovely, unblemished. It would be rather poetic, but a gallant (another traditional and applicable term here) death could be described as a "fair" one.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I would have said that "honorable death" was the phrase you were seeking, but perhaps you want to avoid it since "honor" is in the next part of the sentence. I do think "honorable" is a good choice, so you could consider changing "honors the whole life" to something like "ennobles the whole life."

    On the other hand, it would also be OK to use "honorable" followed by "honor" if you want to. There is a kind of poetic symmetry in using two forms of the same word so close together in this context, where honor is a key concept.
    I agree with this, which is why I didn't suggest it in the first place.

    I am not persuaded by Fabulist's points! Of course it could be but that still doesn't make it a great idea.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hi,

    I would like to say "A fair death honors the whole life".


    Does the expression make sense here?
    Hello, Silver. I like your statement, but - as you can see from some of the other posts - listeners could find the word "fair" confusing. Suzi and Edgy suggested "noble" and "honorable". Those would both work. If you want to preserve the idea of "a beautiful death", you have many options.

    You could use almost any synonym for "beautiful". You could also use almost any synonym for "brave". I recommend that you choose words that are commonly used in contemporary English if you intend to make a straightforward remark. If your intentions are poetic, then the sky's the limit. :)
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Thank you all a lot.

    I think I tend to say things which are more contemporary-oriented, before I came here many people suggested "beautiful" while we've known "fair" does mean "beautiful" but it is old-fashioned.

    I think I would like to use "beautiful", but what does "beautiful" mean in the expression?
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I'd say that it means that somebody who dies courageously has created a beautiful example of how to die.

    However, the people who talk about the "nobility" or "beauty" of death are still alive. Most people I've talked to who have been in dangerous situations tell me that there is nothing "beautiful" about it. Those soldiers who jumped into that ravine were probably not thinking about "courage" or "beauty" or anything of the kind. Of course, they died and we are left to talk about their deaths in any way we choose.
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Thanks a lot, Owl. How about this context:

    A-The murderer killed all his accomplices and finally decided to surrender himself to the polite, but he still got the capital punishment.

    B-A fair death honors the whole life.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Well, Silver, I have a harder time thinking of this murderer's death as anything especially honorable or even "fair". Why did he surrender himself to the police? Was he truly remorseful? Did he truly believe that he deserved death because he had murdered others?

    There's just not enough information in the latest dialog to offer you a meaningful opinion on how appropriate "fair" is.
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Why did he surrender himself to the police? Was he truly remorseful? Did he truly believe that he deserved death because he had murdered others?
    If the answer to all the possibilities are yes, what's your opinion, Owl?

    Thanks a lot
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Silver, a murderer who killed all of his accomplices and turned himself in to the police remains a murderer, perhaps a psychopath as well. :)

    There is nothing fair, gallant or honourable in killing a whole life and then surrendering to the police. And therefore "a fair death" cannot redeem or ennoble a life of murder.

    If, by any chance, a murderer saw the light of God and decided to take his deserved punishment, that's good for him, but it still does not honour his whole life...

    I find the logic behind your statement quite dubious. Otherwise I think it's good English :)
     

    Susie Sunshine

    New Member
    English
    I agree with boozer here, the statement doesn't ring true to the context. It's almost as if you're using that sentence for the sake of using it. As for the sentence itself, it doesn't flow well. 'A fair death honours the whole life.' I like the idea of using fair as a substitute for beautiful, but I think it could be structured better.
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Anyone who uses such an expression sounds to me like a strange person (partly because it is not a proverb or saying in English). It sounds like a translation from Chinese.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Looking around, almost all of the examples of this "saying" in use appear in association with Chinese.
    In particular, THIS SITE gives it as a literal translation of a Chinese proverb.

    You cannot assume that Chinese proverbs literally translated to English convey the same meaning as the original. And you cannot assume that there is any equivalent in English.
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    I agree with boozer here, the statement doesn't ring true to the context. It's almost as if you're using that sentence for the sake of using it. As for the sentence itself, it doesn't flow well. 'A fair death honours the whole life.' I like the idea of using fair as a substitute for beautiful, but I think it could be structured better.
    Thanks a lot, if you don't mind, can you give me your better expression?
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Looking around, almost all of the examples of this "saying" in use appear in association with Chinese.
    In particular, THIS SITE gives it as a literal translation of a Chinese proverb.

    You cannot assume that Chinese proverbs literally translated to English convey the same meaning as the original. And you cannot assume that there is any equivalent in English.
    I can't agree more, Panj. I got it.
     

    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    'A fair death honours the whole life' is found in a collection of proverbs called Jacula Prudentum (also Jacula Prudentium) by "the Welsh born English poet, orator and Anglican priest" George Herbert (1593-1633). The collection was published in 1651.

    Of the interpretations of 'fair' that I've come across in relation to this, I like the following the best:
    If we live the life of the righteous, then we shall die the death of the righteous, and such "a fair death will honor the whole life," as the proverb has it.
    - Herbert Lockyer in Last Words of Saints and Sinners (1969).
    In other words, 'fair' would mean "being in accordance with relative merit or significance."
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    'A fair death honours the whole life' is found in a collection of proverbs called Jacula Prudentum (also Jacula Prudentium) by "the Welsh born English poet, orator and Anglican priest" George Herbert (1593-1633). The collection was published in 1651.

    Of the interpretations of 'fair' that I've come across in relation to this, I like the following the best:
    If we live the life of the righteous, then we shall die the death of the righteous, and such "a fair death will honor the whole life," as the proverb has it.
    - Herbert Lockyer in Last Words of Saints and Sinners (1969).
    In other words, 'fair' would mean "being in accordance with relative merit or significance."
    Thanks a lot for your effort, E.

    Besides, I think the term is not popular now. And I can see that when I put this expression in contexts, most of the members didn't seem to understand.

    I will leave it out.
     
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