BITS and Pieces

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Did someone just expire?

From regular animate beings to completely inanimate objects! Yes, some Indianisms have the power to bring about even that kind of transition!

Now how on earth is that possible, you would ask? Well, the recipe is fairly simple, you see. Take a harmless, regular verb such as ‘expire’ and (mis)use it. Lo and behold, we have managed to do the impossible.

Usually, in the English language, things expire. So we can have contracts that have expired, we can have medicines that are well past their date of expiry or we can even have the term of someone’s office expire. However, using this verb when it comes to humans is pretty inhuman I say 🙂

We humans die, at best we pass away, but we don’t exactly expire. That said, the verb expire was very much used in the context of human death, but centuries ago.

The verb ‘expire’ finds its origin in the Old French verb expirer that means “to expire, to elapse” (12th century), and in the Latin verbs expirare or exspirare that mean “to breathe out, to blow out, to exhale; to breathe one’s last, to die.” Hence, figuratively, it came to be used in the sense of “die.”

The verb ‘expire’ has a sense of ‘to go beyond the due date’ or ‘to come to an end gradually.’ However, since humans don’t exactly have a known due date or they don’t gradually come to an end, we would be better off not using ‘expire’ in the context of humans.

Long story short, keep it simple! If you ever need to break the terrible news that someone is no more, you could simply say, “He passed away last evening” or “She died last year.”

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Sandeep Nulkar Founder, Chairman & Managing Director, BITS Private Limited Sandeep Nulkar heads one of India’s largest translation and localisation companies. He is a linguist by passion, businessman by choice and author by circumstances. Over the past decade, he has been working closely with the corporate world and with students and the academia to bring credibility and recognition to the Indian translator within and outside India.