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Tuesday, Dec 17, 2002

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WHAT IS the difference between "death" and "demise"?

(K. Gowtham, Visakhapatnam)

Both are used to refer to the "end or ending of life". Of the two, "death" is more common. One can use it with people, animals, plants, and things.

*Sunita went into a depression after the death of her pet parrot.

*If the bill is passed, it will be the death of communism.

"Demise", unlike "death", is mostly used in formal contexts. When used with people, it is normally used with those who are fairly well known. One can talk about the demise of a President or an actor, but one does not talk about the demise of a beggar. Unlike "death", "demise" is generally not used with animals. One does not generally talk about the "demise" of a dog. Some scholars argue that "demise" is a pretentious way of saying "death". They suggest that this is a word which is best avoided. But we Indians use it quite a bit.

*The President's untimely demise led to all kinds of complications.

Like the word "death", "demise" can be used to indicate the failure of an enterprise.

*If this trend continues, it will result in the demise of the pop music industry.

By the way, the "e" in "demise" is pronounced like the "i" in "it", "bit", and "sit". The "i" is like the "y" in "my", "by", and "fly". The "s" is like the "z" in "zip", and "zoo"; the final "e" is silent. The main stress is on the second syllable.

S.UPENDRAN

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