Tuesday, October 5, 2021


I like to think I have a large vocabulary, but here's a word I had never heard: deodand. I found it via a Tweet about the author Gene Wolf, who had used it in a Scrabble game.

It's a legal concept that goes back to the 11th century and became obsolete in the 19th when the British Parliament abolished it. Here's the way Wikipedia gives the definition:

a thing forfeited or given to God, specifically, in law, an object or instrument that becomes forfeited because it has caused a person's death.

That thing was usually a horse, cart, or maybe a haystack — something that could fall on a person.

These days, it seems like we could use this legal concept for our 40,000 deaths from motorized vehicles, whether "accidents" or not. That way everyone would drive a bit more carefully.

Or we could change our laws so that the presumption of fault is on the person driving the one-, two-, three-, or more-ton vehicle unless proven otherwise, and hold them criminally accountable.

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