August 13, 2014

"A Polish man and woman taking selfies at the cliffs of Cabo Da Roca in Portugal on Saturday fell to their deaths."

"According to investigators, the couple had been taking photos of themselves when they fell down a cliff and into the Atlantic Ocean.... Falling off of a cliff while snapping a photo is an uncommonly tragic event...."

The word "tragic" is often misused in news reports of deaths, as pedants like to observe, but I think this one is correct.

30 comments:

Greg Hlatky said...

I wish reports used the term "died stupidly" for incidents like this.

SGT Ted said...

Darwin Award Nominees.

The Crack Emcee said...

Tragic, my ass:

They're idiots,...

Paul said...

Yes it's a tragedy when an accident takes lives.

But to stand on a cliff and do 'selfies', and like some Alfred Hitchcock move is not an accident, it's a act of stupidity.

I've been on cliff many times and each time I realized I could fall and concentrated on NOT falling. Same with Scuba diving an parachuting (done both, and still scuba.)

No, they did something foolish and paid the price.

CWJ said...

I was there last November. It's every bit as impressive but scary/dangerous in person.

Incredibly windy. The trees, such as they are, have grown permanently bent by the wind. In places, the path that you can see in the background runs much closer to the edge than it appears in the photo. The railings like in the foreground are few and far between.

I could not imagine turning my back to the cliff much less simultaneously fumbling with a camera.

Tarrou said...

Tragic for whom? Their families? Sure. The global gene pool is holding another Darwin Party.

MarkW said...

My one photography safety rule is -- when the camera is up to your face, your feet don't move.

CWJ said...

It is tragic in the classic sense. I think that's at what Althouse was getting.

CStanley said...

Not sure of accuracy but I read that their young children were taking photos of them, so not actually selfies. Also not necessarily a foolish action, although they must not have been in a safe position to do so.

And MarkW: that is a very stupid rule. You can lose your balance and actually need to move your feet. Keeping your mental focus on planting your feet could be the worst thing you could do, in certain situations.

phantommut said...

A little fear goes a long way. To many people think laws (even laws of physics) don't apply to them.

James Pawlak said...

Being of Polish decent I must write: They should have hit the surface on their heads and would have walked away.

Richard Dolan said...

"The word 'tragic' is often misused in news reports of deaths, as pedants like to observe, but I think this one is correct."

Hmmm, a lawprof dismissing an insistence on the correct use of frequently misused words as pedantry. Awesome (another frequently misused word but let's not be pedantic).

But the accusation of pedantry is only half right. The pedantry comes in when a stickler refuses to acknowledge new and well established uses for old words. 'Tragic' is certainly one of those. Its most common meaning today is just a sad event, with the sadness perhaps (as here) heightened by the event's being out of the ordinary. So, there may be some pedantry on display, but it doesn't arise from the misuse of a word so much as a fusty preference for the out-dated rather than the contemporary.

William said...

The tragedy is further compounded by the fact that the Mail didn't post the selfie. Here's a young couple that died for their art, and yet their art is kept hidden. A true artist works close to the horns. This selfie was undoubtedly illustrative of the transience of our existence and the lurking horror that lies just beneath the most banal moments of our existence. This selfie deserves mounting in the Louvre, but, in a final, biting comment on the futility of our existence, it's not even published in the Mail.

Lucien said...

Shades of "Auntie Mame".

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

"The hero's suffering, however, is not gratuitous because through great suffering the hero is enlightened. Such heroes learn about themselves and their place in the universe. Pride is chastened. Though destroyed the hero is at peace intellectually."-- http://www.csus.edu/indiv/s/santorar/engl190v/trag.hero.htm

"Aristotle says that.... In addition, the tragic hero may achieve some revelation or recognition (anagnorisis--"knowing again" or "knowing back" or "knowing throughout" ) about human fate, destiny, and the will of the gods. Aristotle quite nicely terms this sort of recognition "a change from ignorance to awareness of a bond of love or hate." -- http://www.ohio.edu/people/hartleyg/ref/aristotletragedy.html

Falling off a cliff while taking a selfie? Nope.

Unknown said...

Does anyone remember Polack jokes?

Larry J said...

I've long believed that stupidity should be painful. If it were, we'd have less stupidity in the world. No doubt it was painful for this couple, if only for a while.

Gravity isn't just a good idea, it's the law.

MarkW said...

"And MarkW: that is a very stupid rule. You can lose your balance and actually need to move your feet."

Um, OK, sorry, the people I know who I've told it to (friends and kids) aren't as literally minded as you seem to be (and thank god for that or raising my kids would been much harder).

They understood the rule (correctly) to mean that when you're around cliffs and other dangerous things, remember not to back up 'just a little' while looking through the viewfinder to get a better angle. Instead, lower the camera, move, and then look again.

Jason said...

A Polish couple? Let me guess: They were taking turns.

mccullough said...

Selfiecide

CStanley said...

Sorry, MarkW. I don't think I'm generally inclined to taking things too literally, but perhaps I did that time. Just seemed like your rule was putting the emphasis on the wrong thing (on planting oneself instead of emphasizing awareness of one's location in relation to the cliff.)

tim maguire said...

It's tragic to die in a way that forces those hearing about it to stifle a laugh, just for decorum's sake. It's probably my greatest fear, after drowning.

tim maguire said...

While we're on the subject of pedantry, the Darwin Awards are limited to those who remove themselves from the gene pool, not merely (and not necessarily even) dying stupidly.

This couple has children.

Clyde said...

@ SGT Ted --

Bingo!

Ann Althouse said...

@Richard Lawrence Cohen

But consider that it was a very high cliff and that the mental processes speed up immensely in a situation like this.

So, I think they had time to experience "great suffering" and "enlightenment" "Pride is chastened" — hell, yeah.

"Revelation or recognition… about human fate, destiny, and the will of the gods" — that's what I'm thinking. One minute, they were at a peak experience, believing themselves at the top of the world and wanting a picture that would flaunt that greatness to the world, and that very psychological state led to their downfall.

Did they not realize that in the psychic hour it took to reach the conclusion of all thought?

CWJ said...

Althouse does her best Christine Baranski imitation.

LordSomber said...

Caveman stupidity via high tech is a very Devo concept.

furious_a said...

It wasn't the fall that killed them, it was the sudden stop at the end.

traditionalguy said...

But they forgot to set themselves on fire before the fell. Polish teens are poseurs.

David Hampton said...

South Rim of the Grand Canyon; I hope the same fate doesn't befall a visitor(s) doing the same thing. Even worse when it is snowy and icy at the edge of the precipice. I hope I never read of someone texting as they walk into the void like Wiley Coyote. Sad story!