Erik Naggum and the Phrase RIP

By Xah Lee. Date:

It is curious, that over the web, you see Erik's obituaries are almost all titled like “RIP …”. e.g.

When i was writing a memorial of Erik (Death of a Troll — My Memory of Erik Naggum (1965 – 2009)), i also needed a title, and thought about it.

“RIP” is a customary phrase to indicate someone just died. It is a euphemism of sorts. RIP stands for Rest In Peace. Digging into it, the phrase Rest In Peace implies some belief in a soul, that when a person dies, this “soul”, or perhaps the dead body, would take the action of “rest”, with the blessing of “peace”.

On writing this, i looked up Wikipedia

O, so it actually is Latin in origin, standing for “Requiescat in pace”, but basically just means rest in peace too. However, the article did not give any etymology from social aspects. That is, why did people say “Requiescat in pace” when a beloved died. Was this a custom? When? in what region?

When writing, my question is, why should we follow this customary phrase, other than the sake of tradition? For example, a obituary, or memorial, could be titled “Beloved Erik Naggum is Dead”, “In memory of Naggum”, etc.

For me, when i wrote my essay on Erik, i thought about this, and in the end decided to title it “Death of a Troll”. To me, this is quite a fitting title for Erik. The title suits my style of writing as well. (me, am also known as a troll; my “comp.lang.*” newsgroup style of writing, is catered to irritate a particular class of people who are tech-savy but socially illiterate, of which i term the tech geekers). My title is fitting because Erik is, perhaps, best known as a Troll. One may have many definitions for the word troll, or that the word is too much abused and has become just a derogatory epithet… but in any case, Erik is known, perhaps best known, as a troll, possibly even the biggest one in newsgroup history, and now he's dead. Thus: “Death of a Troll.”. In obituaries, usually there's a tacit convention to avoid the term “death”. For example, instead saying directly “John is dead”, people say “passed away” or “1950-2001”. The invocation to the concept of soul or even religious beliefs, and the euphemism aspect of these conventional obituary titles, annoy me. Erik, being a direct, confrontational, type of person (at least his online persona), and being not religious, am pretty sure these phraseologies are probably not something he'd be fond of neither.

I dig into these seemingly trivial details of English usage, because i'm a independent thinker, and perhaps also due to the fact that English is not my native tongue. Of Erik's writings, perhaps the aspect i appreciate the most, is his English writing style and diction usage. They are quite unusual and unique, and showcases a mastery. This is what i appreciate Erik the most — his independent mind.


Carlos wrote to me about the social origin of RIP:

Hi. It comes from the prayer said by Catholic priests in the burial

   Requiem aeternam dona ei (eis) Domine.
   Et lux perpetua luceat ei (eis).
   Requiescat (requiescant) in pace.

   Give him (them) eternal rest, Lord.
   And let the eternal light shine on him (them).
   May he (they) rest in peace.

   (free [probably not very accurate] translation)

Apparently it wasn't a popular epitaph on protestant countries until
advanced XVIII/XIX century.