Friday, 12 September 2014

Delope - When Duellists Miss

A man firing two pistols to the side
To delope like this would really be unnecessarily dangerous to any onlookers
(photo by Paul Townsend)


Verb intrans. Mid-19th century.
[Origin unknown.]

Of a duellist: deliberately firing into the air.

If you ever find yourself being forced to take part in a duel, perhaps because of your intemperate use of words like bounder and blackguard down the pub, remember that you have the option to delope your shot. Deloping involves deliberately missing, and a duellist might do this for a number of reasons.

For one, you might genuinely not want to kill your opponent. Also, if you're a bit of a stuffed shirt, you might think your opponent is so beneath your station that bothering to kill him would be beneath you too. You might also be a rubbish shot, and know that a battle of marksmanship against Sir Arthur Bonham "Crackshot" Peddlington is a very bad idea indeed. And finally, perhaps your opponent is from a very large, highly vengeful family, and even if you do win, at best you'll be receiving dozens more challenges to duel, but more likely you'll wake up one morning, dead, with a knife in your ear.

Needless to say, deloping is an incredibly risky strategy, and is liable to enrage rather than mollify your opponent. For one thing, you didn't follow the rules of the duel (although generally illegal, they did have rules, and deloping was often specifically proscribed). If he thinks you didn't consider him worthy of killing, he's going to shoot you, and even if you pretend you meant to shoot him (perhaps by aiming for a near-miss), he'll probably just think you really did miss and are now claiming that you deloped because you're a big whingy, highly shootable crybaby. Ergo, you're still going to get shot.

Personally, I'm not in favour of deloping unless under exceptional circumstances, such as if your challenger is a one-eyed, one-legged hopping simpleton with no forefingers, whose wife you ran off with, thus ruining his one chance of happiness. Other than that, if someone challenges you to a duel, they are (literally) asking to be shot. By all means, try and get out of it beforehand by the most craven and cowardly means necessary, but once those pistols are cocked and your backs are turned, it's every over-sensitive man for himself.

Two men duelling with pistols in the snow
Eugene Onegin & Vladimir Lensky's Duel
Ilya Repin (1844-1930)
Pistols at dawn: would you delope?

Under what circumstances would deloping be acceptable?

Do please shoot your mouth off in the comment box below.


  1. So...delope isn't running away in a furtive, wolf-like way, then?

  2. Hamilton deloped.....Bur shot him anyway. Hamilton died the next day. 1804 America.