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Examples of decisions that ultimately lead to the downfall of the deciders:

  • Troy accepted the gift of the Trojan horse
  • Aladdin doesn't immediately free the Genie when he is told he will become Sultan
  • Juliet's ingestion of Friar Laurence's drug

Is there a word or phrase that describes decision of this kind?

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3  
I'm going with "bonehead maneuver" on this one. –  JeffSahol Jan 24 '12 at 15:59
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5 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

I propose fateful, as in Aladdin's fateful decision or Juliet's act on that fateful night.

Although it can mean simply "significant" or "determined by fate," fateful carries connotations of calamity or misfortune.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fateful

1: having a quality of ominous prophecy [a fateful remark] 2 a : involving momentous consequences : decisive [made his fateful decision to declare war — W. L. Shirer] b : deadly, catastrophic

More poetically, to express a stronger sense of menace or wickedness, one might use baneful or baleful.

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Along the same lines is ill-fated. thefreedictionary.com/ill-fated –  Andrew Lewis Jan 24 '12 at 19:11
    
@AndrewLewis "Ill-fated" (like "ill-starred," "doomed," "star-crossed") would describe the subject and not the decision, and would not work in all cases because it removes culpability from the subject, implying the disastrous outcome is a matter of destiny and not choice. –  choster Jan 24 '12 at 20:31
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I propose fatal. It was used in Max Payne 2 video game and just reading the question made me remember this quote:

I had tried to run from it, edit it out. Winterson was dead, I was a murderer. A false start. The hospital bed wasn't the beginning. It was past the point of no return, the fatal choice already made, and it would get worse before the end.

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Tragedy has several characteristics, one of which (according to Aristotle) is that the protagonist must choose his fate. Although this is simply a choice, the wrong choice is made based on the character's tragic flaw (hamartia). You could say that the character faces a dilemma, i.e., a choice that yields pitfalls on both sides, but choosing wrong ultimately leads to catastrophe.

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Neither of these suggestions work for these examples (or my intended purpose). Dilemma only applies to Juliet. Had Aladdin freed the Genie all would have been well. A tragic flaw is a way to describe the decider, not the decision. –  Josh Sunshine Jan 24 '12 at 16:21
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Tragic decision could fit this situation. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jan 24 '12 at 16:41
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I think doomed can also be used:

2a: to fix the fate of : destine

b: to make certain the failure or destruction of

From http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/doomed

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How would you use doomed to describe the examples in the question? Troy was doomed when they decided to accept the Trojan Horse, but it seems odd to call the decision doomed. –  Josh Sunshine Feb 1 '12 at 22:56
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Perhaps the word naivete will do.

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I think of naivete as, the quality or state of being naive. However, Webster's does also list another definition, "a naive remark or action." However, I've searched for an example of a sentence with that alternative definition to no avail. For instance, all of the examples at this link (diclib.com/naivete/show/en/examples_en/N/756/0/0/1/25470), use my definition of naivete. –  Josh Sunshine Jan 24 '12 at 16:31
    
In keeping with the refinement you entertain, the phrase "one piece of naivete" stands in common use and perhaps in most cases is indeed referring to the actual remark through which one's naivete becomes manifest. –  Tom Raywood Jan 24 '12 at 18:02
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