Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.
slithytove

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Voices dying with a dying fall

I note with regret and alarm that the verb 'to die' has, except in the metaphorical sense, joined the bleedin' choir invisible. We may speak of 'the dying of the day', but not of the literal death of human individuals.

'Died' has been replaced by the weaselly phrase 'passed away'. This is now standard journalese in the US.

I have to inform relatives of the death of their loved one on a frequent basis. Often this is after a death at home, followed by a 911 transport to the hospital, and resuscitation that fails. I was taught in med school and residency to be as direct and unambiguous as possible. When Mr. Jones has died, you should say, "Mr. Jones has died." Don't say anything that might be misinterpreted. Don't say he 'passed away', or 'he's in a better place'.

But lately I've noticed that relatives seem to be shocked and even offended by the word, 'died'. It has come to seem harsh or rude. Families sometimes react as if I'd said, "Mr. Jones has kicked the bucket," or "Your beloved father is tits up."

But I can't force myself to say 'passed away'.

It now appears that even 'passed away' sounds too harsh. Lately I've heard people saying just 'passed', instead. I can't stand that either.

But not standing it amounts to pissing into the wind of linguistic destiny. Language evolves as the sparks fly upward. It is fruitless to stand athwart the OED, yelling "Stop!" Maybe 'passed' is destined to be the new 'died'. Maybe in a generation 'die' will sound archaic and quaint. Or maybe it will evolve into profanity, as the Elizabethan 'piss' did, as more delicate terms were devised for micturition.

Sadly, I'll never know, because by the time that happens, I will be pining for fjords.
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