Death – a taboo word?
There are countless euphemisms to acknowledge that someone has died . Pushing up the daisies, popped his clogs, six feet under, gone to meet his maker…..Anything to avoid using the actual, factual terminology. The famous Blue Parrot sketch in Monty Python’s Flying Circus mocked the way we skirt around talking about death.
Death, Dying, Dead. There, I’ve said it. If I had said someone had ‘fallen asleep’, or had ‘been taken’ (I came across both of those in newspaper columns), it sounds like narcolepsy, or an invasion of bodysnatchers. Using euphemisms doesn’t make death any less real or sad or painful, any more than using the words dying or death make it more real or more likely to occur.
And for children, we have to be especially careful as they see things in black and white – euphemisms may only serve to confuse and frighten. Imagine telling a child that Granny had been ‘taken by the angels’ ? Whatever would that conjure up?
This is what the dictionary says Death is:
Of 127 notices in the death columns for last month:
– 63 used ‘passed away’ (with or without ‘peacefully’)
– 52 had no verb at all, but used adverbs only: ‘suddenly’, ‘peacefully’, ‘quietly’
– 3 used the term ‘Taken’
– 9 used the verb ‘Died’.
So 93% of deaths were called something else. (A couple actually just had the date and place. Not a verb or adverb to be seen. I think possibly because the column is headed ‘Deaths’, people may think using the verb is superfluous.
I do wonder why we hesitate – even flinch from using the “D” word, whether in print (such as condolence cards, with their sugar-coated words), or in speech (‘I’m sorry for your loss’/’Uncle John has passed away’ etc)..
Is it to try to comfort the bereaved, or is it because we are afraid to face the reality of our mortality?
How do you address death? Are you a D Word User or Avoider?