Euphemisms for… ahem… you know…

Death in the North is different. We don’t like to acknowledge the event. Down South they’re weeping and wailing and partying round the coffin.

But up North we don’t like to talk about it.

We come up with euphemisms instead.

He’s tatey bread (for those of you lucky enough to have potato bread) or brown bread (for all you unfortunates not born in Belfast).

Somehow I feel less keen on Tír na nÓg knowing it's in Portadown. Still, at least it's not Lurgan.

She’s gone west… Gone west to where? To Boston? To Tír na nÓg?

He’s kicked the bucket (worth a click if you’re feeling bouncy), passed away, popped his clogs, fallen off the perch.

It’s not just English speakers. The Germans, Austrians and Swiss are at it too. Especially the Swiss. One of my favourites is the slightly convoluted biting at the grass from underneath.

My hypothesis is that these deathly euphemisms are a northern Protestant phenomenon. Anyone care to test it?

And while we’re on the subject of death, the historian Tony Judt (“the liveliest mind in New York”) has been mercifully released from his motor neurone disorder/Lou Gehrig’s disease.

He wrote the excellent Postwar on European political, social and economic history since World War Two. I commend it to you.

He lived vividly and was also expert at annoying people, as his Guardian obit explains.

The same edition of the Guardian had this relevant letter:

• Imagine the puzzlement of the antipodean doctor at our hospital when his announcement that “I am sending you home to die” was not at first understood to be relaying the good news that he was sending an elderly patient home that very morning.

Ruth Cartwright (Rayleigh, Essex)

Just time to pass on this death-related cartoon. (I thought it might tickle SamHenry of OnMyWatch in particular.) It’s from Virus Comix Welcome to Hell series. (Click on it to make it larger or for more hellishness.)

I guess the moral is – Don’t die a virgin. (And, yes, yes, don’t be a suicide bomber or assume you’ve fully understood the small print. Also important points to remember.)

Meanwhile – looking forward to any fresh euphemisms.



Filed under life

36 responses to “Euphemisms for… ahem… you know…

  1. The moral is: don’t die a virgin – because?

    All you did was save yourself for the pleasure of a dead suicide bomber?

    Young men and women take note. Do whatever you will; it will not save you from hell and, once there, it will not improve your circumstance.

    Sounds like life in politics in America today.

  2. I still like the self-penned death notice of that fine actor John Le Mesurier.

    • Excellent notice. But the one below (or above it, I forget already) caught my eye too.
      “Sue and Paul. May all good intentions be cemented in action. Congratulations.”
      What’s that about then?
      It’s a bit snarky for a marriage – sure, you’ve both promised not to sleep around, let’s see if you can stick to it?
      Or what?

  3. Haha . . well I think we’re a bit irreverent when it comes to kicking the bucket, pushing up daisies or simply carked it.

  4. PS this was a very funny post – not odd – but ha, ha, ha.

    I don’t know what the big deal is about virgins anyway – vestal or Muslim. I look at it this way. A non-virgin is like a good old car: engine broken in and finely tuned.

    As for death, while I dislike Woody Allen these days, some of his neurotic encounters with death in the key of Swedish director Bergman were exemplary.

    First Encounter – as a youth:

    Last Encounter – Dead

    I look at death as I do most things. I devise a title for it as a chapter in my life: Death is nature’s way of telling you it’s time for another material possessions shift. Or, I lost a parent but gained inventory.

  5. Funny post, I like it and it’s true, in communications we studied a bit about how different cultures “celebrate” death, I decided that when I die, someone should pass out chocolates, and tell the people “To sweeten our sorrow” as they give them the chocolate piece. May sound crazy but I like it.

    Willow Monroe

  6. A few years ago I was scanning the newspaper, and as I flipped through, something caught my eye. It was a photo of a young lady heading an obituary, and I felt compelled to read it. It spoke eloquently of her short but active life, her love of nature and art, and her plans for a future. It ended with the words ‘And then, in a surprise move, she died’. No euphemism, but probably the most interesting obit I’ve ever read.

  7. A very enjoyable read on a topic not often humorously analysed!

  8. Barbara

    As a genealogist I love reading obituaries and visiting cemeteries from different time periods. In the past it seems death was a more gritty and natural part of life than it is now in our sanitized society. It’s always a pleasure to find people willing to discuss and share the experience of dying more authentically. And willing to laugh at the humor and ironies, too!

  9. Great article, thanks for sharing this. I have subscribed to your RSS feed and am looking forward to reading more from you.
    Keep up the good work and don’t stop posting please.

  10. One that still befuddles me: “She bought the farm.”

  11. ohmykozy

    “Gone to meet his Maker” … truer than some might think 🙂

  12. aravan

    This makes me think of Christopher Hitchen’s memoir. One of the catalysts for him writing it, he says, was reading in an otherwise-innocuous art gallery catalog about a photography exhibit. A sample photograph was shown, in which he was one of the subjects, and the caption read “…and the late Christopher Hitchens.” He expounds on it from there, to great humorous and thought-provoking depth.

    Which makes me think, why “late”? I mean, they certainly will never be on time for anything ever again, but it still strikes me as a little odd.

    “Biting at the grass from underneath” is amazing. I feel morbid for saying that I love it, but, well, there it is.

  13. TaylorGooderham

    Hm… it’s at times like this that we ask Monty Python for answers. However, I suggest that everyone just goes and watches the Parrot Sketch, since I can’t be bothered to go find a link.

    Another good read.

  14. Laughing too hard to leave comment…

  15. This post is hilarious! I like the advice at the end.

  16. crmhaske

    “biting at the grass from underneath” –> definitely haven’t heard that one before.

    That was an interesting read, thanks! 🙂

  17. Popped his clogs??? That’s fabulous 🙂 Thanks for stopping by my blog and happy writing!

  18. From a young age my family never watered down the ‘issue’ of death and there was a period in my teen years where some older family members died within a short time span so euphemisms of death were never common. Like most things in our lives, the concept is quite environmental; those who have dealt with death more often are least likely to be afraid of talking about it in a blunt or open way. On the other hand, I suppose those who have witnessed a massacre or traumatic death of a family member or friend might not be so enthusiastic about talking frankly about dying…

  19. MintyCrunchyBubbleGum

    The hell cartoon cracked me up! I’ll definitely pass this piece of advice on to my virgin friends 😉

  20. jasmeet1566

    Funny article 🙂

  21. Please join us, we’d love to have you. You can get the badge and info on “I Comment Therefore I Am” at

    Thanks for visiting, I’ve enjoyed my visit here too and will be back.

  22. I love it. I’m Southern (USA) and we really “dig” death. Pun intended. It’s just one of the many extremes of life. You can’t hide from it. You might as well live death to its fullest.

  23. timeforthorns

    Passed away, passed on, came to eternal rest, and my favorite, from an old Florida cracker, kissed a gator. The South hasn’t been as sanitized of reality as the North because it has largely been poorer.

  24. ziabaki

    Death is so villianize in our culture, no doubt about it. We are scared of it. When my daughter was in India for 4 months, she said she saw more death there in that time than her entire life in American. It is mind boggling how effective we are are at keeping a very natural thing so well hidden.

  25. Thorns, love the “kissed a gator” I’m not sure about the South vs. North RE: death. But I’m fascinated with it and have written several blog entries about it. And it’s been a cocktail subject more than once in my circle. In fact, I feel another death blog coming on tonight! 🙂

    Zia, I agree.

  26. thebigshowatud

    i like it when people refer to death as having “bought the farm.” i don’t see what so killer about it, but i’ve heard it.

    “passed away” is another, as if that’s somehow better than saying “s/he DIED.”

  27. Or simply “passed” Like it was a test.

  28. Having lost yet another friend, I am having a hard time finding the humor today. Sigh. Each of these euphemisms is a coping mechanism: Images that help us make light of what is, ultimately, an ending.

    I’m sorry to be so serious. It’s a great post. It’s hard to face another funeral. So many friends, dying so young. Leaving young children behind. I can’t grasp it. I can’t laugh about it. Not right now.

  29. Renee, I’m sorry for your loss. It’s hard when it’s someone who dies too young and leaves so much unfinished behind. Peace be with you.

  30. Totally off-topic but I watched a great DVD this week called “Puffball” shot in The North.Excellent ,I thought.
    Did You See Jackie?

  31. blackwatertown

    Hello all. Thanks for all your comments. I respond in the next post. Apologies for the delay – been having some wordpress problems. But all back to normal. Thank you friendly Anthony at wordpress.

  32. Pingback: Kissing the Gator « Blackwatertown

  33. Proud to be part of such an interesting discussion with a nice variety of people!

  34. Well, I guess it’s better not to talk about death so much, with all the weeping and stuff. We’re all going to die someday, so why be afraid? We might as well make fun of it :]

    By the way, I happen to know another eufemism similar to “biting the grass from underneath”. That’s “smelling the flowers from the root” :>

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