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May 2016
 

The Bellinghman
Date: 2007-09-25 10:29
Subject: Rant
Security: Public
There's a meme currently going round - it's one of those multiple question interview ones. Among its questions are:

If you could bring back anyone that has passed, who would it be?

I'm sorry, but if I ever encounter the author of that question, I'll have to give her a real bitch slapping. 'has passed'? For fuck's sake, are you talking about someone going past you in the street? Yes? No? No, I thought not.

You're talking about death. There's a good, short word you could have used, one that takes less typing. It's 'died'. Don't pretend it doesn't occur - it does. To all of us - no-one gets out of this alive. This sort of milquetoast euphemism is an attempt to deny one of life's most basic features.

Aarrgghh!!
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Alex McLintock
User: alexmc
Date: 2007-09-25 05:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Would you be as upset if they had said "passed away" or "passed on"?
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2007-09-25 05:52 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yes.

I'll admit that 'passed' jars just a little more, because it's more uncommon, and being unusual, stands out more.

I can also understand someone in the immediate first stage of the denial-grief-acceptance cycle wanting to use 'passed away'. But that's not the case here. This is not a meme about recent bereavement. This is a question asking about a potential pool of tens of billions of the differently metabolising.
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Sheep with a guitar
User: sbp
Date: 2007-09-25 07:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I guess as a meme it will be distributed to a large number of people - perhaps the original author didn't want to offend anyone?
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2007-09-25 07:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh, quite possibly. But though I'm not a fan of causing gratuitous offense, this type of avoidance just strips our language of any vitality. As a result, it offends me instead.
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Sheep with a guitar
User: sbp
Date: 2007-09-25 07:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And now I'm reminded of a cartoon which runs along the lines of "you being offended offends me" only I can't remember what cartoon.
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Sheep with a guitar
User: sbp
Date: 2007-09-25 07:35 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
MIght be Bloom County. Yes, the "Offensitivity" strip.
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User: silly_swordsman
Date: 2007-09-25 08:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
this type of avoidance just strips our language of any vitality

Ahahaha...

I've got to pass that on...
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Aldabra
User: aldabra
Date: 2007-09-25 07:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
But some of the people coming across it may be in the immediate first stage of the denial/grief/acceptance cycle. She (do we know it's a she?) doesn't know how far the meme's going to propagate and she's optimising for minimisation of upset.

It jars for me too, but not as much as bitch slapping does, and in an international cultural melee you have to make allowances for cultural difference.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2007-09-25 08:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Do we know it's a she?

No. But in my experience (and I'll concede I haven't encountered everyone in the world) those that do use such language are all female. And called Sophie.

As for optimising for upset - consider this part of the feedback mechanism.
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MEG: Death & Binky
User: djelibeybi
Date: 2007-09-25 17:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Death & Binky
I'm with you on this. People die. They're dead.
Your rant is impressive and justified.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2007-09-25 18:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you.
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Sheep with a guitar
User: sbp
Date: 2007-09-25 05:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
See also "restroom". Oddly lacking in sofas and magazines and beds.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2007-09-25 05:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Except the very best ones.

When I'm dictator of the word, I shall insist that all restrooms have at least one chaise longue.
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Mrs Cosmopilite
User: mrscosmopilite
Date: 2007-09-25 06:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'll vote for you.
Oh, although I guess as dictator you won't need voting in.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2007-09-25 06:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh, an awful lot of dictators get voted in.

It's re-election wethey tend not to worry about.
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User: knell
Date: 2007-09-25 05:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And bathrooms without baths or even showers.
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aardvark179
User: aardvark179
Date: 2007-09-25 07:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Cloakrooms however historically did have cloaks in, but these days very few people other than estate agents use the word in that sense.
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User: knell
Date: 2007-09-25 07:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
...and lines like "She lost her husband" make it sound like carelessness (did you look behind the sofa?).
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2007-09-25 07:22 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Being a literalist, I may even assume the aforesaid husband to have run off with someone else. Which can be unfortunate if the object of that assignation is the Grim Reaper.

(I suspect that Gaiman's Death is slightly more appropriate for this image than Pratchett's.)
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User: vatine
Date: 2007-09-25 08:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I can well imagine Temperance Brennan running off with Pratchett's Death (but would it result in a TV series called "Bones Squared"?).
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vicarage: pic#56193722
User: vicarage
Date: 2007-09-25 08:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:pic#56193722
That phraseology is very common in the US, which is rather coy about personal, rather than violent, death.
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Kelvix
User: kelvix
Date: 2007-09-25 10:04 (UTC)
Subject: Death, the final answer
I talk about death a lot. Every working day. So many times that I cannot really say.

And of course, I have to condole with the bereaved when I have never met their relative, and have no personal feeling for them - and I am a person that finds it difficult to express a feeling that I do not have. The closest I can get is sympathy, and the artificial sympathy so often expressed at this time would make my teeth grate.

Sometimes I try a sympathetic enquiry, and depending on my rough estimate of age, distress and social background of the bereaved person I might use the word "passed" usually (because I am English) with "away" afterwards. Or if discussing death in general terms might say "on his passing". There are some who find the subject too distressing to contemplate - the present horror is enough without people becoming too clinical and and businesslike. I am fairly sure that some find it macabre for a person to talk in objective terms because it can almost seem like revelling in the fact, and failing to show either enough respect for the deceased, or for the bereaved.

I get it wrong: because there is such a lot of information that needs to be collected, I sometimes fail to show adequate sympathy, and cause offence. I can be absolutely sure, however, that people's attitude towards death (when they come to see me) is usually highly emotive, and that few can discuss the matter objectively.

So, from professional experience, I would not dismiss the euphemism - when writing for a wide audience, it may cause less offence.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2007-09-25 19:05 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Death, the final answer
The people you see are, I assume, pretty freshly bereaved, and it's appropriate for you, as someone interacting with them about that death, to be extra sensitive to their feelings.

(As opposed to my mother, who all too frequently speaks to those about to bereave others, IYSWIM. Samaritans get quite a snarly sense of humour.)

In this case, if the author for one minute really thinks people are going to be upset by the subject of death, then she or he should never have raised it in the first place.

(I just had a mental image of Ricky Gervaise doing standup then. Sorry.)
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