That which shall not be named

I love words. They have power, they let us play with communication. A full vocabulary allows you to be specific and descriptive. But words can also allow for cover ups, for dancing around the issue.

So. Let's talk about euphemisms.

They're a way of talk about something uncomfortable a bit more gently.
Euphemisms are substitution of an inoffensive word or phrase for something generally considered offensive or insensitively explicit. It's good talk, it's literally the opposite of blaspheme, evil talk.

doing it, hook up, sleep with - have sex
expecting, knocked up - pregnant
full figured, big boned - fat

What about death?

Kick the bucket, buy the farm, at rest, give up the ghost, six feet under. These are rather silly ones and there are a million others.

But the one I don't like, really don't like, is passed away.

I hate that people say my mom passed away. I hate that my mother in law passed on. I hate it. I hate that  in order to make the horrible truth that we are half-orphans palatable we have to say something more gentle and kinder.

Our moms didn't pass away. They fucking died. They died. And that's that.

No amount of soft talk makes that better or gentler or OK. I want to shock people with the shocking words of "died" and "dead" because you know what? It is shocking. It's still shocking a year later. It's shocking to me and I want other people to be startled by the unkindness of that word. It's hard and harsh and real. And it's true.

I'm sorry that the word died makes people uncomfortable but, that's the way the world is. It's uncomfortable when your mom dies. So your faint-heartedness can suck it.



Anonymous said…
I am guilty of using "passed away". We're told it's polite, gentler for the bereaved, and more respectable. But it does distance ourselves. There's a lot of trickery involved in talking about death to those experiencing loss (again, "loss" in its own right there is distancing since it just suggests a person without naming one). The one that bugged me the most when my grandmother died was the "stay strong". Shouldn't we be allowed to experience grief? Why is grief considered a weakness? The best comment I received at the time was from a friend who lost his grandmother the same week "this sucks. And hanging out won't make it suck less, but at least it can suck for us together". Honesty isn't easy when someone dies but it's at least real.
Shybiker said…
No subject has more words like this than death. Death scares people so they mask its reality with soft words. But death is what it is: the pain is horrible, the loss severe. I respect your refusal to sweep that under the rug.

Popular Posts