The Opposite of “Alive” is …

… just about anything but dead, at least in America. As the great George Carlin observed, in this country we have such a terror of growing old and dying that we rely on euphemisms to assuage some of our fear.

If you read the obituary notices (and I always do, checking to make sure my name isn’t listed), you rarely encounter the words dead, died, or death. Instead, people pass, pass away, pass on, or expire (like a magazine subscription (Carlin again).

As an avid Monty Python fan, I admit I am able to recite the words to quite a few of their sketches. A classic is “The “Dead Parrot,” in which a man returns to the pet store from which he very recently bought a parrot and is claiming it was dead all along. The proprietor insists it’s just resting, but the patron (Michael Palin), unleashes a torrent of euphemisms for dead, trying to make his point that the parrot “is no more”: he is deceased, demised, has passed on, ceased to be, expired, gone to meet its maker, is late, bereft of life, rests in peace, is pushing up daisies, rung down the curtain, and joined the choir invisible. “It is an ex-parrot!

I have tried unsuccessfully to insert the video. This is only a still from it. Just go to YouTube and search for “Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch” and enjoy.

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Filed under All things having to do with the English language

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