Tag Archives: obituaries

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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Renown or Renowned?

As I do every morning, I scanned the obituaries in the Los Angeles Times (just to make sure my name wasn’t listed) and came across a posting for a doctor who was described as “respected and renown….”

I see this error often enough that I thought I should mention that “renown” is a noun: “This man’s renown was recognized among others in his profession.”

“Renowned” is an adjective: “This man was respected and renowned in his field of medicine.”

Thanks for reading.

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Servitude or Service?

As I have mentioned, I read the obituaries in the Los Angeles Times every day to make sure my name is not listed.  Today was another good day for me.  However, I found an obituary for a retired police officer who, it was said, retired “after a  lifetime of public servitude….”

servitude |ˈsərviˌt(y)o͞od| noun the state of being a slave or completely subject to someone more powerful.

The poor man.  This is what happens when people try to make themselves sound important:  they use fancy words, thinking they know what the definition is.  They are close, but no one is going to pass out cigars.  I’ve already written about often seeing simplistic used when the writer (or speaker) means simple.  Again, hold the Cohibas.

If you have even a teensy doubt about the meaning of a word, use your dictionary first.

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