In our local paper this morning, I read a column by our grammar guru, Bernadette Kinlaw, concerning euphemisms. She explained the etymology of the word and then gave examples of some common euphemisms. We all use them, of course, mostly because it helps us feel less uncomfortable or embarrassed when we talk about certain things. When your employer fires you, unless he is Donald Trump, of course, he’d rather tell you that the company is downsizing or restructuring. A woman on a lunch date with friends, instead of coming out and saying she needs to pee, will say she needs to powder her nose. Much more polite and civilized.
This article on euphemisms was ironic because my brother and sister-in-law spent this past weekend with us, and my brother and I were talking about euphemisms for the “Big D.” Okay, I mean death. The closer you get to it, the more you seem to mention it because it is on your mind more. Our discussion came about because my brother and I were talking about our genealogy records. My brother has done some research, particularly on my mother’s side of the family, and my son had also helped when he was an archivist at the state genealogy library in Austin, Texas some years ago. I pulled out my notebook where I keep the information I have and asked my brother to look through it and make sure he had everything I had. When he came across the obituary for our great-grandfather, we started a discussion of euphemisms for death.
It seems more than anything else, Death is one of those words people avoid talking about. Even people who have a strong faith and feel they know where they are going, tend to use euphemisms to describe the trip. Their loved one is “bound for glory” or was “called upon to be an angel.” At the very least, we talk about people “passing away” instead of dying.
However, when my brother and I saw this obituary in our genealogy records, we agreed that euphemisms can go too far. We are stating here and now that if Death calls, we are definitely not picking up the phone. We are going to let it ring and ring. Obviously, people didn’t have caller I.D. in those days. Otherwise, when Abijah’s wife received the same call, she would have had Death leave a message.