G. H. W. Bush “passed”?

Humans have many ways to circumvent the reality and finality of death. Besides all my friends who are eating kale and quinoa to stave off the Reaper as long as possible, there are simple semantic fixes. When I visited Cornwall in 2005, I noticed that many gravestones in the local cemetery preceded the date of death with the line “Fell asleep on. . . “.

Twice today, in news reports about the death of George H. W. Bush, they used the euphemism “passed” for “die”—not even saying “passed away”. This one irks me a wee bit, as its blatant avoidance of the stark word “died” is so obvious. And it’s a bit ambiguous as well. Passed what?

When my mortal clay expires, I hope they’ll simply say, “Jerry Coyne died”.

By the way, I see Bush as a fundamentally decent man, totally undeserving of much of the hatred I’ve seen on social media (you can see a particularly noxious specimen here). This spewing of venom over political differences, to the point of gloating that Bush is “writhing in hell”, is just another instance of the kind of churlish behavior I discussed earlier today.

If the deceased was evil or hurtful to others, like Jerry Falwell, then it’s okay to denigrate him after death, though I’d ration that kind of hatred carefully.v(Postmortem hatred may indicate you aren’t such a nice person yourself.) But Bush was no Falwell; the hatred we see is based solely on political disagreements.

124 Comments

  1. ladyatheist
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    He believed that he would be reunited with the dead people in his family, so he passed from the world of the living to the world of the dead.

    In light of his beliefs, I don’t mind the press using a word he’d like.

    Many of them avoid verbs altogether and state “[famous person] dead at [age].”

    • jahigginbotham
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      It is not just the use of “passed”; it is the change of expression. “Passed” is replacing “passed away” or “passed on”. To older people used to the latter two, “passed” seems odd (my first thought is passed what? Gas? Go?) and even more of a euphemism.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

        “Pass gas” is somewhat of a euphemism in itself. No one wants to say “farted”. I guess it seems gauche.

  2. Kevin John Leslie
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    May I respectfully remind you of Willie Horton, Lee Atwater, “I was out of the loop” (Iran-Contra). Better than Reagan, his son, or the current occupant, but fundamentally decent may be a bit over the top, Jerry.

    I agree with you about the euphemism “passed” though, and I always think of gas when I hear that.

    • Posted December 2, 2018 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

      I guess you don’t think that people who make mistakes, or sometimes do bad things, can’t be “fundamentally decent.” No human on this earth would pass your test.

      I stand by “fundamentally decent.”

      • Kevin John Leslie
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps if he had admitted, as Atwater did, that what was done was fundamentally *not* decent, then maybe. We are where we are in large part due to “decent” folks allowing such things. As John Stewart Mill (an actual “fundamentally decent” man) said: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

        Not everything George pere did was evil, but enough for me to strongly question his fundamental decency.

        • Kevin John Leslie
          Posted December 3, 2018 at 1:03 am | Permalink

          Plus don’t forget “Read My Lips” which was surely a precursor to “Lock Her Up” and “Who’s gonna Pay For That Wall” etc. Republicans have been outside the lines ever since Reagan.

          • Randall Schenck
            Posted December 3, 2018 at 8:17 am | Permalink

            Apparently you have never spent much time studying politicians. Among them, he was far above average. Let us lay out and hear of all your great deeds.

            • Kevin John Leslie
              Posted December 3, 2018 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

              I am not a politician, Mr. Snark.

    • publius
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      Strange how giving a murderer a weekend pass to torture and rape a woman is considered decent, but pointing it out is considered indecent.

      • Posted December 2, 2018 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        You, sir, are indecent in suggesting the pass was given with the knowledge it would lead to torture and rape. You know that isn’t true, but you try to suggest it anyway. Farewell, indecent sir.

      • Diane G
        Posted December 4, 2018 at 2:56 am | Permalink

        So, publius is probably not around anymore and thus will not see this…but s/he has his/her facts mixed up. Bush wasn’t the one who released Willie Horton–Dukakis did. Bush’s campaign made a big deal out of how wrong that went, using plenty of racist dog whistles.

      • Diane G
        Posted December 4, 2018 at 2:56 am | Permalink

        So, publius is probably not around anymore and thus will not see this…but s/he has his/her facts mixed up. Bush wasn’t the one who released Willie Horton–Dukakis did. Bush’s campaign made a big deal out of how wrong that went, using plenty of racist dog whistles.

  3. mfdempsey1946
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Someone of Jamaican origin that I knew would always used “passed” instead of “died”. I think this usage was common in her circle.

    “Passed” as in “passed away,” gone to a “better place” than this “vale of tears.”

    Me, I prefer “died” too. And think of how a minister in “Hud” uses this euphemism with a young man whose beloved grandfather has just died.

    The young man replies, “No, I don’t think so. Not unless dirt’s a better place than air.”

  4. Posted December 2, 2018 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    I hate it even more when people say “we lost (insert name here) in (insert date/time here)”. I resist the urge to ask if they have filed a missing person report. Not really but I often think of it. I have been collecting replacement terminology for “died” from local obits and am hoping that PCCE would one day ask for a list from readers, but I would never make such a suggestion. It’s Da Roolz!

    • Merilee
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

      Lost doesn’t bug me as much as passed, or passed away. The person has been lost to his/her loved ones.

      • Posted December 2, 2018 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        Yes. My standard condolence is “I am sorry for your loss.” As an atheist I often struggle for words of condolence for family members when someone dies.

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        My mother, in her mid 80s, seems to know an alarmingly large number of the recently deceased, she’ll often tell me that “so and so lost a spouse” and I’ll pretty much always say “that was clumsy” it seems the only reasonable response and she’s expecting it now – would probably be disappointed with anything else!

    • phil brown
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

    • DavidB
      Posted December 3, 2018 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      In the Scots Gaelic language, caochail – to change – is the common term to use when referring to what people do when they die. This applies only to humans, mind, not animals – they can’t change.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if death euphemisms is an English language phenomena. I see so many German headlines from Der Spiegel that just say “is dead” or “the death of”. An Anglo Saxon thing that differs from our Germanic cousins?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      Is this simply a demonstration of the [more than average] formal nature of German language usage in print [I’m guessing]? Here are four euphemisms/metaphors I found:
      Das Gras/die Radieschen) von unten betrachten — To look at the grass/the radishes from below
      De Schirm zue tue — To close the umbrella (Swiss)
      Den Löffel abgeben – Give away the spoon
      In Gras beißen – Bite into the grass

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

        Yeah but no one in the English press is going to say “bought the farm” or “kicked the bucket”.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

        These are great!

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 2, 2018 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

          Or “gross” in German?

          • Jenny Haniver
            Posted December 3, 2018 at 1:52 am | Permalink

            Aha! Haha!

    • Posted December 4, 2018 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      We also have such euphemism. The favorite official one is “rested” (pochina). There is also a very convoluted word with the implication of “ending” (konchina), which is never used in any other context.

  6. Posted December 2, 2018 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I feel the same when people say “rest in peace”. I want to shout “He isn’t resting, he’s dead.” But, of course, I don’t.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

      I know, I say that anyway if I’m making a general post somewhere & it makes me cringe but I say it because I don’t have anything else to say.

      • W.T. Effingham
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

        If you don’t say anything “cringe-worthy” once in awhile , you’re probably not saying enough. If you find yourself losing sleep often on account of frequent missteps, you might need to reconsider speaking ahead of one’s train of thought🙊.

  7. phoffman56
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    I agree 100% with Jerry on the aspect to do with “passed”–and with any similar euphemism designed to elicit implicit agreement of the listener with the speaker’s likely nonsensical beliefs about life after death.

    As for decency of the man or otherwise, the following aspect of H W’s career should appear here, definitely a negative one unless my facts are wrong.

    And clearly this is not hate for this dead man nor for anybody else:

    As a non-USian, I’m less interested in hagiographic recollections concerning US presidents than some might be here. In the largely rogues gallery since 1968, Obama being a notable exception, H W is among the best few of the rest of these former presidents.

    (As an aside, I find it nice that at least the village of Bohunk doesn’t refer to its 3rd last dogcatcher vote victor as Dogcatcher Jones; he just reverts to being Mr. Jones. Too bad that whole country looks so juvenile when it comes to the most glorious political position there.)

    More seriously, and to get to the point of my anti-hagiographic remark in this internationally excellent non-blog, we notice that there is much in the news lately about dictator-ordered assassinations in other countries. I doubt H W ever did that, nor was he a dictator of course.

    But H W headed the CIA in the year 1976. Pinochet was the murderous dictator of Chile at the time, having been essentially installed by the US, and having his predecessor murdered. ‘The’ opposition leader was Letelier, living in the US. Now from wiki, I can’t be sure of accuracy, and maybe someone else here knows the history better, and differently—but:

    ‘ According to John Dinges, author of The Condor Years (The New Press 2003), documents released in 2015 revealed a CIA report dated April 28, 1978 that showed the agency by then had knowledge that Pinochet ordered the murders.[21] The report stated “Contreras told a confidant he authorized the assassination of Letelier on orders from Pinochet.”[21] ….

    According to Dinges, documents released in 1999 and 2000 establish that “the CIA had inside intelligence about the assassination alliance AT LEAST TWO MONTHS BEFORE Letelier was killed, but failed to act to stop the plans.” The intelligence was about Condor’s plans to kill prominent exiles outside of Latin America, but did not specify Letelier was the target. It also knew about an Uruguayan attempt to kill U.S. Congressman Edward Koch, which then-CIA director George H.W. Bush warned him about only after Orlando Letelier’s murder [3] . ’

    Were the four assassins simply allowed into the US with knowledge at some level in the CIA? …even with their boss, George H. W. Bush, knowing?—even the president, Ford, at the time?

    The mass psychology in US during a former president’s funeral period is not entirely dissimilar to that which a large portion of celebrity-mongers exhibit all the time.

    It’s not my psychology.

    George H. W. was better than most, but that’s not saying much.

    • gayle ferguson
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      Love this comment!

    • tjeales
      Posted December 3, 2018 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      +1
      I think Operation Condor, his response as VP to the shooting down of the Iranian airliner and his covering up of his involvement in Iran contra, the giving a wink and a nod to Saddam to invade Kuwait then using that as an excuse to cripple Iraq and try and turn it into a dependent state not to mention the Highway of Death incident, as well as the deaths due to the war on drugs and his administration’s response to the AIDS crisis make his legacy troubled to say the least but he was far from the worst which is a terrible thing to contemplate.

      I will say this, for all that Trump is terrible so far the civilian death toll has been lower under Trump’s administration than under HW Bush or any of trump’s predecessors since the late 60s.

      No doubt HW was a polite and generous friend and family man…as we all should be.

      • Diane G
        Posted December 4, 2018 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

        + 2 (because you were # 1) to phoffman and +1 to you.

        “No doubt HW was a polite and generous friend and family man…as we all should be.”

        Yes, and I think a lot of people are conflating these aspects of his character with issues of state.

  8. Antonia Clark
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    A few more euphemisms for you. . . .

    Dirt Nap

    for Jerry Coyne

    I sure won’t be palaverous
    or given to greed or avarice
    when I’m cadaverous.

    No more sin or sex or lust,
    nothing left to be discussed
    when I’ve bit the dust.

    Won’t matter how well I’m attired,
    or what I once thought was required,
    when I’ve expired.

    Won’t worry about growing old,
    or clutter or dirt or dust or mold,
    when I’m stone cold.

    And there’ll be no cause for alarm.
    I won’t need any good-luck charm
    when I’ve bought the farm.

    Nothing will matter in the least,
    just hope my friends will hold a feast
    when I’m deceased.

    I’ll be the unknown addressee.
    I’ll be out of my misery,
    and R.I.P.

    • Laurance
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      Wow! Thank you! This is a keeper! (Got a smile on my face.)

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

        +1

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      Good stuff!

    • Posted December 3, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps another for your collection.

      Here lies the body of (insert name) all his/her life always in the sh#t, the only question for consideration, is to what depth!

    • Posted December 3, 2018 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps another for your collection.

      Here lies the body of (insert name) all his/her life always in the sh#t, the only question for consideration, is to what depth!

    • Posted December 3, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Enjoyed reading that, thanks!

    • Diane G
      Posted December 4, 2018 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      Love it! 😀

  9. Greg H
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Yea, but isn’t there an evolutionary benefit to believing that life doesn’t end when you take your last breath?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      It depends who you ask – it isn’t decided. If we adjust your question to “is there an evolutionary benefit to religious belief” then we have two broad hypotheses:

      Religious beliefs & practises…
      [1] …evolved due to natural selection & they are an adaptation.
      [2] …emerged as by-products of other adaptive traits. [Gould’s spandrels]

      There is a suggestion by Richard Dawkins that religion is a memetic mind virus – which broadly fits part of Daniel Dennett’s thesis too, but I think those sorts of ideas probably [I’m unsure] fit into one or other of the above two options.

      At the moment I favour [2], but for bad reasons such as I don’t want to believe that religion can’t be killed stone dead. For ever.

      • Greg H
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps for our early ancestors, the shortness and brutality of life led them to develop “theories” for why things are so crappy, by positing a future life where things will be made right, or will at least be better, and that in turn gave them the hope to keep on going in this life. Otherwise, the more advanced primates may have died off by mass suicide.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

          Archaic humans [I’m including Neanderthals] are the only species known to bury [or inter in caves] their dead. Also to decorate the corpses & provide with grave goods [pets, tools etc]. That evidence ONLY takes us back 100k years I think. That’s the only ancient evidence we have of religious belief/practises in any animal. More recently we have stone structures [dolmans, henges] that might be in part religious, but these things are very recent – less than 6k years.

          Homo sapiens [anatomically modern humans] emerged close to 200k-300k years ago & they carried on a long time before caring for their dead in ways that have been preserved to our day. As far as we know they were not jumping off cliffs in despair. I would also be surprised if they were bothered by the shortness & brutality of life, which is I suspect an outdated misconception about the hunter/gatherer lifestyle.

          It was religion & agriculture that enabled the hierarchical style of ‘civilisation’ that led to such horrors as Victorian masses crammed in their hovels & breathing industrial air – surely they had it much worse & lived with a horrific death rate among new born & toddlers?

          I doubt that ‘religion’ this has any DIRECT evolutionary advantage [1. above] – I favour that religious belief is just one cultural result [of a few cultural results] of our pattern/agency-seeking nature & it is that which has evolved in us & has always been present in humans [2. above].

          Does religion console a mum who has witnessed the death of her beloved baby? I dunno – the religious are as broken in grief in my experience. Just my opinion.

          • rickflick
            Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

            That’d be my take too.

    • Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think so. Our instinct is to avoid death as long as possible. Belief in eternal life implies death shouldn’t matter. If we really believed that, we wouldn’t be so death averse. Death is so horrible many even can’t talk about it, yet the faithists think it is a gate to heaven.

  10. George Manitowabi
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    As far as euphemisms go, I couldn’t help but think of this Johnny Carson skit from the Tonight Show. Please excuse the video quality, as it’s clearly taken from an old VHS machine with bad tracking.

    • Laurance
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      That has to be the. funniest. thing. I’ve heard about death since I don’t know when. When I turn up my toes and am pushing up daisies I want this video played!

      I don’t say “passed”. I say “die”. And I use the noun “death”. (I’ve been heard to say “croaked”, too, actually…)

      Since euphemisms are so fashionable these days I have to say I feel a bit weird being often the only one who said, “She died.”

      Actually I’m not always the only one. It hasn’t really been all that long that I got an email from my friend to tell me that our mutual friend had died. Died. Joan died. That’s what she went and did and that’s what my friend wrote in the email.

      And I appreciated the plain unadorned language. Joan is dead, died the afternoon before the day I was going to drive up to Ithaca and visit with them. We had plans, were going to get together again. Dead as a smelt, as an old friend from Ohio used to say.

      • Merilee
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        Yes, hilarious video! Is that Johnny’s real hair, or is it an undertakerish wig?

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted December 2, 2018 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

          @Merilee Since you asked re the Carson syrup 🙂

          That video is one of his 1992 “The Tonight Show” episodes where he aired the eulogy clip he recorded in April 1990. In 1990 he had a silver/white haired wig so that’s a wig just for the role.

          He was well into being a ‘slap head’ by 1990 – HERE’S a Getty Image from ’77 when his perfect hairpiece got tousled by someone [Steve Lawrence?] on air – reportedly his mop stayed still when he reacted by laughing with his whole face – the blonde thing on top of his bonce kind of floated in perfect stillness.

          • Merilee
            Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

            Phew, now I can sleep soundly.
            But why “syrup”?

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

              From the Cockney rhyming of “syrup of figs” laxative medication.

              • Merilee
                Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

                Still don’t get it, even with the figs??

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted December 3, 2018 at 12:04 am | Permalink

                Apples [& pears] = stairs
                Plates [of meat] = feet
                Brown bread = dead
                Syrup [of figs] = wig
                Lots more examples, some very picturesque, Here: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Cockney_rhyming_slang

              • Merilee
                Posted December 3, 2018 at 9:09 am | Permalink

                I love wordplay but find most of these such a stretch for my American ears😬

      • Diane G
        Posted December 4, 2018 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

        Damn, I miss Johnny’s deadpan delivery! That was hilarious! “Doing the Hokey Croaky…”

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

      Since the subject has come up, I can’t help linking Tony Robinson’s Eulogy to What’s-his-name:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CAQMr2Yqfw

      cr

    • Marta
      Posted December 3, 2018 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      At the end of that video, I expected Carson to be clobbered with a cream pie.

    • Posted December 3, 2018 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      Hilarious!

  11. Simon Hayward
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    “Passed” and “passed away” have long been phrases that bug me. They are however shorter than “shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the choir invisible” and somehow “he’s bleedin’ snuffed it” seems a bit harsh. Especially when it’s not a parrot 🙂

    Re civility, GHWB was, in my opinion anyhow, probably the only principled Republican president to have served in my memory (Nixon is the first one I can remember). Of course, there are probably two Democrats (Carter and Obama) that I view positively, so I’m not sure the difference is meaningful. I do agree that speaking I’ll of the recently dead without very good cause is not productive. Better to remain silent.

    • Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

      Gerald Ford? I thought he was one of the most decent men to be president.

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted December 3, 2018 at 7:23 am | Permalink

        Accepted. Too decent to get elected.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 3, 2018 at 8:50 am | Permalink

          Gerald Ford was a decent human being. But he really wasn’t presidential material. Ford had been a congressman from Grand Rapids for nearly a quarter century when Nixon tapped him to become his accidental vice president (mainly because Nixon knew he would be confirmed in congress). During that time, no one had suggested he run for president. Hell, he wasn’t even taken as a serious candidate to run statewide for the US senate.

          • rickflick
            Posted December 3, 2018 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

            I lived in Western Michigan and remember Ford from the local TV news, etc. He always struck me as a well liked but not overly capable man.

            • Diane G
              Posted December 4, 2018 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

              Well, I still do. And…my daughter lives in Grand Rapids! Neener neener… 😉

              In addition to being a nice guy, he was great fodder for Chevy Chase. And Betty was a kick.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted December 4, 2018 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

                And his son was an actor on the Young and the Restless.

            • rickflick
              Posted December 4, 2018 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

              I was in a seminar with a psychologist who coached Ford prepping for a speech. He asked him to gesture a bit as he spoke. When he reached the world “world”, he paused and drew a circle with his hands, and then went on speaking. We laughed in recognition. They often said he could not chew gum and walk at the same time. 😎

              • Diane G
                Posted December 5, 2018 at 1:45 am | Permalink

                Lol!

                Yep, remember the gum line…

              • Zetopan
                Posted December 5, 2018 at 10:57 am | Permalink

                And who could forget the “played football without a helmet” phrase about Ford. To which a clueless Ford spokesman insisted that Ford did in fact wear a helmet when playing football.

              • phoffman56
                Posted December 5, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

                IIRC, what Johnson actually was ‘…can’t fart and walk across the room at the same time’, but the press cleaned it up (spoiled it a bit?).

              • phoffman56
                Posted December 5, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

                Sorry, two goofs by me:
                Johnson said …,
                and
                “… can’t fart and chew gum at the same time”

  12. yazikus
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    I have come to believe that the English language is ill equipped to articulate feelings about death, especially grief. I sympathize to a degree with those who intend to soften the harsh reality of losing a person in life (did I do it there?), though I also am not keen on ‘passed’ sans ‘on’.

    GHWB has a good run, 94 long years. I agree that he was fundamentally decent, while also paving the way for the leaders we currently have. I don’t think he could have realized what his legacy would be like.

  13. Posted December 2, 2018 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    US presidents can order the usage of chemical warfare on civilians and burn them alive with flaming goo, and the US public still loves them because of their great hair.

    The purpose of being nice to a deceased person is respecting the grief of their loved ones. But historical people are a different matter. Their bad deeds should not go unmentioned.

    I agree that wishing someone ill, or vindictive smearing aren’t helpful. But factually pointing out what they did is perhaps motivation for one office holder to do better, just a little.

    Should we some day lie about Trump, and focus on the great things he did? (I come up blank what that could be, maybe that he’s a rare president who only started a trade war so far?)

    Here is Noam Chomsky frisking a Bush speech on the Iraq war.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      “Should we some day lie about Trump, and focus on the great things he did?”

      I doubt we ever will. tRump is in a different category from all the rest.

      Bush senior, like most presidents (and I include Reagan and Nixon in that) knew how to behave himself in public. Bush Junior was patently slightly dumb but otherwise personally inoffensive. Could anyone claim that tRump isn’t 100% obnoxious, 100% of the time?

      cr

  14. Michael Fisher
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a USA death euphemism map [should enlarge if clicked]. Note there’s a large “DIED” constituency heading west from Prof. Coyne’s gaf & it has swallowed Wisconsin, Illinois leaped the Mississippi & hit the two Dakotas & Nebraska:

    • Merilee
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      I kinda like “slipped away”.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

        When I “go” I want somebody to say, “he’s slip slidin’ away”.

        • Merilee
          Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

          ✔️

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

        That’s Utah. The land of peculiar underwear. The land where ‘nightlife’ goes to die. You can have it Merilee! 🙂

        • Merilee
          Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

          LOL
          I actually love parts of Utah, and go there almost annually to hike. It IS possible to stay away from the folks with the funny undies🤓

    • Greg H
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      I was born and raised in the deep South by very religious folks. It was a scandal that my great grandfather was reputed to have said once, “When you die, you’re just a dead son-of-a-b****.”

      Needles to say, I’ve immortalized him because of those words.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

        We all need an elderly, scandalous, convention-breaking black sheep in the family tree. 🙂

    • Posted December 3, 2018 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      “Succumbed”? Yesterday I succumbed to the temptation of sticky toffee pudding.

      I do like “went home”. I immediately think “Elvis Presley is not dead, he just went home”.

    • Diane G
      Posted December 5, 2018 at 2:01 am | Permalink

      “…there’s a large “DIED” constituency heading west from Prof. Coyne’s gaf & it has swallowed Wisconsin Minnesota, Illinois Iowa leaped the Mississippi & hit the two Dakotas & Nebraska…”

      If I’m reading you correctly…

      Jerry’ll be thrilled that Illinois likes “Went to be with his/her/the Lord…” 😀

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted December 5, 2018 at 5:18 am | Permalink

        Damn – the wrong states & the wrong damned river.

  15. Jim Nickelson
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    “Besides all my friends who are eating kale and quinoa to stave off the Reaper as long as possible…”

    If I have to eat quinoa and kale to live longer, no thank you.
    I’ll have a porterhouse please.

    • Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know id they will live longer, but it will seem longer.

      • Claudia Baker
        Posted December 3, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        Heard this joke re Jerry’s comment on kale & quinoa:

        Me: Tell me, oh grand yoga master, what is
        is the secret to a long and healthy
        life? Please don’t tell me it’s kale.
        It is kale, isn’t it? Shit.

        • Posted December 3, 2018 at 10:37 am | Permalink

          They never include the word happy, just long and healthy

        • Diane G
          Posted December 5, 2018 at 2:03 am | Permalink

          Lol!

  16. BJ
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Oh, look at that, the “particularly noxious specimen” is from PZ Myers’ site. I’m shocked. Shocked, I say!

    Also, it’s hilarious how PZ ensures that his comments sections never have a single comment that disagrees with him. He can’t stand even the slightest divergence in thought from his own. What an egomaniac.

  17. rickflick
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    I think euphemisms like “he passed” or “we lost” so-and-so is alright in some places, like at a funeral or memorial at which close family attend who are struggling with the loss. But in a wider context, euphemisms are cringe-worthy.

    • Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      I am sorry that your husband died, Marge.
      Sounds pretty cold. Almost anything us better.
      I usually stop at I’m sorry, and try to look sympathetic.

  18. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    Damn, PZ, I’m not a strict de mortuis nihil nisi bonum kinda guy — I see no problem in criticizing the recently dead the same way one would have done while they were still alive — but what’s the purpose of such vicious sniping?

    As for the use of “passing” — I’m never sure how much these euphemisms represent squeamishness over death’s stark reality, and how much is a stab at elegant variation.

    • BJ
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      Have you ever known PZ to be anything but as nasty as possible to anyone people who disagree with him? Apparently, this nastiness extends even to those who have just died.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

        “Have you ever known PZ to be anything but as nasty as possible to anyone people who disagree with him?”

        Yeah, actually I did. Maybe about a decade or so ago — back when he was attending screenings of Expelled with Richard Dawkins and swapping feline vs. cephalopod quips with our host. Then, seemingly all of a sudden, the worm turned, and PZ transmogrified into this nasty piece of work he remains today.

        • BJ
          Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

          Yes, you’re absolutely right. I should have rephrased that — or, rather, added some words — so it read, “have you ever known PZ to be anything but as nasty as possible to anyone who disagrees with him since he went insane about five or six years ago?”

        • BJ
          Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

          Maybe this is just confirmation bias, but it really does seem like PZ’s transformation from respectable guy to utterly revolting creature coincided with his attempt to become the leader of the (failed) social justice atheist brigade. Being an ideologue of any stripe often requires a vituperative disposition toward heretics, especially in the age of social media. For ideologues, topping your comrades’ abuse toward the outgroup has always signaled your dedication to the cause and thus conferred social status, but social media has changed it from small groups of people meeting in rooms to thousands shouting their worst invective all at once. It’s tough to stand out when there are so many challengers, but PZ does his best.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

      Me neither, but I am a cedere nescio kind of person and I think that brings me a lot of trouble, especially since I’m a woman, because it’s unexpected.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted December 2, 2018 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

        I agree in principle, but I also tend to apply “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing” in such situations. At least until someone invites me to agree with their eulogistic paeans.

        cr

  19. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    “Passed” irritates me, too, quite aside from the euphemism aspect. Passed what? (as PCC asked). Kidney stones? Slow traffic? Exams? The parcel?

    Maybe it’s a case of rose-tinted spectacles, but I could never muster as much animosity towards Bush senior as I could towards Dubya. (And the antipathy to Dubya was, of course, his idiocy in Iraq which you can put down muchly to the evil bastards who ran him).

    cr

  20. Joe Hahn
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    I could not agree more. When I die, I too want it reported that I died, not that I entered some fantasy spirit world.

  21. Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    I have never said anyine oassed. Can’t imagine bringing myself to say that.
    The word is died..

    • Posted December 2, 2018 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

      I have never said anyone passed.

  22. Jenny Haniver
    Posted December 2, 2018 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    I’ve noticed that, at least out here in the SF Bay Area among the progressive spiritual crowd, the euphimism “transitioned” is favored.

    • BJ
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

      I guess because it’s supposed to sound “spiritual”? They’ve “transitioned to a higher plane of consciousness,” or some such nonsense? Seems like there are a lot of those “I’m not religious, but I’m very spiritual” types around there.

    • Merilee
      Posted December 2, 2018 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

      Transitioned?? That sounds even worse than passed.

  23. John Conoboy
    Posted December 3, 2018 at 12:11 am | Permalink

    Probably no one is reading comments this late, but I will add one anyone. Years ago there was an Irish comedian named Hal Roach, perhaps Grania will remember him–or maybe not and I am showing my age. He did a very funny bit using multiple euphemisms for being dead. I tried to find it on youtube, but without success. Not so different from the Johnny Carson bit posted above, but years earlier and actually much funnier.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted December 3, 2018 at 12:35 am | Permalink

      Dublin comedian – teller of clean jokes. My Irish parents had two of his albums that went on the turntable late on of an evening when they cracked the booze bottles with people brought home from the pub. He was a great influence on Dave Allen I think, especially the timing, though Allen was a lot edgier. US readers will be more familiar with the Hal Roach Studios Hal Roach.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted December 3, 2018 at 2:21 am | Permalink

      I think you’ll find that routine on this Hal Roach youtube video (which is just audio) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDB2gMlqiaU beginning at about 14:06. I’d never heard him before.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted December 3, 2018 at 2:55 am | Permalink

        Well found!

  24. Posted December 3, 2018 at 3:38 am | Permalink

    I was ranting at the radio about exactly that! 😦

  25. Posted December 3, 2018 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    P. Z. Myers (Professor CCs first link) thinks that he can never be president because he lacks the requisite generosity of spirit?
    He does himself a disservice!
    He has precisely the degree of spiteful, pusilanimous, vitriol to honor the office as much as the current incumbent. Myers just needs to shift his politics to appeal to the other team. Given that integrity and a moral compass don’t seem to be holding him back, I dont foresee a problem for his political career.

  26. scruffycookie
    Posted December 3, 2018 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I also prefer “died” to other euphemisms. My pet peeve is the implication that they’re “now looking down at you from heaven”. That thought just creeps me out. My 10 year old Lab Rikki died on Saturday and I’ve heard that phrase at least 5 times already from my well meaning friends–who all know I’m an atheist. I think they say it to comfort themselves and don’t even think it through.

  27. Posted December 3, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I am used to “passed away” as a euphemism for “died.” I really dislike “passed,” though, as if he just walked by.

    The one I really dislike is “fell asleep” for “died.” He isn’t just sleeping! Fortunately, that’s one phrase that our wonderful ceiling cat would never use in the list of deaths on the day. I’m sure.

  28. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted December 3, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    I just bent over backwards to select an “unfollow” button.

  29. Posted December 3, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Down here in Latin America, Bush is not considered fundamentally decent, he is considered guilty of crimes against humanity.

    The main reason for this opinion of Reagan and Bush in Latin America was the creation and support of the sadistic Contra terrorists in Nicaragua under their administration. These US-financed terrorists killed an order of magnitude more people than Bin Laden, most of them civilians.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contras

    Before this, Bush was CIA director during the CIA’s Operation Condor, which supported terrorism and assassinations in other Latin American countries in order to preserve US-friendly dictators.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Condor

    I don’t know at what point a man’s mistakes in one sphere make up for his good qualities in another sphere. And I have no doubt that Bush, like Nixon before him, believed that his ends were noble, and that these ends (overturning socialist states even when they had been democratically elected) justified the means. Perhaps it is sometimes necessary for good people to do fundamentally evil things for the greater good. But where does this end? And for whom is this the greater good? The tens of thousands of Nicaraguans who were killed by the Reagan/Bush terrorists, and the thousands who were raped and tortured by them, were as innocent as the victims of 9/11.

  30. Posted December 3, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Bush is now stardust. Dead and gone.

    How stark is the contrast between presidents then and now! I need Pinker’s reassurance that what we’re experiencing now is but a fleeting aberration and the world has not gone bonkers.

  31. Jim Jones
    Posted December 3, 2018 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    Mr. Praline: ‘E’s not pinin’! ‘E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!


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