It seems like we have still got some way to go when it comes to naming the realities that life delivers on a daily basis. Rather than saying what we mean and meaning what we say, we seem to delight in skirting around the more direct and plain English use of the language.
This was emphasised once again in an opinion piece this time by Newcastle Herald writer Jeff Corbett (Frightening realities, Sat 13th January 2018). “Passing” says Jeff, “has become so common lately that it seems we have a new way of dying. So and so passed, we read, we hear, we say, and it comes with a layer of respect on top of the obfuscation. Not that there’s anything new about avoiding dying, death and dead. In more religious days we would say passed over, as in Uncle Joe passing over the line between mortal and eternal life.”
“From passing over we moved to passing away … and in the year just passed we’ve ditched the away to state merely that Uncle Joe passed.” Of course as Jeff reminds us we have to conjure up the reality in our minds and come to the conclusion that Uncle Joe would have in all probability ‘died.’
In the absence of being told this fact two options come to mind. One is check the death notices in the paper or perhaps the best way is to reply by coming out with the D-word: you mean Uncle Joe has taken his last breath and died. Plain, simple, no confusion. After arriving at this point perhaps some gentler words can be used to express our grief or sadness. But to establish the truth, it’s best not to mince words.