Early American tombstone euphemisms for death


68 Responses to “Early American tombstone euphemisms for death”

  1. Harbo says:

    Norwegian Blue’s do it as well.

  2. rattypilgrim says:

    Nothing is worse on so many levels (not to mention banal) than the 21st century American euphemism, “passed”.  I rather like the more poetic and dramatic ones people used who actually witnessed dying by people of all ages, due to more causes, and on a more regular basis than we face today.

    • ImmutableMichael says:

      I’ve long thought “passed” should be reserved for kidney stones.

    • dayhat says:

      Yes, Yes, Yes a heartfelt yes.  This ghastly term is such a wet, weasly word when used for death.  Unfortunately it is taking root in the Australian lexicon.  In my field I talk to people about dying and about people who have died.  I would never besmirch the lives of people who have died by using this unctuously insincere term.

    • Yep. “Passed” and “Passed Away” drive me nuts. As if not saying the word died makes it not so.

  3. Boundegar says:

    Disappointed to see “bought the farm” didn’t make the list.

  4. Lilah says:

    Just the other day I read an obituary on Facebook (yep) for a stillborn baby that read, “(Baby) was born sleeping”.

    • Boundegar says:

      “Fell asleep” appears several times in the New Testament, but it’s not a Christian thing.  It’s just a first-century Greek expression.

  5. bo1n6bo1n6 says:

    I like this one.

    • chgoliz says:

       Now that’s somebody I wish I’d known while s/he was still alive.

    • blueelm says:

      Wasn’t that the lady who was considered a hypochondriac? Actually I feel bad for her, I wonder if she just had something rare. It took them 20 years to diagnose my mom with something besides “middle aged woman” and by then she was practically in a coma from thyroid disease.

  6. allenmcbride says:

    This is great. I’m not sure “euphemism” is the right word, though. (“Was Barbarously Murdered in his Own Home by Gages Bloody Troops”)

    • Sekino says:

      Yeah,  “Killed by the Fall of a Tree” is exactly what happened (unless ‘tree’ was euphemism for a giant, katana-wielding triffid…)

  7. Shuffled off this mortal coil

    Joined the choir invisible

  8. Tchoutoye says:

    Traded the temporary for the eternal.

  9. lavardera says:

    Screwed the pooch.

  10. Jake0748 says:

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  People who speak languages like to use euphemisms, synonyms, colorful & descriptive terms, just to mix things up.  If we insist on the word “died” all the time… well, that’s just boring.  

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      In conversation, though, it can be a problem. One of my neighbors “went to Shady Pines” last year and none of us can figure out if he’s in long-term care or dead.

  11. Jim Dillon says:

    As others have pointed out, plenty of those aren’t euphemistic at all. “Stillborn”? that’s calling it like it is, man. My personal anti-favorite that’s current down here in Georgia is “called home.”

    • retepslluerb says:

      Coming from German, I think “stillborn” is an euphemism.

      • TooGoodToCheck says:

        Perhaps “stillborn” began its linguistic life as a euphemism, but at this point, in, let’s say, North American English, I believe that it is the single most widely used, widely accepted, guaranteed to be understood, appropriate-for-use-in-medical-literature term that we have for what it describes.

  12. Guido says:

    Where’s the parrot?

  13. glamaFez says:

    I wish I was Part 24

  14. Art says:

    Freemasons say, “Demitted to the Celestial Lodge,”

  15. Frank Diekman says:

    “Was out of his element.”


  16. Philboyd Studge says:

    Anyone else feel the urge to sing the list, ala Jim Carroll?
    “They were all my friends, and they died”

  17. Boomer says:

     “People who speak in metaphors ought to shampoo my crotch.”
    – Jack Nicholson, “As Good as it Gets”

    A friend I worked with on a newspaper collected these from obituaries. The list, which sadly no longer exists, was extensive. I remember only two: “gone where the woodbine twineth,” and “succumbed to the rigors of the prairie.”

    • chgoliz says:

       I can imagine two entirely different works of fiction being created with those titles. I’d prefer reading “succumbed to the rigors of the prairie” myself.

      • rattypilgrim says:

         Have you read “Giants in the Earth” by Ole Edvart Rolvaag? It’s about Norwegian immigrant homesteaders in the Dakotas. It might speak to you.

  18. Felton / Moderator says:

    Sleeping with the fishes.

  19. Rindan says:

    I’ll take:

    That is not dead which can eternal lie,
    And with strange aeons even death may die.

    Actually, seriously, I am going to amend my will to make it say that.

  20. gibbon1 says:

    “Although he did not find riches in these dry hills, in our hearts he found the motherload.  And now he has gone off to prospect in the sky”  — Grave stone in the Mojave Desert.

  21. noah django says:

    and then there’s Penn and Teller’s contribution:

    and even better, on the google page for that one, Mel Blanc’s came up:

    that’s punk as fuck

  22. retepslluerb says:

    Personally, I’m aiming for a black tombstone with the proportions of 1:4:9 and the description

    Born 28th November 6691

    Died xx.xx..xx in a time machine crash.

  23. Beanolini says:

    I like Uriah Heep’s ‘He is a partaker of glory at present’.

    The Sacred Harp has a death-euphemism on almost every page. Some of my favourites are ‘play on the golden harp‘, ‘going over Jordan‘, ‘mount the upper skies‘, and ‘wear a starry crown‘.

  24. peregrinus says:

    I had to break the news of my family hamster going to the great wheel in the sky.  Before I knew of the apparently colloquial ‘gone to wait for you at the Rainbow Bridge’ (which I love), I euphemised ‘gone to Hamster Heaven’ ( … ‘where?’ … ‘Hamster Heaven’ … ‘can we visit her?’ … segue into emotional collapse)

    The sweet nature of the alliteration did feel me leaving a tad like I was plugging some kind of trading card.

  25. Richard Pusateri says:

    My mother’s hometown paper always used captions such as “Melvin Bjorklund Summoned” in the obituaries.

  26. Richard Pusateri says:

    I like the euphemisms for clipping people in British espionage literature: “XPD” (Expedient Demise) title of the Len Deighton novel or “subject was taken into permanent custody of the Crown.”  In some spy fiction I think I read of a victims “number being permanently deleted from the inventory.”

  27. “…and I am Nowhere again, Inside the Majesty.”


  28. Roose_Bolton says:

    Here I lie, broken-hearted
    Paid my taxes, then departed.

  29. I’m still confused about how Cory (as a writer) could so utterly wrongly use the term euphemism for these inscriptions.  (I do get that the original content-creator used the term but why repeat the error?)  Stillborn is what a baby born dead is/was termed.  Perished in a storm describes the cause of death.  Even “fell asleep in Jesus” and the like are less euphemisms than they are expressions (to whomever someday read that gravestone) that the person (or his or her family at least) was a devout Christian.  Personally, as a genealogist, I am happy when an ancestor was a little more forthcoming with information than just “died.”      

    • Snowlark says:

      I’d never considered that before, but you’re right.  To someone who is Christian, the phrase “waking up in Jesus’s arms” is meant literally.  The word “die” simply does not have any meaning in this context.

      I suppose then for a phrase to be a euphemism, the person using it must intend only to obfuscate or diffuse what they view as the unpalatable truth that a person is no longer alive.  That is, a phrase is a euphemism when used to evade the (perceived) truth.  If, however, that phrase describes what that person believes to be the truth, then it is no longer a euphemism.

      Huh.  Never thought of it that way.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        My tombstone can read Gone to Aslan’s Country or maybe Gone fishing in the Bay of Eldamar. Of course, I don’t want a tombstone. Just throw me in the woods and let the animals eat me.

  30. capl says:

    My favorite… from a photo I have in my collection: “Gone”

    Past tense of go: OED:
    go (v.) Old English gan “to go, advance, depart; happen; conquer; observe,” from West Germanic *gai-/*gæ- (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian gan, Middle Dutch gaen, Dutch gaan, Old High German gan, German gehen), from PIE *ghe- “to release, let go” (cf. Sanskrit jihite “goes away,” Greek kikhano “I reach, meet with”), but there is not general agreement on cognates.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Bopster: Waitress, I’d like a slice of pie.
      Waitress: I’m sorry, sir. That pie is gone.
      Bopster: Oh, that craaazy pie! I’ll take TWO slices!

  31. Ryan Lenethen says:

    Teleported to Xenu’s Mothership, all hail Lord Xenu!

  32. 10xor01 says:

    Pull my finger no more.

  33. mickcollins says:

    For some, “Drop the body” is not a euphemism.

  34. Perizade says:

    Cory’s mistakes aside, some of those were sweet, tender and heart breaking. I like Joined The Choir Invisible myself, lol.

  35. millie fink says:

    Not Early American, but this is my favorite: “Jesus called and Kim answered.” The accompanying image is what makes it sing.


    • noah django says:

       oh wow

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy
      Down in my phone.
      Down in my phone.
      Down in my phone.
      I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy
      Down in my phone.
      Down in my phone to stay.
      – after Henrietta and Merna Neudorff

  36. Lis Riba says:

    Dumb ways to die… So many dumb ways to die…

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