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Old 10-05-2019, 01:02 AM
SlackerInc's Avatar
SlackerInc is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Northern Minnesota
Posts: 12,698

Has “passed away” always been a straight euphemism for “died”?

I had the impression that in recent years it has slowly become more broad in its meaning, as many words and terms do—but that when I was young it meant dying very peacefully, in your sleep or at least in bed. So I found it jarring to increasingly see people say someone “passed away” from an explosion, or a fall from a great height or whatever.

But it has occurred to me that I may have always just assumed that was the specific meaning, because the imagery of the phrasing is so suggestive of that kind of death. But maybe even when I was a kid it was intended to mean any kind of death, and I just didn’t notice it until recently. Does anyone have old dictionaries or some way to trace the understanding of this term? I imagine it’s tricky, because in so many cases you can’t tell if it’s meant as a specific kind of death or just death in general.

So I guess the real question is whether back in the 1980s or earlier, people ever said “So and so passed away in a flaming motorcycle wreck this afternoon, being pronounced dead at the scene.”

Last edited by SlackerInc; 10-05-2019 at 01:03 AM.


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