Eupemisms 2: Pushing up daisies

Charles Cowling


Posted by Vale


As an industry, the funeral business is often told it should be careful about the use of euphemisms – (Collins English Dictionary – euphemism
the deliberate or polite use of a pleasant or neutral word or expression to avoid the emotional implications of a plain term, as passed over for died.)
At it’s best a euphemism can help someone talk about what can hardly be faced or imagined. At its worst, of course, it can sound mealy mouthed, dishonest or even – for the funeral trade – like the  professional language of death.  

But we all do it. I found this list on

Assumed room temperature (popular among mortuary technicians);
Bit the big one;
Brown bread (Cockney rhyming slang);
Carked it, (or karked);
Fallen off the perch;
Hopped the twig;
Been taken from us;
Gone somewhere better;
He’s now with (name of closest deceased loved one;
It was his time to go;
Not hanging around any more;
Threw a double-six;
Kicked the bucket;
Put out to pasture;
He/she bought the farm (US military]);
Gone West (RAF, to ‘Go West into the setting sun’);
It was curtains (as in the crematorium curtains, or the curtains coming down when the play ends);
Faced the final curtain;
It was tickets for him;
Walked through the Pearly Gates;
Gone to a better place;
Checked out;
Gone to the great …in the sky;
Turned up his toes;
Snuffed it;
It was a ‘take out’ in a body bag;
Pushing up the daisies;
Feeding the worms;
Feeding the fishes;
Sleeping with the fishes;
Dead as a Dodo;
Dead as a doornail;
Dead as a doormouse;
Passed over;
Passed on;
Having his final sleep;
The Late …;
Lost (as in ‘We ‘lost’ my father);
Not dead but ‘gone before’;
Drawn his last breath;
Departed this life;
Shuffled off this mortal coil;
End one’s days;
Peg out/To peg;
Given up the ghost;
Gone to see his maker;
Met his maker;
Never woke up;
Keeping the angels company;
Singing with the angels;
Popped his clogs;
Been deleted.

My favourite ’he rolled over and stuck his spoon into the wall’ (from a Georgette Heyer novel of all places) isn’t on the list – what’s yours?

11 thoughts on “Eupemisms 2: Pushing up daisies

  1. Charles Cowling
    gloria mundi

    Done a flamer?
    Pressed his own button?

    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling

    it was curtains…..

    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling

    I love the neologisms. It makes you think every profession should have their own euphemism. How about ‘he’s hopped into the hearse’ for funeral directors. Maybe ‘ah, he dug a hole for himself’?

    And what about celebrant’s?

    Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling
    Gail Rubin

    Great list! One that didn’t make it into the book A Good Goodbye was “tits up.”

    Charles Cowling
  5. Charles Cowling
    Charles Cowling

    Time for more contemporary variants, perhaps. 404-ed. Reached his croak by date. Erm…

    Charles Cowling
  6. Charles Cowling
    Rupert Callender

    “Finished his porridge”, “Slipped his lead” “Resigned from the Board” “Balanced the books” “Taken out the clippings.” “Left the building” “Cleared his desk” “Upended his mug.” “Taken his phone off the hook.”
    Made all of these up actually.

    Charles Cowling
  7. Charles Cowling
    gloria mundi

    Sweetpea, you are a scholar of the demotic! Barvo. I find these things genuinely interesting.

    Charles Cowling
  8. Charles Cowling

    Gloria, that’s an interesting one about having ‘bought it’. On ‘The Phrase Finder’, a particularly useful website for people trying to find displacement activities rather than do some serious writing, ie me, it says:

    Bought the farm
    Meaning: To die, particularly in an accident or military action.

    The origin of this phrase is uncertain. It is 20th century and all the early references to it relate to the US military. The New York Times Magazine, March 1954, had a related phrase, in a glossary of jet pilots’ slang:

    “Bought a plot, had a fatal crash.”

    That clearly refers to a burial plot. The ‘bought’ in that case probably doesn’t suggest any actual or potential purchase, but to an earlier use of ‘bought’, i.e. being killed. This dates back to at least the early 20th century. This example from 1943 isn’t the earliest, but it does make the meaning explicit. It’s from Cyril Ward-Jackson’s It’s a piece of cake; or, R.A.F. slang made easy:

    “He’s bought it, he is dead – that is, he has paid with his life.”

    Charles Cowling
  9. Charles Cowling
    Belinda Forbes

    “Popped his clogs” used to be my favourite. I wonder if they say “popped his thongs” in Oz? (thongs: the Australian word for flip flops!)
    But now I love sweetpea’s grandmother’s saying best!

    Charles Cowling
  10. Charles Cowling
    gloria mundi

    “He is no longer with us.” (Er, so, he’s gone to Milton Keynes, or wot?)

    “He is no more.” Actually, hardly a euphemism, since it is quite a useful shorthand for the real situation – but then nor is your “feeding the worms” or “dead as a doornail!”
    Another WWII one, also I believe RAF, was “he’s bought it.” (???)

    Charles Cowling
  11. Charles Cowling

    My grandmother’s was ‘one less to peel ‘taters for’. I love that.

    Charles Cowling

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