In collaboration with Mental Floss: a state-by-state breakdown of euphemism trends in obituaries.
Talking about a death can be difficult and uncomfortable; direct words like “death” and “died” can virtually sting as we say them aloud or share them in writing, conjuring the painful reality of loss. So it’s natural that we use euphemisms to soften the blow. Even though we all know the words “passed away” refer to dying, it’s a bit less direct, and that can provide a bit of comfort to those hearing the words as well as those speaking them.
Interestingly, the euphemisms people use to soften the blow vary by region. The most common euphemism for “died” in one part of the United States may be quite different than in other parts. And we see those trends clearly reflected in obituaries.
Some euphemisms for death are popular nationwide. We were fairly safe in mentioning “passed away” above: according to data from the obituaries we published in 2015, “passed away” is the most popular euphemism in the United States, appearing in 32.5% of obituaries. But other euphemisms, though not as popular nationwide, are more common in certain regions. We shared our data with Mental Floss to find the the most “characteristic” euphemism for each state (the one that’s used most in each state, relative to national averages).
The results make for a fascinating map:
As you can see, there are trends: in the upper midwest, people simply “die.” The east coast “departs,” while the west coast “succumbs.” In parts of Appalachia, the deceased “went home,” while in Hawaii, Utah, and Montana, they “slipped away.”
What are the most interesting death euphemisms that you’ve come across? Let us know if there are any that you find particularly comforting, or that are unique to the region where you live.
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