Tuesday, September 13, 2011


The past participle of the verb "to pass" is very useful. Sometimes, it's very positive, such as when one has "passed the Bar" or "passed one's driving test.

Sometimes it's neutral, as in "We passed your house on our way into town",
Sometimes it's ambiguous, depending on one's point of view, as in "The Senate passed the re-authorization bill".

Sometimes it's descriptive, as in "Smith passed the ball to Jones, who promptly scored".

Sometimes it's part of unhappy news, such as "Tom drank two more shots of whiskey, and then passed out"

Sometimes it's sad, as in "my husband passed away last month"

Lately, I have noticed increasing use of the euphemism "passed", unqualified, meaning "died". If it is someone's belief that there is some sort of future life (such as the Christian concept of Heaven), I have no quarrel with their belief that a loved one has "passed" on to another place. However, far too often it is people who have no such faith that say someone has "passed". If they "passed", what was their destination?.


  1. The fact that it is a euphemism for died is what irritates me most about that use. I have instructed everyone who will be telling others that I am no longer on this mortal coil to say "died." No matter where my soul ends up, my body will be dead and that's that!

  2. You might be a snob. Paul Fussel defines America's three classes' various descriptions of death as follows:
    HIGH: "Grandfather died."
    MIDDLE: "Grandfather passed away."
    LOW: "Grandfather was taken to Jesus."

    To be really high class, you have to say the last with a straight face.