Search This Blog

Friday, March 15, 2013

Death and the English Language

After experiencing grief I was interested and surprised by the number of times that death, dying, and killing came up in daily expressions that had nothing to do with the actual subject of losing one’s life.  I think I became more sensitized to the words and even to the gestures people use.  I worked with someone who when work stress got to be too much would shape his hand like a gun and put it to his temple and pretend to shoot himself.  It always bothered me. 

I also have a problem when people pretend to slash their throats.  For most people this means nothing more than an expression of frustration but to me I think about the consequences.  Maybe I am way too sensitive to the whole thing.  It is just humorous that the same people who won’t talk honestly about death and dying are the first ones to pepper their daily conversation with terms like “I could kill you,”  “I could just die,”  “You’re killing me,” “I feel brain-dead,” or “I’m dying of thirst.” 
Comedians, after a good set will say they “killed” the audience and the audience may say they “died of laughter.”  Even at work we have “deadlines” or we become “deadlocked” on an issue.  We all have been guilty of “killing time.” When driving we can come to a “dead end.”  Who doesn’t hate it when they hit a “dead zone” and can’t get phone service?
One of these expressions has always bothered me, even before my experiences with grief.  It is the use of the term “drop dead” aimed at someone who has made you upset or angry.  I always felt like it was tempting fate or enacting a curse to use that term.  I know that seems superstitious, but I just know from being on the receiving end of that term it stings to know that someone would hate me enough to want me dead.  I also think that “scared to death” and “worried to death” are thrown around in passing without a thought.  The truth is that trauma, worry, and anxiety can kill. 
Okay, so maybe I am taking this all too literally and I need to lighten-up.  I don’t know.  It still makes me a bit uncomfortable when I think of someone being “dressed to kill” who goes on a blind date with a “lady killer.” 
Perhaps we use these terms so easily and frequently in an unconscious attempt to lessen the hold that death has on every human.  It just seems like it would be easier to live with the reality of death than to beat the idea to death.  What?  Oh, I just did it didn’t I?

No comments:

Post a Comment