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Poll reveals over 50 different euphemisms for death

‘Wearing a wooden onesie’

A poll commissioned by terminal illness charity Marie Curie has revealed over 50 different euphemisms for death and dying.  The survey of nearly 8,000 people unearthed a variety of weird and wonderful phrases such as, ‘Wearing a wooden onesie’‘Coco-pop it’ and ‘Turned turtle’.

The revelation comes as Marie Curie, launches the biggest ever campaign to encourage people to talk about and plan for the end of life. The charity warns that our reluctance to think or talk about dying and death means many of us feel deeply unprepared and distressed when facing the end of life, either for ourselves or our loved ones.

Unusual phrases the survey found included: ‘Vacated their earthly meat prison’, ‘Walked over the rainbow bridge’, ‘Pulled his last pint’, ‘Ate the pomegranate’, ‘Bought the farm’, ‘Hamburger time’, ‘Wooden Kimono’, ‘Tripping the light fantastic’, ‘Become one with the force’, ‘Doing the final moonwalk’ and ‘S*** the cosmic bed’

‘Passed Away’ was the most popular term used (49%) followed by ‘Kick the bucket’ (24%). ‘Dying’, ‘death’ and ‘dead’ are commonly substituted with alternative phrases to be less harsh or blunt. However, in some cases such as in clinical settings, when talking to children, or talking to people with learning disabilities, using direct language can be more helpful.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of Marie Curie, said: “It doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you talk about it. The results show the nation has at least 50 completely different ways of talking about death which suggests society still has some way to go to feel comfortable about talking about dying, death and bereavement.”

The charity has launched the first ever nationwide TV advert to encourage people to talk about and plan for the end of life. The advert, ‘Whatever you call it, we should all talk about it’ plays on the euphemisms people use in the hope that more people will think, talk and plan for dying.

Matthew continued: “While most of us say we are comfortable talking about dying and death, the reality is that many of us are not making any preparations as it feels a long way off or something that will cause unnecessary upset both for us and the people around us.

“But we need to plan more for the end of life, while there is still time to do so. Having these conversations early can be easier than having them when we, or someone we love, is dying.

“At Marie Curie we have been caring for people at the end of life for over 70 years. With our expertise and experience we have developed some wonderful resources to help people start these important conversations.”

Marie Curie has a wealth of materials to help people plan for the end of life, wherever they are in the process, including free conversation starter cards, checklists and inspiring articles and resources at mariecurie.org.uk/talkabout. For questions about terminal illness call the Marie Curie Support Line free on 0800 090 2309.

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