Thursday, December 30, 2010

Passed or Died?

A growing term used to substitute for the word "died" is "passed". I wonder how that term morphed. It is probably from "passed away" to "passed". My problem is that it is an active football term: "the quarterback passed the ball." To say that my father "passed" seems to want a direct object: passed what? My father died. My father passed away. My father went home to be with the Lord. Passed just does not do it for me as a believer and as a son.
Does passed carry with it a universalism that all people pass from here to there? That there is a migration of all souls to a better place? Where does Jesus fit into this? I hope I'm not stepping on your toes if you choose to use the word "passed" as a replacement for "died." I think I'll stay with the word "died" for the time being.


At 3:15 PM , Anonymous Jim Johnson said...

Yes, keep using "died" - it is a simple statement of the truth.
"Passed away" is a euphamism that in trying to soften the truth ends up confusing it. It is like "she didn't make it" (make what?) or, my favorite, "we lost him" (so, go look for him!). I suspect that the recently increased usage of "passed" that you have noticed is, indeed, a shortening, and attempted further softening, of "passed away". "Away" gives such a hard, harsh sense of direction, but without it "passed" is just vague and vapid.
Such is the natural impulse in the face of the ultimate enemy - death. In the Church, however, we know that "death has been swallowed up in victory", so we can face it and call it what it is. (This is sort of like Harry Potter who calls Lord Voldemort by name rather than by reference to "he who shall not be named", and thereby strips him of the status of mystique.)
There is, I think, another and older usage of "passed". In the Black Church "passed" is widely used in place of "died", but with great gravity of pronounciation and only for those inside the church. (Every time I hear it, I am reminded of the scene in "To Kill a Mocking-Bird" where Scout is told by the Blacks in the gallery to "stand-up, your father's passing" as Atticus Finch left the courtroom.) I believe that it is short for an older phrase - "passed over", as in crossing the River Jordan (the cold water of death) into the Promised Land (our true home in Heaven).
I SUSPECT that this use of "passed" MAY have led to the origin of "passed away". Adding "away" (or "on") MAY have originally been a white appropriation and secularization of "passed".
Yes, keep using "died" - it is a simple statement of the truth.

At 7:25 PM , Anonymous Fred said...

Thank you for that. Died and dead state fact, true and clear. In Christ, death is conquered, we don't fear it, we just die to this earth and live with God.

While we are at it, in the Apostle's creed, can we stop saying "descended into Hades" as that brings up the Greek realm of mythological gods. Hell is also from that source, (one of the worst parts of Hades) but is closer to Sheol (death into the ground) and generally is in English a sharper and clearer term.

Just an opinion from one who likes clearer language.


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