General Question

elbanditoroso's avatar

When do you stop being "late" and start being dead?

Asked by elbanditoroso (15193 points ) March 19th, 2012

I was reading a news article a few minutes ago that spoke of the “late Shah of Iran” – but he died 30+ years ago. Then there was a TV news clip that showed the “late Princess Diana” – but she has been dead for at least 12 years.

When does a person stop being “late”? When does a person begin to be considered really dead?

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15 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

If you can remember the person being alive, then they are “late.” The only dead people are those who died before you became aware of them.

(This is just my impression. This is not a dictionary definition).

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
john65pennington's avatar

I had rather see/hear the word “late”, than dead.

I can just hear some newscaster saying, “many acts of kindness, were performed by the dead Princess Diana”.

Much better is, “many acts of kindness, were performed the late Princess Diana”.

It’s not only improper English, but her fans would probably gasp at using the word dead.

I agree dead is dead.

I have yet to hear anyone say, “the late Michael Jackson”. It will happen.

marinelife's avatar

Dead is not used as an adjective. Thus, the euphemism.

rojo's avatar

Reminds me of the old SNL skit which always included the line “And in the news today, Francisco Franco is still dead” or words to that effect.

CWOTUS's avatar

If I tell you about things that “my late father told me”, then you can imagine that I’m recalling him fondly (well, depending on context, I suppose).

But if I tell you about things that “my dead father told me”, then you’d just figure I was insane.

I’d prefer to keep you guessing.

6rant6's avatar

@marinelife…,@rojo Um, “Generalisimo Francisco Franco is still dead.” “Dead” is an adjective.

bea2345's avatar

A phrase that I have savoured for years: “The late, great and unlamented Josef Stalin…”

dabbler's avatar

@marinelife “Dead is not used as an adjective.” ?? Dead dog. Dead skunk. Dead as a doornail. These are all adjective uses.
...along with @6rant6‘s example.

LostInParadise's avatar

I think there is something to what @wundayatta said. The two words are not interchangeable. One would not refer to a late skunk and one would not talk about the dead Princess Diana. We use the term late to call attention to the person who we knew when alive.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@LostInParadise – so I can speak of the late George Washington and my good buddy late Jozef Stalin?

LostInParadise's avatar

If you knew them well

downtide's avatar

It’s not just if you knew them well. Solicitors use the term in relation to deceased people whose estates they are managing. I think it’s just a polite alternative to saying dead or deceased and I doubt that there’s any time restriction on it.

“Hurry up, or you’ll be late”

“Late for what?”

“What is your name, human?”

“Dent. Arthur Dent.”

“Late, as in the late Dent, Arthur Dent…”

MiketheReal's avatar

”“Dead is not used as an adjective.” ?? Dead dog. Dead skunk. Dead as a door nail. These are all adjective uses.”
Not so. The first two are correct. However, “Dead as a door nail” uses ‘dead’ as a simile, not an adjective. ‘Dead as a dead door nail’ uses ‘dead’ as both an adjective and a simile, though with an undesirable degree of redundancy. However, it does enliven the old cliché.

MiketheReal's avatar

“It’s not just if you knew them well. Solicitors use the term in relation to deceased people whose estates they are managing. I think it’s just a polite alternative to saying dead or deceased and I doubt that there’s any time restriction on it.
“Hurry up, or you’ll be late”
“Late for what?”
“What is your name, human?”
“Dent. Arthur Dent.”
“Late, as in the late Dent, Arthur Dent…””

Well done! I thought I knew The Hitch-hikers’ Guide from cover to cover, back to front, upside down and underwater, but I hadn’t broken the full significance of that one; though of course I’d realised that it’s a kind of threat…

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