Final Expenses

Who wants to hear the word death out loud?  For advertisers, the answer is nobody, and they work hard to avoid this basic fact of life.  Pharmaceutical ads are required to list potential complications.  So the taboo word must be spoken, but few can appreciate the word death midst dreamy images of puppies and walks along the beach.

Those watching crummy TV or afflicted with insomnia are treated to the machinations of the death industry itself.  Typically a middle-aged couple bemoans the fact that they’ve been forced to shell out coveted savings for their parents’ funeral.  They don’t look pissed, but underneath I bet they’re seething.  Then a cheerful neighbor pops in to report that she just got her check from Dominion Life, which paid for her father’s “final expenses.”  The obvious solution to avoid lingering resentment is a burial policy to pay for funeral expenses – the casket, the flowers, the plot and various other sundries.   However, the word funeral, burial or death is never uttered during these ads.

I am the target demographic for these advertisers.  Recently flushed out of the sandwich generation myself, I admit that vague thoughts of mortality have inched their way forward, but I’m irritated by the bland euphemism of “final expenses.”  The word “death” may seem a bit harsh, but why not take advantage of the creativity of the English language and use the clever and amusing euphemisms for death?  Lighten up and make it fun.

Here is my script for a “final expenses” ad.  I’ve tried to use as many expressions as possible, but the sheer number suggests that different expressions could be rotated through to create a whole campaign.

Warning:  The following ad may contain material that is offensive to sensitive viewers who are uncomfortable with the reality of death.  However, this ad does not contain the “D” word, but instead uses the colorful idioms that enliven our English language.  Motivated viewers are referred to Mark Twain’s essay “Death in Nevada” where a rustler and a clergyman talk in their own euphemisms for death, and as a result are incomprehensible to each other.  In fact, Mark Twain may have popularized the term “kick the bucket.”

Scene:  Kitchen counter, two neighbors talking:

Delores:  Mindy how are you doing?  I heard that your father went toes up last month.

Mindy:  Yes, my father finally bought the farm, but he was ready.  He’d been swimming away from the dock these last months and now he’s peacefully pushing up daisies.  Just look at all these bills for the funeral.  Motions to a pile of envelopes strewn across the counter.   I don’t know how we’re going to pay for all of this without dipping into our daughter’s wedding money.

Delores:  Mindy, didn’t your parents have Crossing the Rainbow Bridge insurance?  Mine did.  Look here’s the check I just got.  It paid for the all the expenses when my father joined the choir eternal.

Mindy:  Do you think that it’s too late for me?  Do I have to have a medical exam?  What if I am about to croak?

Delores:  No worries, a medical exam isn’t required, but if you do kick the bucket right away there might be a two-year waiting period for the policy to pay out, and it might not pay out that much more than what you put in.

Mindy: Hmm.. I think I understand.  This is like forced savings.  I can either spend on my kids now, or save money so that my daughter can spend on me later.  Interesting choice, she’d probably want the money now, and just do an ashes to ashes thing when I sprout wings.

Delores:  Mindy, you’re right.  Money now is a great temptation, but personally I do want the horizontal phone booth when I go to sleep with the fishes. I don’t want my family to pay for my cement overcoat.  I’m going to shuffle off this mortal coil with equanimity knowing that my family won’t begrudge the celebration of my big dirt nap.

Mindy:  Delores, thanks for this great advice.  I’m like you, when I assume room temperature and go to my reward, I want to spare my children what I’ve been faced with.  I want them to throw in my towel with gratitude and good cheer.

End Scene

The following are euphemisms collected from various slang dictionaries sorted into vague categories.  These could go by in a crawl beneath the ad.
Mob style

Wear a cement overcoat

Sleep with the fishes


Mining Style

Go up the flume

Hand in your lunch pail

Put to bed with a shovel

Agrarian Style

Push up daisies

Bought the Farm

Bite the dust

Go into the fertilizer business

Examine the radishes

Picking radishes from below

Become a root inspector

Picking turnips with a step ladder

Become a landowner

Cowboy Style

The last round up

Happy hunting ground

Navy Style

Slip one’s wind

Cut the painter

Take the ferry

Swim away from the dock

Lose the number of one’s mess

Answer the last roll call

Go to Davy Jones’ locker

Cribbage style

Peg out

Party Style

Definitely done dancing

Finally got his tab called at the bar of life

Avian style

Yield the crow a pudding

Turn over the perch

Swan song

Frog Style


Hop the twig

Travel Style

Take the ferry

Booked on the Gravesend bus

Go up green river

Wandering the Elysian fields

Crossing the River Styx

Taking an all expense paid trip aboard the Stygian cruise line

Heavenly Style

Meet your maker

Climb the golden staircase

Push clouds

Shoot one’s star

Sprouted wings

Cleaned the trumpet

Cross the rainbow bridge

Sports Style

A race well run

Juggling halos

Climb the greasy pole

Traded to the Angels

Cuisine Style

Ate it

Lose the number of one’s mess

Lay down one’s knife and fork

Stick one’s spoon in the wall

Worm food

Vegas style

Cash in your chips

Throw in the towel

Deal the final hand

Philatelic Style

Stamped returned to sender

ET Style

Called home

Author Style

That’s all she wrote

Permanently out of print

Shuffle off this mortal coil (Shakespeare)

Pot Pourri


Pay one’s debt to nature

Go over to the majority

Six feet under

Snuff one’s glim

Put into one’s cool crepe

Medical Style

Assume room temperature

Metabolic processes are history


Tending toward a state of chemical equilibrium

Wear a toe tag

Kicked the O2 habit

… and my personal favorite

Baste the formaldehyde turkey!

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