Sometime soon--later today or tomorrow--I will be uploading this latest collection of doggerel to Kindle Direct. You don't need a Kindle to read it--just a Kindle app on your smart phone or tablet.
Here's the Foreword to the collection ...
Deathwords is not a word of course.
Or is it?
I just checked the Oxford English Dictionary and discovered I am right. Deathward and deathwards appear (in 1398 and 1727, respectively), the former used by Malory and Swinburne and Robert Browning, the latter by Keats and Macaulay. Shakespeare—I just checked my concordance—used death-worthy in his long poem The Rape of Lucrece in 1594 but never stooped so low as to use deathward—and certainly not deathword(s), which I am now claiming as my own invention, putting me in the same category with, well, Shakespeare and with whoever thought of citizening and eyeballing and selfie—all recently added to the OED.
So … deathwords: synonyms for events or places related to dying and death, synonyms that may be euphemistic (“passed on”), dysphemistic (“feeding the worms”), humorous (“termination station”), or realistic (“graveyard”).
So … what’s going on in these verses I've collected here? In mid-December 2014 I got the idea for a silly poem about a frog that croaked—in both senses. And the next thing you know, each day I was posting on Facebook another quatrain (or so) that employed a slang term or phrase that we use for death--deathwords. On and on they flowed, and I must admit that, running out of ideas, I was helped by various websites whose masters/mistresses have nothing better to do than to accumulate and list such expressions. I thought of a lot—but there are scores of them out there, many of which I’d never heard before. Eventually, I decided to stop at one hundred. (There are many more, but I was getting depressed. And, I would guess, the interest of my Facebook audience was … dying.)
I’ve also included here a group of poems I’m calling “Deathless Doggerel” for two reasons: (1) they are not about death; (2) they are, well, doggerel. These are lines I wrote now and then and posted on Facebook for my friends to ignore—or to which they could feel superior.
Also, I like another meaning of the word deathless, number three in the OED’s list: deserves to be remembered forever; never to be forgotten.
This definition has lived since 1630. Perhaps these verses will kill it.
Mea culpa: While I was copy editing this text, I discovered several instances of my sending out into the world some deathwords I’d already used in a previous quatrain. Rather than delete one or the other, I decided to leave them both here (with a confessional endnote). Maybe there’s a fateful or metaphysical reason this happened? Nah ..., probably just dotage.
March 25, 2015