Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Corpse is Recovering Nicely

Hard as it is to believe, what Americans feared most 200 years ago was not typhoid, cholera, or getting shot by Aaron Burr. It was being mistaken for a corpse. That explains why this item was printed and reprinted in every newspaper in the country in the autumn of 1809.

Caution against premature Interment.
A woman of the name of Proffer residing at Hay, Breconshire (England) who had been for some time in a very ill state of health, was lately supposed by the person in attendance to have died, and the necessary preparations for the funeral had commenced; the body was laid out by a female usually employed on such occasions, who, on returning to the house at about six hours afterwards, and observing the hands had been removed from the situation they had been placed in, concluded some person had been in the room; but on going to close the mouth was greatly alarmed by the supposed corps exclaiming "Do not close my mouth, for I am not yet dead," which threw her into fits.

The sick person has since so far recovered as to be able to sit up in her room, is still living, although in a very languishing state, and she declares that she heard all the conversation which passed relative to her funeral, but from extreme weakness had not the power of speech or motion. [Eastern Argus of Portland, Me., Dec. 14, 1809]


I know times have changed, but I find the supposed utterance of "Do not close my mouth, for I am not yet dead," a bit wordy for such a situation, especially given her poor health. "Hey!," "What are you doing?" or "I'm not dead yet!" would seem more likely. Just a thought.


Yes, I much prefer the Pythonesque "I'm not quite dead" (not to be confused with the "I'm not dead!" line from the Bring Out Your Dead scene).

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