I work at a newspaper. Since it’s a small paper with a newsroom staff of 5, we all have to be, to some extent, journalists-of-all-trades. And so one of my daily duties is to edit the obituaries that have come in that day and post them to our website.
Over time I’ve developed a collection of obit oddities, which fall under categories that might not be bad choices for a newspaper-themed episode of Jeopardy. Pay attention; there will be an AP style quiz.
They Named You That?
- Examples include, but are not limited to: Mozelle, Richardeen, Chasity (not ChasTity), Lebron (for a plethora of old white men), Shelia and Kelia (pronounced Sheila and Keila), Omega, Lugene, Naveah or Neavah (not Nevaeh, so that when spelled backward it no longer spells anything), Venice (pronounced, I have reason to believe, to rhyme with Denise), Laddie, Nelva, Juts, Johnnalie, Euba, Artance, Olvalene… I could go on.
- Also included in this category are embarrassing, awkward, or just plain weird nicknames: Buzzy, Guffy, Rat, Uncle Shorty, Fimp, and any nicknames that are real names but have nothing to do with one’s given name (“Her name was Joy, but we called her Susan.”)
- Wimp Pilgrim.
Bizarro Family Relations/You’re So Coy
- “He was survived by his children, aunts and uncles, and Special Friend Jane Doe.” Granny’s been dead twenty years. I think the grandkids are old enough to know who Jane is now.
- Half-nieces, step-grandchildren, and so forth. Wouldn’t it be easier just to claim them as your grandkids?
- Those awkward obits where the family is just tap-dancing around integral parts of the deceased’s life, because it would break Aunt Ethel’s heart to find out that Jimmy was gay. You know ‘em when you see ‘em.
I got Kids, They’re Multiplyin’
- People under 50 with more than 10 grandchildren. It happens.
- I once counted a particularly impressive list of survivors: the deceased had over 90 living descendants. And she wasn’t that old, y’all. Maybe in her seventies. I was in awe.
The Grammar! The Grammar!
- “She worked for, TVA, and has attended the Delray Baptist Church for fourty years.”
It Ain’t 1836, So Drop the Caps
- “He was a Veteran of the United States Army, serving in the Vietnam Era and the Korean Conflict. He graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering. He was of the Baptist Faith and a Member of Emmanuel Church. His Family, Friends, and Country came first in his Life. His Memory will be treasured by All who knew him.”
A word to the wise: it might be safer to pre-write your own obituary. Its So Easy to be Misrepresented.
Have you seen any giggle-worthy turns of phrase, or just plain head-scratchers, in your local obituaries?