Thursday, September 27, 2007

WHY is the word “late” written before the name of someone who is dead?

It is not known how “late” came to be used to refer to someone recently deceased. However, an expert says that it probably arose as a useful euphemism and as a quick means of informing someone who might not know that the person was dead.

There are differing opinions as to how long “late” should be used when referring to a deceased person. Some guides say for not more than ten to 15 years, while others say for as long as the deceased is within living memory.

As the Oxford University Press Guide to Canadian English Usage explains, it would be inappropriate to say “the late Michelangelo” when referring to the famous artist, as he has been dead for more than 400 years.

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