Thursday, April 27, 2017

Stuff You Were Just ... Dying ... to Know

My daughter and her family came back from a recent vacation in Philadelphia with an interesting gift for me: a book by Michael Largo titled Final Exits: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of How We Die.

I don't think she was trying to send me a message other than wow, this is a cool book, and it truly is. It's an A-to-Z review of all the amazing ways in which we humans have shuffled off our mortal coils, from "Abactio" (abortion or the induction of premature labor) to "Zoofatalism" (a psychological disorder in which people get dangerously close to zoo animals or keep dangerous wild animals as pets).

It also has a great many interesting lists and comments. For instance, here are some of the euphemisms used on death certificates in the 1700s and 1800s to refer to sexually transmitted diseases:

Cupid's Disease;

Cupid's Itch;

French Pox;

Lues* Disease; and,

Bad Blood; and,

Venus's Curse.

In a related aside, Ramses as a brand name for condoms honors the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, who was said to have fathered more than 160 children, possibly as a result of the intersection of royal privilege and defective condoms.

But it's not all about the darker side of sex. You will learn in the pages of this book that:

Since 1975, 19,867 people were injured by umbrellas, of whom 91 died;

Since 1900, 5,988 spectators at sporting events were killed in various accidents (struck by a ball/puck, fell from an ill-chosen perch, etc);

Since 1965, 10,726 people have died from mosquito-related causes (including actress Jayne Mansfield, who was killed when the car in which she was riding slammed into a truck because the driver was blinded by a fog of mosquito spray); and,

Between 1985 and 2004, 224 people were killed by their toasters, usually by electrocution when they used a metal utensil to free a slice of bread stuck in the device.

Looking for a little macabre entertainment? Have I got a book for you!

Have a good day. See you tomorrow for the final April collection of Great Moments in Editing and Signage. More thoughts then.


* Pronounced "lou-ease," according to the article at


Mike said...

This sounds like a great book for future posts!

John Hill said...

Sounds like an interesting read.

allenwoodhaven said...

Interesting how we've found more precise ways to describe how we die. Long ago we just said "dead". We've got an encyclopedia now!