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Friday, 16 December 2011

A Matter of Life and Death

I've been thinking about Steve Jobs' last words "Oh Wow, Oh Wow, Oh Wow". What was he saying, was he saying anything? Maybe he was misheard. In fact he was saying "Oh No, Oh No, Oh No" or "I Don't Want to Go..." Whatever he said it has really got people bemused.

The religious might interpret his last words as joy on glimpsing the celestial city from a high mountain. Looking down on a valley flowing with milk and honey, the angels with their i(amtheoneGod)Pods. Alternatively, he might have glimpsed the next killer app and was completely blown away. Which in a sense he was.

The unconvinced would argue that the sounds had no meaning, just the last breath being ejected in a final spasm and accidentally tuning his vocal chords to reproduced an "intelligent" noise. It makes you wonder whether Christopher Hitchens had something meaningful to say with his dying breath.

Last words have fascinated people for ages. There's something quite bizarre about a dying person saying something profound or witty as they "pass over/on/across". Is their last thought "Bloody hell that was damn good, shame I won't be able to use it again." Or "Bugger, that would have been ideal in my last book."

Some last words are life affirming, capping off a life that's been full, joyous and admiring. Others leave this place in the same manner they occupied it. Mean last words ending a  mean, poor life.

Here are a few bon (mort) mots:

I am about to -- or I am going to -- die: either expression is correct.
~~ Dominique Bouhours, French grammarian, d. 1702

I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.
~~ Humphrey Bogart, actor, d. January 14, 1957

Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.
~~ John Barrymore, actor, d. May 29, 1942

Goodnight my darlings, I'll see you tomorrow.
~~ Noel Coward, writer, d. 1973

Damn it . . . Don't you dare ask God to help me.
To her housekeeper, who had begun to pray aloud.
~~ Joan Crawford, actress, d. May 10, 1977

All my possessions for a moment of time.
~~ Elizabeth I, Queen of England, d. 1603

Well, gentlemen, you are about to see a baked Appel.
~~ George Appel, executed by electric chair in 1928.

I've never felt better.
~~ Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., actor, d. December 12, 1939

I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring.
~~ Richard Feynman, physicist, d. 1988

I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room - and God damn it - died in a hotel room.
~~ Eugene O'Neill, writer, d. November 27, 1953

They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist. . . .
Killed in battle during US Civil War.~~ General John Sedgwick, Union Commander, d. 1864

Woe is me. Me thinks I'm turning into a god.
~~ Vespasian, Roman Emperor, d. 79 AD

I have a sneaking admiration for this:

If any of you have a message for the Devil, give it to me, for I am about to meet him!
~~Lavinia Fisher, hanged for murder on February 18, 1820, while wearing her white wedding dress gown

and of course....

Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.
~~ Oscar Wilde, writer, d. November 30, 1900


A final thought. Was Steve Jobs breathlessly singing the opening line of "Do You Know the Way to San Jose"?

8 comments:

Harpo said...

I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather... Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.

Groucho Marx

Steve said...

Personally I think he was playing Kate Bush's "Wow" on his iPod and was merely singing along. Thank God it wasn't Wuthering Heights... I doubt a man in his condition would have made the high notes.

Marginalia said...

Dear Harpo and Steve,

Who said dying wasn't a laughing matter.

The Sagittarian said...

"I told you I was sick" (my personal favourite!)

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas Marginalia.

May the wordsmith of Walstamhow's pen continue to entertain us (I assume it is plural!) in 2012.

Marginalia said...

Will do, once we've recovered from the stress of having a tailess Ginjatheninja!

The Sagittarian said...

Tail-less? OMG our Ernie has a broken tail which flops about uselessly behind him. WE have no idea what happened to him as he was like that when he adopted us. Whats Ginga's 'tale'??

Marginalia said...

This will no doubt be the subject of a blog - once time has put sufficient distance between us and the traumatic event.