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(In)famous Last Words
March 18, 2002 2:46 PM   Subscribe

(In)famous Last Words We often look to the last words of our great thinkers to tell us something about that mysterious transition between life and death. So what are we supposed to make of Walt Whitman's last words: "Hold me up; I want to shit"? And how about Dylan Thomas' dying declaration: "I've had eighteen straight whiskeys. I think that's the record"? What last words would you want recorded for posterity? (via a & l daily).
posted by pardonyou? (38 comments total)

 
But let us leave the final word to Karl Marx who for once had it right when, in answer to his housekeeper's request for any last words, replied: "Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough!"

That pretty much sums it up for me. Entertaining article, though. Will we someday see the day when gravestones are links to peoples' blogs?
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:54 PM on March 18, 2002


"I won't eat the poison mushrooms!"
posted by machaus at 2:55 PM on March 18, 2002


George V, on being told by his physician that he would soon recover and be able to visit the sea side resort of Bognor Regis, said "Bugger Bognor!" and expired.

His predecessor Charles II said Let not poor Nellie starve" (Nellie being his mistress, Nell Gwynne).

Other last words:

"Don't worry, it's perfectly safe!"

"Put that gun down."

"Horrid soup. Tasted of bitter almonds for some reason."

"What does this button do?"

"Of course it's not loaded."

Apparantly the last recorded word on most aeroplane black boxes is "Shit!"

Someone on this very board said that the most common last words before a fatal car crash in, I think, Texas was "Hold my beer and watch this!"
posted by Grangousier at 3:08 PM on March 18, 2002


"Tell . . . Rodii . . . I . . . love him."
posted by Skot at 3:10 PM on March 18, 2002


"Sixty-Four Thousand Nine Hundred and Twenty-Eight"
--Neal Cassady (reputed to be his final words but probably not). Cassady died of exposure walking the railroad tracks (supposedly counting the ties) outside San Miguel de Allende Mexico in February of '68.
posted by m@ at 3:12 PM on March 18, 2002


m@, maybe that was how many times he had thrown and caught his trusty sledgehammer in the air?
posted by machaus at 3:17 PM on March 18, 2002


I want my last words to be "I wish I had spent more time at the office."

Not that I really will have wished to spent more time at the office; I just want to shut up all the people who spout, "No one on their deathbed ever said, 'I wish I had spent more time at the office.'"

As for linking gravestones to blogs, the following occurs to me. Let's say that hosting a website, domain registration, etc., costs an average of $20/month, at the moment. Let's say inflation runs around 3% in the long term, and a decent, but relatively safe investment yields 5% in the long term. (These aren't exact figures, of course; I'm just looking for a very rough estimate.) An initial investment of about $12000 could then provide for $20/month, adjusted for inflation, ad infinitum. See where I'm going with this? I should be able to pay a company $12000 or so, and have them agree to host my website eternally!
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:25 PM on March 18, 2002


machaus, I'm thinkin' Cowboy Neal (no, not that one, the first one) hammer-flipped at least a million times based on first-hand accounts I've heard. More than one of them were bounced off his noggin'.

To keep it onT, Ezra Pound's final words were " "Let those I love forgive what I have made." "
posted by m@ at 3:28 PM on March 18, 2002


That Neal Cassady one is funny, but when you die alone of exposure, I'm guessing no-one records your last words.

Tom Waits has a good one for your tombstone (though it may not be his originally: "I told you I was sick".

For my money, you can't go wrong with a good deathbed curse on anyone who happens to be getting up your nose.
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:31 PM on March 18, 2002


I hope my last words will be "I never thought I'd be eating chocolate cake while having sex on a pile of money," but then, I'm a man of simple pleasures and not given to fancy speechifyin'.
posted by Hildago at 3:31 PM on March 18, 2002


"I drank what!?"

-Socrates
posted by zempf at 3:32 PM on March 18, 2002


Let me just close that parentheses: ).
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:32 PM on March 18, 2002


Cassady didn't die on the tracks, he lived for most of the day of the morning he was found. Whether he spoke or not is a matter of contention.
posted by m@ at 3:36 PM on March 18, 2002


)
posted by m@ at 3:37 PM on March 18, 2002


I should be able to pay a company $12000 or so, and have them agree to host my website eternally!

Or... you can just link to your archive.org link, and get it over with entirely.

I'd want my last words to be something along the lines of:

"I have stashed over ten million dollars under the... uhhhhh"

Hey... it'll keep them talking and occupied for a long while!
posted by mkn at 3:39 PM on March 18, 2002


I stand corrected, m@. Been too long since I read about any of those guys.

Does that mean I have to re-open the parentheses now?
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:40 PM on March 18, 2002


As some of you know, I'm an accountant. One of my colleagues related a story (which sounds like an UL, but what can you do) about one of his (spunky octogenarian) clients who is in the hospital and not expected to come out. Not knowing the situation she's in, he had left a message at her house about her tax information which the woman's daughter received and mentioned to her. Her reply, as related by the daughter:

"Tell Lyle 'no estimated payments for 2002.' "
posted by OneBallJay at 3:43 PM on March 18, 2002


The parenthesis is now closed, we will re-open at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow, please bring your final punctuation to the counter. Thank you for shopping Metafilter.
posted by m@ at 3:45 PM on March 18, 2002


One of my favourites was "Don't go buying me any green bananas." Actually, now I've mentioned it I don't know why. It's a bit crap.
I like the infuriating mystery idea, MKN. I might do one about a message from God or something, if I've got my shit together when I finally pop my clogs.
posted by RokkitNite at 3:53 PM on March 18, 2002


"Kiss me, Holloway."
posted by Catch at 4:01 PM on March 18, 2002


I should be able to pay a company $12000 or so, and have them agree to host my website eternally!

Or... you can just link to your archive.org link, and get it over with entirely


Hmmm... a) provide enough funds for my website to stay in operation indefinitely, or b) hope that a non-profit organization receives enough funds from other people, who may have no particular interest in the continuation of my website, to stay operational.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:02 PM on March 18, 2002


"Son, I have something to tell you, for the last 50 years I've been putting money in to a Swiss bank account. Here, write down the number...." Beep Beep Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep
posted by epimorph at 4:12 PM on March 18, 2002


A couple more relevant, but morbid, links... Transcripts from the final moments of major plane crashes, a great collection of dying words by notable people, and the last statements of executed Texas inmates.
posted by waxpancake at 4:26 PM on March 18, 2002


Gen Custer: "holy shit I've never seen so many damn indians!"

Dracula: "Hey lets go out for brunch"

Joan of Arc: sniff "Hey, I smell like chicken"
posted by KnitWit at 4:38 PM on March 18, 2002


rosebud
posted by Mick at 6:24 PM on March 18, 2002


"They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." - General John Sedgwick
posted by yhbc at 6:43 PM on March 18, 2002


My favorite famous last words are Stonewall Jackson's:
Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.
the last statements of executed Texas inmates

One inmate, William Davis, ended a nice speech like this:
Oh, I would like to say in closing, "What about those cowboys?"
posted by kirkaracha at 8:51 PM on March 18, 2002


Thanks to Waxpancake's great link, I've found what I want to say when *I* die: "Make my skin into drumheads for the Bohemian cause." That is just plain cool.
posted by apollo at 10:21 PM on March 18, 2002


i've always thought that before my last breath passes my lips i should say "insert something witty here..."

it was either that or "all you bastards are coming with me!". that'd sure as hell spook a lot of people.
posted by boogah at 11:29 PM on March 18, 2002


Ufez: url on a gravestone -- and thread.

Mine might be "Catch you on the flipside."
posted by dhartung at 12:24 AM on March 19, 2002


"Hey, I can see my house from here."
-- Jesus
posted by jpburns at 5:37 AM on March 19, 2002


The trouble with not having any last words is that your penultimate words become your last whether you like it or not. I now want to die in a spectacular way that also doubles as body disposal (see these reasons). Nothing I can think of as being suitably spectacular for the occassion allows anyone who wants to survive near enough to hear whatever they might be. My last words will thus be "Here, hold this ladder".
posted by vbfg at 5:57 AM on March 19, 2002


Ezra Pound's final words were " "Let those I love forgive what I have made."

That's the end of The Cantos, but I've never heard that they were his last words. Source?

Skot: I know. I always knew.
posted by rodii at 6:22 AM on March 19, 2002


When in doubt, just talk shit.

"I've got one thing to say, get your Warden off this gurney and shut up.  I am from the island of Barbados.  I am the Warden of this unit.  People are seeing you do this."

Also, for more on that "How 'bout them Cowboys" guy, from Esquire Magazine.
posted by ColdChef at 6:26 AM on March 19, 2002


Thanks, dhartung.

I think i'd probably get about halfway through my immaculately planned last words, and then say something like, "Oh, shit. Wait, i fucked up. It goes like this.." and then croak.

"Goodnight, sweet Prince"
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:42 AM on March 19, 2002


dammit rodii, you beat me to it. Pounds words were from notes for CXVII et seq.
posted by clavdivs at 10:42 AM on March 19, 2002


Can't remember (or find) who spoke them, but "I feel better now" always struck me as my favourite.
posted by kerplunk at 12:50 PM on March 19, 2002


If I have any wits about me, I'll say:

Holy shit! Look at all these white raisins!
posted by mattpfeff at 6:48 PM on March 20, 2002


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