Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.


DEAR MR. LEDERER: I’m fascinated by the famous last words that people say. What are your favorites? -Bob Hermann, Rancho Santa Fe

As William Shakespeare noted in his tragedy “Hamlet,” “All that lives must die passing through nature to eternity,” where we enter “the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.”

As they exit the earthly stage, some men and women have delivered Famous Last Words, curtain lines that are strikingly memorable for the life that pulses through them. Let’s start with deathly prose that possesses a deep plot of grave humor:

  • When his physician informed him that his condition was terminal, Henry John Temple Palmerston, British prime minster, exclaimed, “Die, my dear doctor? That’s the last thing I will do!” And it was.
  • When asked how she felt, Dame Edith Sitwell replied, “I am dying but otherwise quite well.”
  • Comedian W.C. Fields is said to have said when he said his last, “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”
  • German poet Heinrich Heine assured his family, “God will pardon me. It’s His profession.”
  • German philosopher Wilhelm Hegel’s final observation was “Only one man understood me — and he didn’t understand me.”
  • As writer Gertrude Stein was closing the final chapter of her life, she murmured to her friend Alice B. Toklas, “What is the answer?” After a silence, Stein then asked, “In that case, what is the question?”

Alcohol, aka the Devil’s brew, has played a part in several deathbed pronouncements:

  • Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who put the quart before the hearse by drinking himself to death, slurred, “I’ve had 18 straight whiskeys. I think this is a record.”
  • Movie star Humphrey Bogart mused, “I should never have switched from Scotch to martinis.”
  • In contrast are the last words of James Croll, teetotaling Scots physicist: “I’ll take a wee drop o’ that. I don’t think there’s much fear o’ me learnin’ to drink now.”

Some people insist on remaining unstintingly professional up to the very end:

  • Ever the showman, Florenz Ziegfeld enthused, “Curtain! Fast music! Lights! Ready for the last finale! Great! The show looks good, the show looks good!”
  • The noted English surgeon Joseph Henry Green looked at his doctor, pointed to his heart and diagnosed,” Congestion.” Then he took his own pulse and said, “Stopped,” and expired.
  • The most compulsive case of diehard professionalism may be the pronouncement of the French grammarian Dominique Bouhours. As he departed this world at the age of 74, he uttered this model of linguistic propriety: “I am about to — or I am going to — die. Either is correct.”

Finally, there are those words of farewell that ring out for their nobility, eloquence, unselfishness and bravery:

  • The aged French constable de Montmorency, receiving a mortal wound on the field of battle, waved off assistance with “I have not lived 80 years without learning to stand dying for a quarter of an hour.”
  • Laurence Oates, a member of the tragic Scott Antarctic expedition, became aware that he was freezing to death. Unwilling to be a burden on his comrades, he said quietly, “I am just going outside and may be some time.” Then he left the tent, walked into the blizzard and was never seen again.
  • For extraordinary gallantry and passionate faith, listen to the last earthly words of the English martyr Hugh Latimer. As the flames rose and began to engulf them, Latimer turned to his fellow martyr, Nicholas Ridley, and spoke: “Be of good comfort, master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as I trust shall never be put out!”