Dennis Baron debaron at UIUC.EDU
Mon Jun 28 15:12:25 UTC 2004

In today's NY Times, Brent Staples, discussing the phenomenon of
"passing for white," says, "The people who abandoned their families
were described as 'passed' -- a euphemism for dead." (NYT 10-28-04, p.
A18. To pass for (=pretend to be, or be recognized as) something else
goes back in the OED to the 16th c, and in this same sense, to pass for
white, to the 1930s. But in Nella Larsen's novel "Passing," there is a
sense of both meanings of passing, pretense and death. Are both senses
now current, or is the 'death' explanation replacing what I take to be
the earlier sense of the word?


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