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You know the drill. Our Unlucky Everydude goes to visit his parents. But wait! Where's his favourite crazy grandfather gone? He's gone to a better place? He's hopped the twig? He's with the angels? Nooooooooooooooo!

Wait Grandpa, what're you doing here? Aren't you dead? Are you a zombie? o_o

Turns out, he just won a twig hopping competition, and the prize was an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii with the cast of Charlie's Angels. You rented that funeral tuxedo all for nothing.

A standard comedy misunderstanding, in which a character claims a loved one "is no longer with us", "has moved on", "isn't here anymore", "has joined the choir invisible" etc. Everyone takes this to mean they've died, but no, in fact the character was talking literally and they've just gone to work, are on holiday, or are in a a musical group that prevents its members from being seen. If these euphemisms become too obvious or contrived, the listener or the speaker has sometimes picked up the Idiot Ball.

A lesser used inversion is that the character really is dead, but the listener doesn't understand the euphemisms used. This is usually less comedic and more tragic, but not always.

See also Never Say "Die", He Didn't Make It, and Double-Speak. Particularly crazy examples (think the Monty Python's Flying Circus Parrot Sketch) can cross over into Unusual Euphemism and Hurricane of Euphemisms. May involve a Rear Window Investigation.

Examples of No Longer with Us include:


Advertising

  • There was a German TV spot about old age insurance which went like this. The family, all in black, cries, with the father telling his wife and children that "grandma's now in a better place". Cut to the old lady getting tanned in Hawaii.
  • Used in a UK TV advert for Direct Line Insurance with Chris Addison playing an insurance salesman who inadvertently confuses a potential customer by saying his grandmother is "no longer with us". She's actually in Australia.


Anime and Manga

  • In Yotsuba&!, Asagi buys some CDs for her father while on holiday, then claims "I bought them without thinking, even though... he's not here anymore". There's a panel of her and her mother looking wistfully at the setting sun... and then Fuka points out that he's not dead, he's just at work.
    • It should be mentioned that Asagi likes trying to Mind Screw the other characters.
  • The first chapter of the Yu-Gi-Oh!! manga has Yugi tell Anzu that he considers the (at this point unassembled) Millenium Puzzle a "memento" of his grandfather. She's rather shocked when Sugoroku turns out to be alive and well (and horny).
  • The Fullmetal Alchemist manga had Greed and his men misunderstanding Al's statement about how his brother "isn't here" and becoming quite apologetic towards the kid that, you know, they had kidnapped...
  • In Detective Conan, when Conan first finds out who Ai really is, he demands to know what she's doing at the professor's house. Ai replies that the professor is "no longer in this world", Conan barges into his house... and sees him on the Internet.
  • In the last chapter of Elfen Lied, a series of things Nana says to herself at a cemetery indicates Kurama died during the timeskip between the 106th and 107th chapter... but she's just being melodramatic for some reason. Kurama's alive and well.
  • Toward the end of Planetes, an episode ends with Tanabe running out of air on the surface of the moon with no hope of rescue. The next episode picks up Hachimaki's story without resolving Tanabe's until Hachi visits his old friends in the debris section, who casually refer to conditions "since we lost Tanabe". Turns out she was rescued but was on extended leave of absence until she was well enough to work again.


Comic Books

  • Possibly a variation in Persepolis: the man who is "on a trip" wasn't really dead, but it really was a white lie. In fact, he was in jail.
  • The Long Halloween, after Dent gets a face full of acid: the surgeon slowly steps out of the operating room, telling the waiting Gilda Dent and Gordons that Dent's "...gone". Cue reactions of shock and grief. Turns out he means that Dent escaped, and then collapses, revealing a scalpel embedded in his back.
  • In the German comic book Der Bewegte Mann, translated in English as Maybe Maybe Not, Doro rushes to the hospital immediately upon hearing about Axel's faked suicide attempt. She is greeted by a doctor and a nurse. The nurse curtly informs Doro that "the patient left us this morning." Doro is horrified until the doctor gently reminds the nurse that that Silesian phrase doesn't mean the same thing in North Rhine/Westphalia. The nurse grumpily amends her news to "the patient was discharged this morning," much to Doro's relief.
  • In Fables, a mundy reporter who has been investigating Fabletown can't help but notice that people who have "gone to the Farm" don't seem to be around anymore... not realizing that there is, in fact, a literal farm that the missing Fables have moved to.


Fan Works

 Fluttershy's Dad: Where is she?

Princess Luna: Be at ease, Sundown. She is at peace.

Fluttershy's Dad: (cold stare)

Princess Luna: (recoiling) Have I spoken wrongly? Do ponies not wish each other to be "at peace" in this day?


Film

  • The film Fried Green Tomatoes has a character named Buddy who is killed when his boot gets caught on a rail as a train approaches. Later in the film, it appears Ruth's son, who was named after Buddy, has met the same fate. The film cuts to a funeral, but then shows buddy in attendance. It turns out he lost his arm and the ceremony is in memory of it.
    • In the present storyline, Evelyn arrives at the nursing home and finds a nurse taking down Ninny's paper rose garden. The nurse then tells her that Ninny is gone. Evelyn believes she means Ninny has died and doesn't understand how quickly the nursing home turns over the room and basically has a breakdown. The nurse then reveals that Ninny actually left in a cab a bit before Evelyn showed up.
  • In Secondhand Lions, the greedy relatives come to visit Uncle Hub in the hospital after he has a heart attack. A doctor tells them "he's gone." The relatives badly fake sympathy and ask where the body is. Turns out, Hub trashed the hospital room and checked himself out.
  • Done in The Brainiacs.com when Kara, the new bank clerk informs David that the previous clerk, an elderly man, has gone to the "Great Beyond", which turns out to be a retirement home (which, if you think about it, is a stupid name for people who don't want to think about death).
  • After the conjoined twin main characters of Stuck On You get potentially fatal seperation surgery, the doctor tells the pair's friends that "they lost them." Turns out some other doctor had relocated them to another room and didn't mention this to anyone.


Literature

  • Ambiguously used by Death in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather: "The Hogfather is... gone" A better wording would be "disappeared" or somesuch, but given that Death is... well, Death, one might assume.... The TV movie makes the line a litle clearer: "There isn't an entirely appropriate Human word, so...let us settle for...gone."
    • This actually combines two lines in the book, the second being "He is...let me see...there isn't an entirely appropriate human word, so... let's settle for...dead. Yes. He is dead." And when Susan visits the lifetimer room, the Hogfather's is broken, which is usually a clear indicator. It's just that for Anthropomorphic Personifications, death isn't necessarily a permanent condition.
  • In the second Temeraire book, Throne of Jade, a badly injured and slightly delirious Laurence sends a note to his dragon Temeraire which reads "Never fear; I am going; the Son of Heaven will not tolerate delays, and Barham gives me leave. Allegiance will carry us!" Temeraire freaks out, but Laurence is only talking about going to China ("the Son of Heaven" referring to the emperor, and Allegiance being the ship they're to travel on).
  • In the Gone series, every adult litterally vanishes. The kids simply refer to them as "gone" and other euphemisms, but the assumption is that they did not survive whatever happened. Then in book three, it turns out they might actually just be on the other side of the dome, although nothing has been confirmed yet and the scenes were from Orsay's point of view.
  • In Anansi Boys, Fat Charlie is told that an old woman he's looking for has "gone home". He thinks it means that she's dead, but no, she's just gone back to the tropical island she came from.


Live Action TV

  • In the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Will had went to the hospital to get his tonsils removed, and befriended an elderly man named Max. After escaping, and returning to the hospital, he found Max was gone. Asking the nurse, she replied "He's gone off to a better place." (To be fair, the nurse did imply he was dead by sighing, but then it shows what she thinks about her own workplace.) After Will had his tonsils removed, Max returned to his hospital room looking for his lucky hat. "Max, I thought you died." "I did die... in Pittsburgh!" It turns out "gone to a better place" meant sent to a hospital with cable in the patient's rooms.
  • At the end of the first season of Arrested Development, the Literal Doctor says George Sr. is "gone" when he escapes. In fact, this trope is pretty much the doctor's entire schtick as a character.
    • Later, the same doctor says that Tobias "appears to be dead" when he has merely painted himself blue.
    • He also mentions that Buster would be "Alright," though he meant that he was going to be "all right", as Buster lost his left hand to a seal.
  • Recent Scrubs episode where Elliot assumes this about a man who says his wife is "not with us" and is obviously showing interest. Turns out she just wasn't there that day, and Elliot spends the rest of the episode running from the man's angry wife.
    • In another example the Janitor points heavenwards when talking about his father. He quickly adds "He's not dead, he's just upstairs. Dying."
    • Done in a more intentional manner earlier in the series. Dr. Kelso got a large portrait of himself made and hung it in a hall in the hospital, then left on an extended trip. Dr. Cox placed a tiny plaque at the bottom noting Kelso's year of birth to "death", letting everyone think the Chief's absence was more permanent.
  • In Spaced, Daisy tells Tim her dog has gone next door. He reacts sympathetically because it was his parents' euphemism for a pet dying. But she means the dog really has left for the neighbours. Meanwhile, Mike realises this means the rabbit he loved that "went next door" is dead and takes it badly.
  • When Andy's sitcom is being executive meddled on Extras, he complains about a certain gay writer. When he's told not to worry, the writer "won't be with us much longer", he replies "Is it AIDS?" It's not.
  • Corner Gas:
    • Hank asks Emma for some Motherly Advice. Emma tells Hank that he should just ask his own mother, but Hank says she's in a better place. Emma points out that they have phones in Saskatoon.
    • In "Cat River Daze," Oscar and Karen become attached to a cat and are horrified when they find out it might have to go to "a better place." Naturally, this turns out to be the name of a cat farm.
  • Just Shoot Me: Jack, dressed as Santa Claus, tells a boy who wishes his grandmother would come back that she isn't coming back. Turns out grandma moved to Palm Beach.
  • In Whos the Boss, Tony's father-in-law is telling Tony that he (the father-in-law) is going to prison. But he can't bring himself to say the word "prison" and leaves off with, "I'm going to..." So Tony assumes that "die" was the unspeakable word that he was having trouble with. Hilarity Ensues as the father-in-law spends the whole episode enjoying the sympathy that is accorded to a terminally ill person.
  • In Yes Minister, Humphrey says "I'm on my way out.", that there comes a time when "one passes on to pastures new, perhaps greener", and that "one has to accept what fate has in store, when one passes on". The Minister asks when he found out, whether he's told his wife, and how long they gave him ("Oh, just a few weeks... but it will give me enough time to sort everything out"). When the Minister says that Humphrey is taking it well, Humphrey replies that he's "a little anxious, of course", but that although "one is always a little wary of the unknown, but I have faith somehow I will muddle through". It transpires, of course, that he's talking about a promotion that will take him away from the department. The Minister tries to pretend he hadn't been about to cry.
  • An episode of Saved by the Bell had Zack con his friends into thinking Slater would die unless they were so mean to him he'd want to leave for Hawaii to get treated had a conversation like this between Jessie and Belding, where he rather flippantly told her that Slater would not be with them for much longer.
  • Essentially the whole of the last episode of Frasier: Dr Crane's accepted a new job in San Francisco, but all the other characters think he's dying (he's just back from the doctors and is constantly weeping due to a bad botox injection he got there, he's giving away posessions he 'won't need anymore' etc). He thinks they already know and so launches into a long speech about moving on to better places, how they shouldn't be sad, how when he passes through that Golden Gate he'll be smiling...
    • A very similar example happened on an earlier episode with Martin and Daphne.
  • A Barney Miller episode had Det. Fish in the hospital. At one point Wojo tells Barney "They lost him." Barney is grief-stricken, then Wojo clarifies that the hospital staff literally lost him.
  • On an episode of All Aussie Adventures, Russell Coight says this while talking about his first wife. He quickly reveals that she is alive but left him for another man.
  • Family Matters, when young Richie is annoyed at having to wear a suit:

 Richie: I haven't had to dress up since Uncle Louie bought the farm!

Steve: Oh, Richie, I didn't know your Uncle Louie died.

Richie: No, he didn't! He bought a farm!

  • Coporal Jones gets this in one episode of Dad's Army:

 "My mother's gone to another place. Angmering."

  • Series one of The Catherine Tate Show featured the character of an unhelpful information-desk worker in a shopping centre. In one episode she is approached by a customer who has "lost her mother", and the information-desk worker replies that she is sorry to hear this, but it turns out the customer has just got separated from her mother in the store.


Video Games

  • Myst V begins with a letter from Atrus that strongly implies that he has died. Guess who shows up in the good ending?
  • The second Ace Attorney game has Wright talk as though Edgeworth was dead Up until the final case. In reality he was on a soul searching journey overseas. This would all be very effective if Edgeworth wasn't on front of the damn box.
    • It probably wasn't meant to be taken literally - just that he felt incredibly betrayed by Edgeworth's departure (he says as much in the final case) and thus acted like Edgeworth was dead to him.
      • Considering that Edgeworth left a note that said, "Miles Edgeworth chooses death," it's not unlikely that Phoenix actually believed he was dead. Detective Gumshoe, on the other hand, was implied to have known what really happened.


Web Comics

  • In one webcomic, a character tells us that his brother/cousin/whatever embarked on a ship called "Eternity". Literally: he signed as First Mate.
  • Sluggy Freelance: "Something happened to Zoë." (The cast is let in on the joke a while before the reader is.)
    • An earlier example. That one's a sort of Double Subversion -- we find out later the agreement was written by someone with an equally poor understanding of human colloquialisms, and really did mean he was to be set free.
  • Housepets gives us a hat-trick.


Western Animation

 "You're getting married! Oh, if only your father was still here to see this... but he left for work five minutes ago!"

    • Another episode gives us "The one you call Milhouse is gone.... He went to his grandma's place while we're spraying for potato bugs."
    • In the episode "Bart of Darkness" (a parody of Hitchcock's Rear Window), Bart's assumption that Ned killed Maude is reinforced when he overhears Ned telling his sons, "She's with God now." What he meant was that she was away on a religious retreat.
    • When Bart sells Santa's Little Helper and later tries to get him back, he tracks him down to the church. Rev. Lovejoy says that the dog is "no longer among us", but he just means they had given him to a blind man.
      • In the same episode, Groundskeeper Willie tells Bart that he bought Santa's Little Helper... and "I ATE him." But it turns out Willie has difficulty pronouncing "H".
        • "Troy McClure!? You said he was dead!" "No, what I said is that he sleeps with the fishes! You see..." "Uh, Tony, please, no. I just ate a whole plate of dingamagoo."
    • In "Lisa's Date With Density" Nelson beats up Milhouse, who is then carried away on a stretcher. We get this exchange:

 Lisa: Milhouse, I'm so sorry!

Paramedic: He... can't hear you now. We had to pack his ears with gauze.

    • There's the one where Bart & Lisa are caught going through Sideshow Bob's dumpster. Cut to him showing up at their house and telling Marge that her children "are no more... than a couple of ill-bred troublemakers".
    • In another episode, Abe is seriously ill and lying in hospital: "I'm going to a better place - Shelbyville hospital!" *tries to leave his bed*
  • This happens on an episode of King of the Hill. Monsignor Martinez tells Peggy his wife's with "her ancestors", when he really just means visiting her grandparents.
  • A flash forward episode of Pepper Ann has someone noting that the former school secretary was no longer with us. Her pension finally payed out (while complaining about which has been a Running Gag) and she moved to Florida.
  • Used in the Making Fiends episode Parents:

 Charlotte: I wish my parents could be here.

Vendetta: Why? Where are your parents?

Charlotte: (sadly) They're in a better place. (points up) Up there.

Vendetta: (looks up then grins evilly) Were they eaten by bears?

Charlotte: Teehee! No, silly, they're living on a space station!

    • Actually, it's been implied that they died. Though Charlotte may, or may not, know this, so this may invert the trope.
  • There was also an episode of Johnny Bravo where his mom is angry that the clothes selection in the shop they are in is so poor and tells him she'll go to "a better place". That plus his natural stupidity get everyone in the shop to think he's an orphan. Quite funny because he knows she's not dead, what he doesn't get is that the others assume so.
  • Done in an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures. After her hamster dies and her grandmother leaves town on vacation, Elmyra is taken to the school nurse, where she's reduced to tears and sputters out the above. The nurse assumes, and tells everyone, that the grandmother is dead. That's the biggest case in the episode, though; most of the misunderstandings through the rest of the episode have the characters clearly talking about death (just of the wrong character.)
  • Happens at the end of Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire where the other explorers upon returning to the surface from their journey actually tell Whitmore that Milo "went down with the sub" since he chose to stay behind in Atlantis instead to going back with his teammates.
  • Sid carves a voodoo doll out of soap in Hey Arnold to get revenge on Principal Wartz, and when he hears Wartz is in the hospital, he goes to check on him and finds out he's "checked out" (outpatient rhinoplasty). After the name is removed from Wartz's office and parking space (moved to a bigger office on the other side of the school), and a crying relative informs Sid that Wartz is "under the big tree in the backyard" (Wartz was gardening and the relative was chopping onions), Arnold and Sid finally run into the principal.
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "Ed Is Dead," Rocko believes Bev to have killed Ed, based on what he has seen through his Rear Window Investigation, as well as remarks to this effect by Bev herself. Ed comes back from getting a wart taken off his butt, and Bev is offended that Rocko would even think she'd kill Ed.


Real Life

  • When ska band Five Iron Frenzy's trumpet player missed a show (he was attending a wedding), vocalist Reese Roper made a comment to the fans that Brad was "in a better place". This comment spawned rumors on the Internet that Brad really was dead. The band then made fun of the entire incident in their song "The Untimely Death of Brad".
  • There's the one about the woman who asks after an acquaintance's teenage son, who hasn't been seen for some weeks, and is told he's "gone up to Jesus" Jesus College .
  • This happened to old-time Western actress Dorothy Fay. A friend paid a visit to her at her nursing home, but after finding her room empty she was told by a staff member that Dorothy was "gone". The friend immediately telephoned an acquaintance who worked at the Telegraph newspaper in the UK; a full obituary was published in the following day's edition. It turned out that Dorothy had actually "gone" to another floor of the nursing home and was still very much alive. The newspaper's obituary editor had to publish a correction and also had to call her son, John Ritter, to apologize personally for the error. Very much a Funny Aneurysm Moment, as Fay eventually outlived Ritter by two months.
  • This troper is part of a university club that jokingly uses "no longer with us" and "in a better place" as euphemisms for graduation.
  • This troper's theater department had a presentation given by the head of the department, where he mentioned a play "written last year by a former student, who is no longer with us". He was so oblivious to the audience's shocked expressions that one of the professors had to interrupt the speech with "...because she graduated. She's fine" before they would all relax.
  • At least the Russian sector of web-news feeds is very fond of headlines like "The world has lost the famous singer X". Turns out X retired or moved into sports or something.
  • A supervisor once walked into this troper's office once and announced to the room that one of the administrators was "no longer with us". The entire room froze and many of us assumed car accident in the 5 seconds before she went on to explain that the administrator was being laid off.
  • There is (or was; its name changed later) a day care or preschool in New Jersey with the name "A Better Place". Hey, where's your kid?


Inversions

Film

  • This happens during an exchange in Shaun of the Dead when Shaun is tearfully trying to tell his (clueless) mother Barbara that her husband Phillip had died. The group is riding in the car, Phillip and Shaun are in the back seat while Barbara is in the front and Ed is driving. Shaun orders Ed to stop the car, which he does jerking the wheel and slamming the breaks. Ed's behavior triggers the below discussion:

 Ed: Chill ooout, everyone's alright.

Shaun: WILL YOU STOP TELLING ME TO CHILL OUT!.. And for your information; everyone's not alright.

Barbara: Shaun what's wrong?

Shaun: *tearfully* Mum it's Phillip, he's gone.

Barbara: Where's he gone?

Shaun: No mum, he's dead.

  • Barbara looks back at Phillip*

Barbara: No he isn't?

*Phillip groans and begins moving*

Shaun: GET OUT!

Literature

  • The inversion of this trope is Older Than Print: This is how Chaucer's Book of the Duchess ends. Notable because the narrator fails to figure out what's going on even though he has been listening to the knight eulogizing his lady for over eight hundred lines in terms that are, for a medieval dream poem, relatively non-euphemistic.


Live Action TV

  • Tragically inverted in the Kate Modern episode "Janet": "But whereabouts has she 'gone'? I really need to speak to her!"
  • A more humorous inversion occurs in A Bit of Fry and Laurie where Fry goes into a bookshop to meet Charlotte Bronte, only to be informed "she's no longer with us".

 Fry: Oh, indeed? I can hardly say I'm surprised. Where can I get in touch with her?

  • Grey's Anatomy have the character of Denny Duquette, who died a couple seasons earlier, appear to Isabel Stevens and tell her "I'm here for you". It takes her half the season to understand what that means.
  • In an early episode of Red Dwarf Lister talks about the death of his adoptive father when he was a child; his mother told him that Dad had gone to the same place as Lister's goldfish. Young Lister believed his father had been flushed down the toilet and was still alive somewhere beyond the u-bend.


Video Games

  • In Silent Hill 2, Mary tells Laura in her letter not to worry about her, that she has gone to "a quiet, beautiful place". Of course, she really means that she's being sent home from the hospital to die. However, Laura, being eight, thinks Mary means that she's still alive, just in a literal on-Earth quiet, beautiful place.


Web Comics

  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, a flashback sequence shows the young Antimony helping ghosts move on. Seven-years-old Annie doesn't understand the euphemisms used, even when they get quite transparent.

 Moddey-Dhoo: One more thing, pup. The boy don't know he has passed on.

Antimony: Passed on what?


Western Animation

  • Parodied in the Pinky and The Brain episode "The Third Mouse", where minor characters believe Brain to be dead and try to tell Pinky. Pinky, however, doesn't understand even when they flat-out tell him that Brain is dead.
  • Happens at the end of the Strong Bad Email "virus" from Homestar Runner:

 Strong Bad: Hey, Bubs! How did you take care of- (notices that Bubs is wielding a rifle) (voice breaking)Why do you have a shotgun? What did you do? Where's my Compy?!

Bubs: It's in a better place now, Strong Bad. In fact, it's in the same place, but it now has a big hole through it!

Strong Bad:(in a worrisome voice) You murderer! You killed my brother- I mean computer!

Bubs: Look, Strong Bad. I had no choice. My mouth was a broken JPEG.

Strong Bad: You don't understand! You all under- I mean don't understand! (starts running away crying, with the Cheat following him)

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