The Logic of Logos & CatchphraseS: Last Words

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By Pam Teel

The last words of those leaving this world have always fascinated people. When famous people die, their last words often go down in history as pearls of wisdom or funny one liners. Ever thought what you’d want your last words to be? Here’s a selection of some of the most famous last words ever uttered to inspire you.

Bob Marley, musician: Bob Marley’s values and beliefs were such that Jamaica’s most famous son refused the toe-amputation that might well have saved his life follow- ing diagnosis with cancer in 1977 – instead, strict Rastafarian Bob Marley faced up to the inevitable with few complaints or regrets. When his time came, the reggae great summed up his philosophies in a heartfelt bedside message to his musician son Ziggy: “Money can’t buy life.”

Archimedes, mathematician:”Stand away, fellow, from my diagram!”Archimedes was killed during the Second Punic War. According to the historian, Plutarch, a soldier came up to the mathematician and told him to go with him to Marcellus. Archimedes refused to do so until he finished the problem he was working on. Enraged, the soldier killed him.

Karl Marx, philosopher:”Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.” Augustus Caesar, first Roman emperor: “I found Rome of clay; I leave it to you of marble. Have I played the part well? Then applaud me as I exit.” What he reportedly said to his friends who were with him throughout his reign.

Leonardo Da Vinci, inventor and painter:”I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” Joe DiMaggio, baseball player:”I finally get to see Marilyn.” Mozart, famous composer, “The taste of death is upon my lips. I feel something that is not of this earth.”
Humphrey Bogart, actor:” I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.”

Charles Darwin, best known for his contributions to evolutionary theory:”I am not the least afraid to die.” John Adams, second president of the US: “Thomas Jefferson survives.”Adams and Thomas Jefferson started out as rivals, but they became friends later in life. As Adams lay on his deathbed, on July 4, he reportedly noted that his former nemesis was still alive. However, Jefferson had actually died some hours earlier; also on July 4.

Thomas Edison, inventor and businessman: “It is very beautiful out there.”Right before his death, Edison came out of a coma, opened his eyes, and reportedly said the above quote to his wife. He was likely referring to the view outside his window.

Ludwig van Beethoven, composer and pianist: There are a variety of reports regarding Beethoven’s last words. Some say the composer, who was deaf by the end of his life, said; “I will hear in heaven” while others suggest he said:”Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est” (Applaud, friends, the comedy is finished) But still others say that after a publisher brought the composer 12 bottles of wine, his final words were: “Pity, pity, too late!” Beethoven died in the middle of a thunderstorm on March 26, 1827 after a long illness. Within hours of his death, a Beethoven mythology began to develop. Just two days after his death, souvenir hunters were snipping off locks of his famously wild hair. One lock of that hair eventually reached a laboratory in the States, and it revealed Beethoven had lead poisoning.

Marie Antoinette “Pardon me sir. I meant not to do it.” The last words of Marie Antoinette, extravagant wife of Louis XVI of France who, according to rumor, dismissed the starving peasants with a flippant “let them eat cake”. At the height of the French revolution, first Louis, then Marie Antoinette, were charged with treason and sent to the guillotine. After a humiliating ride through the streets of Paris on a cart, she was brought to the guillotine. While on the scaffold, she accidentally stepped on her exe- cutioner’s foot and respectfully apologized to him. Seconds later he chopped off her head.

James Donald French “Hey fellas! How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? French Fries!” The last words of James Donald French, a convicted murderer and the last criminal ever to be executed under the death penalty in Oklahoma. After killing a cellmate, he was sentenced to death by electrocution. In the death chamber, he shouted these words to the members of the press, there to witness his execution.

Nostradamus “Tomorrow I shall no longer be here.” Whatever your views on Nostradamus’ powers as a prophet, his last words show he certainly managed to predict his own death. The sixteenth century seer was found dead the morning after uttering these words to his secretary. His visions, called quatrains, contain specific names, dates, places and events as well as symbolism and metaphor, leaving them open to interpretation and the subject of heated debate. On the day of his death, Nostradamus was working on a quatrain about the end of the world.

Humphrey Bogart “I should have never switched from Scotch to Martinis.”These are the witty last words of Hollywood legend Humphrey Bogart. The founder member of the hard drinking, heavy smoking rat pack, he was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in 1954 but did little about it until it was too late. On his deathbed in January 1957, he bid his wife, Lauren Bacall, and children goodbye and uttered this immortal line before dying just a few seconds after. He was 57.

John Barrymore “Die? I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.” The last words of John Barrymore, the American actor of stage, screen and radio who bridged the silent and sound era. He came from a theatrical dynasty and was the paternal grandfather of actress Drew Bar- rymore. A heavy smoker and drinker, in 1942 Barrymore collapsed while appearing on Rudy Vallee’s radio show and died later the same day. According to Errol Flynn’s memoirs, film director Raoul Walsh “borrowed” Barrymore’s body before burial, and left it propped in a chair for a drunken Flynn to discover when he returned home from The Cock and Bull Bar, but many dispute this.

Winston Churchill “I’m bored with it all.” The last words from the mouth of statesman and great orator, Winston Churchill, before slipping in to a coma. He died 9 days later aged 90. Thought of as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, Churchill’s speeches are often credited with mobilizing the embattled British to “never give up” and to eventually win the Second World War. But aged 90, after a lifetime of tremendous achievement and unstinting service to his country, he finally surrendered.

George Harrison Born February 25, 1943. English Musician, Singer, Songwriter, Actor, Producer, Lead Guitarist Beatles. George Harrison passed away on November 29, 2001. His final words were recorded by his wife, Olivia Harrison, as very simply “love one another.” Despite the treatments and operations, Harrison died at a Hollywood Hills mansion. The cause of death was listed on his Los Angeles County death certificate as “metastatic non-small cell lung cancer.” He was 58 years old.