“Cremains”

This was one of those “Yes, exactly!” moments.ScreenShot164

For those not previously enlightened:

Cremains, pl. n., the ashes of a cremated body (either a portmanteau or shortened form of “cremated” and “remains”)

The “Yes, exactly!” moment came when a friend gave me Lydia Davis’ short piece “Letter to a Funeral Parlor”:

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you to object to the word cremains, which was used by your representative when he met with my mother and me two days after my father’s death.

*   *   *

Then we were sitting there in our chairs in the living room trying not to weep in front of your representative, who was opposite us on the sofa, and we were very tired first from sitting up with my father, and then from worrying about whether he was comfortable as he was dying, and then from worrying about where he might be now that he was dead, and your representative referred to him as “the cremains.”

At first we did not even know what he meant. Then, when we realized, we were frankly upset. Cremains sounds like something invented as a milk substitute in coffee, like Cremora, or Coffee-mate. Or it sounds like some kind of a chipped beef dish.

Lydia Davis, “Letter to a Funeral Parlor,” in The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis (2009).

The full piece is reproduced on the NPR website [link].

One thought on ““Cremains”

  1. Interesting to see you excited (?) about a short work. I say “work” because it’s not clear to me whether it is fiction, fact, or a fictionalized account of an actual event. The collection is listed as fiction. Several of her works have this ambiguity about them. Of course, that may be intentional.

    In any case, while I enjoy the creativity in forming new words, I agree that “cremains” was one best left uninvented. Jonathan

    On Tuesday, January 17, 2017, c o m m o n p l a c e s wrote:

    > albrooke posted: “This was one of those “Yes, exactly!” moments. For those > not previously enlightened: Cremains, pl. n., the ashes of a cremated body > (either a portmanteau or shortened form of “cremated” and “remains”) The > “Yes, exactly!” moment came when a friend gave me” >

    Like

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