Kick the bucket

Article published on July 23, 2008
Article published on July 23, 2008
'Stow your feet' in Spanish, 'throw away the spoon' in German or 'break the pipe' in French - European expressions on 'dying'

Those who seem to be at the end of their rope  need to take off and put their feet up, or they risk ending up dead. In Spanish putting your feet up means the opposite: someone who estirar la pata  literally stows their feet, which would be much less fun and much more final.

Whilst some struggle to ‘come to the end of your meal’ in Italian (essere alla frutta ), others become one who throw away the spoon (den Löffel abgeben ) in German. The French are reduced to to breaking the pipe (casser la pipe ) whilst the English speakers kick the bucket. This fateful expression comes from the battlefields of the Napoleonic wars, where amputations were often done in an assembly line and often without anaesthetic. Due to a lack of chloroform, the surgeon would wedge a pipe between the teeth of the unfortunate patient (in order to help him bear his pain). If, by some bad luck, this rough intervention proved to be in vain, the defeated patient let the pipe fall to the ground and break in relaxing the grip of his teeth upon dying.