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Famous Last Words

The turbulent nature of the current economic climate has led to many incorrect predictions as to the next turn in this seemingly never-ending saga.

With the high risk of making a guess as to what will happen next, the doom-mongerers or optimists keep bringing the phrase ‘famous last words’ to mind.

If predicting the next twist of the current business-world saga is the current equivalent of placing your head on the metaphorical guillotine, it might be worth examining what has been said in that more literal moment.

Anyone that’s ever suffered from insomnia might find this one particularly ironic. J.M. Barrie, the Scottish Author who most famously brought us Peter Pan, apparently said “I can’t sleep” just before he died.

Romantic Poet Lord Byron is said to have claimed he was going to sleep, and wished everybody present a ‘goodnight’. Continuing the literary theme, there are various versions of Oscar Wilde’s last words, some saying ‘these curtains are killing me, one of us has to go’, or also ‘either the wallpaper goes, or I do’. There is some dispute as to the credibility of these, but either way that particular Parisian hotel room probably reconsidered their décor shortly after Wilde’s deceasing.

American Playwright Eugene O’Neill was born in a Times Square hotel room, and upon finding himself in one at the point of his death, is claimed to have exclaimed ‘Born in a hotel room, and Goddammit, died in one!’

Some people take their jobs right to the end of their lives, in a rather literal sense. American Spy Nathan Hale was hanged in 1776, his last words reputed to have been ‘I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country’. American Mobster Frank ‘Tight Lips’ Gusenberg, who was murdered in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of Chicago in 1929, when asked by a policeman who had shot him, answered ‘nobody shot me’, before dying of a gunshot wound.

When convicted of treason, former French Queen Marie Antoinette was sentenced to death. In her last moments, she accidentally stood on her executioner’s foot, and her last words were ‘Monsieur, I beg your pardon’.

And finally, some of the more comical famous last words have come from those killed on death row, despite their often rather unfunny lives. One in particular stands out. When sitting in the electric chair, murderer James French turned to the local press and said   “Hey, fellas! How about this for a headline for tomorrow’s paper? ‘French Fries’!”.

Feel free to add your own tale of famous last words…

By Sean Dudley

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2 thoughts on “Famous Last Words”

  1. Shakeem

    I clicked on “IR35 hypocrisy” in the latest ‘Contractor Weekly’ email bulletin. That click brought me to this article on last words that has absolutely nothing to do with IR35, hypocrisy, or (as far as I can see) contracting/freelancing.
    I imagine that it’s simply an error.

  2. steven

    Thanks for pointing this out Shakeem. We’ll look into it straight away. Sorry for any inconvenience.

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