English around the world: He has passed in his marble

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By Carol Richards

“He has passed in his marble.”

Australia

The Australian phrase “to pass in one’s marble” means “to die” and plays on two uses of the term “to pass”. One meaning of “to pass” is to hand something over to someone. In this context, the person has given his marble away. “To pass” can also mean that someone has died: “She passed last week”. Saying “he passed in his marble” might sound gentler to some than “he died”.

“Marble” is a modernization because the phrase was originally “to pass in one’s alley”. An alley was a type of marble that was made of alabaster. Today, “alley” is sometimes used to denote any marble of high quality.