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What does this poem mean?

It's not the cough that'll carry you off
It's the coffin they'll carry you off in

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closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, J.R., TrevorD, tchrist, GEdgar Aug 1 '13 at 17:12

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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about interpretation of literature –  TrevorD Aug 1 '13 at 16:59
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"To be carried off" is an older euphemism for "to die"—presumably originating in the longer phrase "to be carried off to heaven." The joke is in the double meaning of "carry you off" (since a fatal cough may send your soul on its way to heaven, and yet, objectively, a cough doesn't do any heavy lifting) and in the cleverness of pairing "cough"/"off" with "coffin"/"off in." –  Sven Yargs Aug 1 '13 at 21:14

2 Answers 2

It means it doesn't matter how you die (the cough), only that when you do, make sure you go out in style (with a nice funeral).

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It is just a pun,a play on words. Cough and off rhyme as do coffin and off in providing humorous effect.

As for the meaning, it means that it is not the cough that will kill you, it is the coffin in which you will be carried off. In other words, it is not so much how you die that is important but the style in which you do so.

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