Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Have you heard phrases used about death?

Have you heard phrases that sound like they are about death but seem confusing?

Have you ever heard somebody use the phrase “rolling over in their grave”?

This can be a confusing phrase, and we’re going to help you to understand it.

We’re going to help you to understand when it’s okay to use it, what it means, and when you should avoid using it.

Here’s a letter about this phrase that may help to break it down.

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Hi my name is Moein, and I love your podcast!

I have been listening to your podcast for six months and it really changed my perspective about American culture–and all of this has been awesome. I would like to ask you a question about an expression that I heard recently on the show “How I Met Your Mother”. Robin said “Roger Daltrey just rolled over in his grave!” What exactly did she mean by that?

Thanks for reading my question during your show . By the way warmest congratulations on the birth of your sweet baby, Michelle .

A Common and Sometimes Confusing Phrase

This tends to be a pretty popular phrase, though it can be somewhat confusing at times.

If you understand its context and the proper setting to use it, then you’ll be fine to insert it into conversations.

So what does it mean?

This is a phrase used to talk about something that would be so upsetting to a person even when they are dead.

That the subject or issue at hand would be so aggravating or upsetting to them, that they would roll over in their grave.

You’re saying that even though this person is dead and unable to move, they would roll over in their grave because they are so irritated even in death.

This is obviously outlandish and not realistic, but it’s used to prove a point about something bad or upsetting that is happening.

It tends to be utilized in a rather extreme situation since it is such an extreme sort of phrase to use in conversation.

How Can You Use It Properly?

So in the example, whatever was happening on the show would have made Roger Daltry so upset that he would move even after he was dead.

This is obviously not a literal phrase, but rather one to demonstrate that the things happening would have really upset the person that has passed away.

This is used often when you know the person who died well, and therefore knew the things that would upset them.

This can also be used for a public figure or celebrity when something is being utilized or done that would go against what they stood for.

It can help to see a couple of examples to understand how exactly this phrase is used in conversation.

When it’s about somebody that you knew well or who was a part of your life then one example might be.

“Wow, you decided to bake Grandma’s cookies with M&Ms instead of chocolate chips? They are delicious but you do know she’d be rolling over in her grave if she knew. She loved those chocolate chips!

When it’s about a celebrity or public figure, an example might be.

“If Michael Jackson heard this guy’s karaoke version of “beat it” he would roll over in his grave!”

Mastering This Phrase In Conversation

The way that you use it is key, and so you want to be sure that you are saying it just right.

This phrase can be used like this : “If _______________, he/she would roll over in his/her grave.”

That’s a really good structure and a common way to use the phrase.

In the example from the letter, “just rolled over…” is another good way to use the phrase.

Either of these two sentence structures are good and can work to get this phrase into a conversation.

When Is It Appropriate To Use It?

The question becomes, do you think it’s polite to use this phrase?

When could you use it and have it be okay and appropriate?

You wouldn’t want to offend anyone so you really have to read and feel good about the situation.

It is supposed to be a semi humorous and sarcastic phrase, and so you want to be sure that it’s used that way in the proper context.

There are times when you would not want to use this phrase, and it’s important to remember this.

  • In a formal situation like a job interview or a big meeting
  • About someone who died very recently who people are currently grieving
  • If you aren’t sure if the person that you are talking to recently lost somebody
  • If you are unsure if this comment will be offensive or misunderstood

We have to be sensitive when referring to someone who has died.

Using the phrase about celebrities is probably safe because it isn’t personal and less likely to upset someone.

Just be aware of who you are talking to, the context and the situation to ensure that the phrase is taken well in conversation.


As with other somewhat unusual phrases, think about when it’s okay to use this phrase.

It has some spunk to it and so you want to be sure that you use it the right way.

Be sensitive and use it only in situations that are more informal.

If you are aware of the proper setting and way of using a phrase like this, it can be great in conversations.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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