[Disclaimer: I hope people don't find this post irreverent or anything. I hold President Reagan in the highest regard. He was easily among my six favorite presidents, and he defined the presidency for me in my formative years (ages 5-13). If you don't know me well, just be aware that I'm happy to discuss something I care about an awful lot with cold detachment and dispassion, and I'm doing that here. This is about the issues and not the man, and I don't seek to dishonor his memory in my wondering about language use regarding corpses and what they become. We all die, and we all talk about what's left over afterward. This is just the occasion of my wondering about that.]
I heard someone on the radio this morning talking about carting Reagan's remains around various places. That sounded strange to my ears. I'm used to hearing people talk about where someone's remains are buried, but that brings to my mind the idea of someone who has been dead long enough for the body to have decayed significantly. Thus the remains really are only what remains of what was originally buried. To use 'remains' of a corpse of someone who died a few days ago doesn't seem to me to be correct usage. You would call this his body. Only after it's decayed a bit should that become inappropriate, with the need to call what's left his remains. Or am I missing something? Is this a regional dialect difference?