quiet … too quiet
Posted: 30 January 2008 02:40 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  1
Joined  2008-01-30

Hi, all --

I wonder if anyone can give me a definitive origin of “It’s quiet ... Too quiet”.  I’ve heard it everywhere and so far I’ve only found references pointing back to “prior art”.



David T-G

Posted: 30 January 2008 05:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  3296
Joined  2007-01-31

Searching through online text collections turns up a lot of old uses of “quiet--too quiet” to refer to a person who is ill, possibly dying.  However, using Googlebooks I turned up this, which seems to fit the modern use, from an account of the battle of Balaclava in Soldiering in Sunshine and Storm by William Douglas, 1864 (yes, I verified the date).

“The cavalry standing at their pickets, in front were the four redoubts occupied by the Turks on a range of low hills, crossing the plain from beneath the heights of the plateau to the opposite ridge near the village of Kamara. The Turks are lying lazily smoking around the guns, all so quiet—too quiet—it was only the lull before the storm, which speedily burst.”

I’m not saying this is the origin, there may well be antedates that could be found with a little more work.  But it shows how far back the phrase goes, and allows us to dismiss any suggestions that it originated in movies (though of course it’s a cinematic cliche, and has been for decades).

(Found the same passage published in an 1859 magazine.)

[ Edited: 30 January 2008 05:05 PM by Dr. Techie ]
Posted: 31 January 2008 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  849
Joined  2007-06-20
Dr. Techie - 30 January 2008 05:01 PM

of course it’s a cinematic cliche, and has been for decades.

Well, indeed, and The Economist referred to it only last year:

IT IS a scene familiar to all Western lovers. The cavalry is riding through a mountain pass. One officer turns to a comrade. “I don’t like it,” he says nervously. “It’s too quiet.” The next second, an arrow hits him in the chest.

but what was the first movie, or even the best-known movie to feature this iconic scene? (FWIW, my own recollection is of a movie from the 30s/40s/50s, the US cavalry is riding across a meadow or plain rather than through a pass, the officer speaks the fatal words to his sergeant, and it’s the poor non-com who gets to be Native American target practice, but I don’t guarantee any of that.) I ask because, with respect to William Douglas, the popular use of the cliche is surely going to owe more to the cinematic uses than to a writer from the 19th century.

[ Edited: 31 January 2008 01:19 PM by zythophile ]
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