Heard on NFL Blackhawks vs. Redwings

James A. Landau <JJJRLandau@netscape.com> JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Mon Dec 28 13:42:26 UTC 2009

>Re the quick and the dead ...
>>> Is that meaning still used? I don't think I've ever seen it outside
>>> of references. BB
>> Perhaps not.  It turns up in cryptic crosswords.  I suppose it only is
>> spoken by people being consciously archaic.
>> AM
>I think this would have been the case even when A. E. Housman used it in
>the second stanza of Poem LXI: "The vane on Hughley steeple," in _A
>Shropshire Lad_ in 1896:
>        To south the headstones cluster,
>              The sunny mounds lie thick;
>        The dead are more in muster
>              At Hughley than the quick.
>I can't see it as having become any less archaic and consciously
>literary in the more than a century since Houseman used it.

Not necessarily literary.  There's an old joke "In Los Angeles there are only two kinds of pedestrians: the quick and the dead."

This joke was so well-known that in Basic Training (1969) a training sergeant told us "there are only two kinds of infantrymen: the quick and the dead."

    - Jim Landau

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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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