Quick meaning alive (was: Heard on NFL Blackhawks vs. Redwings)

David Bowie db.list at PMPKN.NET
Thu Dec 31 07:36:03 UTC 2009

From:    Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
> On Dec 29, 2009, at 7:17 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>> At 12/29/2009 12:19 AM, Seán Fitzpatrick wrote:

>>> FWIW, in 1966 at Ft. Bragg, our bayonet instructor informed us
>>> that there are only two kinds of bayonet fighters:  the quick and
>>> the dead.

>> Clear proof that modern usage is not limited to the literary
>> effete.

> The question here is actually how many people get the "alive"
> meaning. The intended meaning is adequately powerful without it.

> I was born in the year that usage occurred, and, had I not been
> primed by this thread, I doubt I would have gotten the "live" meaning
> in, say, a movie. Probably not in casual conversation, either. If an
> OE prof had used it, probably so, though still maybe not if I hadn't
> have my coffee yet.

For what it's worth, i was born later (1970), and it took a few readings
before i could figure out why this was all noteworthy, and that there
might be a pun there--when i hear "the quick and the dead", "quick"
simply *must* mean "alive" to me, and it took an immense effort to see
the possibility of anything else.

I can't imagine getting that meaning for "quick" in any other phrase,
though--but such is the power of idiom.

("Quicken" to mean "make alive", on the other hand, i've been caught
using that one a couple times.)


David Bowie                                  http://www.pmpkn.net/lx/
    Jeanne's Two Laws of Chocolate: If there is no chocolate in the
    house, there is too little; some must be purchased. If there is
    chocolate in the house, there is too much; it must be consumed.

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

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