Quick meaning alive

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 2 07:35:54 UTC 2010

FWIW, I've been doing some googling on the subject for the past week,
but, for some reason, can't settle on the final wording of the post. So,
here's a summary. The bottom line is that until about 1830 exclusively
and until 1890s dominantly this was a purely biblical/liturgical line
from KJV and earlier translations, Apostles' and Nicene Creed and from a
number of liturgies (more complete line would be "to judge the quick and
the dead", which appears in at least three places in the New Testament).
Modern translations ALL have "living" for "quick". The earliest
non-biblical catch was in the 1830 congressional record. The earliest
appearance of the pedestrian joke I traced to 1906--but UK, not US--but
it is also clearly a secondary source. Perhaps a search of British
newspapers circa 1896-1905 will give an earlier hit. Could not find the
original of the military version--although it clearly precedes WWII and,
likely, WWI (and is also likely British in origin). There is an 1890
Punch cartoon on the Barttelot/Jameson affair that may or may not be
utilizing the same pun. The phrase was a VERY popular title of both
novels and chapters in novels (as well as some nonfiction) in the 1880s
through 1910s. All trite stuff, except for the 1906 citation.

Will post the final copy over the weekend.


On 1/2/2010 2:11 AM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
> Tonight, I asked two West Coasters in their mid-40s if they understood the LA joke. Both said they did, but on further questioning, neither understood that "quick" means "alive." Once they knew that, one commented that there was a movie ("Quickening ??" or "Quickened ??") whose title then made sense.
> AFAIK, this meaning is now restricted to "the quick and the dead." Since there is no other usage to inform people of the meaning "alive," this expression can propagate itself only through explicit education (in an educational setting or a book). It therefore seems appropriate to refer to this as being a moribund expression.
> Benjamin Barrett
> Seattle, WA

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

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