Posted by: Jack Henry | April 15, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Please be quiet

Hello there!

The other day someone mentioned the phrase “can it” to refer to a nicer way to tell someone to “shut up.” They said they thought it reflected on canned goods—close them up, and deal with them later. I don’t know if I got that exactly right, but it was then I decided to look into the term “shut up.”

I don’t think it is a good sign that you can go to almost any country and learn how to say “shut up” in the native language by watching kids and their parents interact at the playground. I think one thing many Americans do—to try not to sound as angry—is to say “shut up” in another language. My parents used the German phrase (but I don’t know how to spell it) since they each knew a bit of German. When I lived in Greece, I learned it when adults would say it to me and my cousin. It has a nice ring and rhyme (in my interpretation): katsay kai skasay. I bet many of us learned the French version early on over here in the states. “Fermez la bouche,” sounds much nicer than “Shut your mouth!”

In many cases, people will try more euphemistic phrases, sigh loudly, and roll their eyes before they actually tell someone to shut up.

I watched a video of two British men rating phrases from nicest to rudest. I don’t have the link, but I have the phrases and the notes I took. They delivered most of these softly and politely, unlike anything I’ve heard here. Here we go!

These are supposed to be soft, more formal, and more polite—used in circumstances where people are supposed to be quiet, like a library, the movies, and church (though if you go to some theaters, people like to talk to the movies, and church sure isn’t quiet everywhere).

  • Please be quiet.
  • Could you keep it down?
  • Would you mind lowering the volume (or your voice) a bit?

Moving to the more aggressive, we have the following:

  • Shush!
  • Stop talking!
  • Could you stop talking, please?
  • I’m trying to have a conversation here.
  • I can’t hear myself think.

And then moving on to the aggressive, they described these as things you don’t say at a pub unless you’re ready to “take it outside”:

  • Pipe down!
  • Give it a rest!

These are the two they described as “funny” and for use with friends:

  • Button it.
  • Put a sock in it.

The last few contain the outright “rude” collection:

  • Shut your face!
  • Shut your trap!
  • Shut your pie hole!

I know there are more, but these are all I have for now.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

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