(Dear Readers, This is another of a series I was quite fond of writing, though I don’t know how fond you all were of reading it but lets not quibble over trifles. However, I see from the records that the last such post came out May 16, 2011, and so it is high time for another one.)
Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen, said Ludwig Wittgenstein in Proposition #7, which ends his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. For all you dear unilinguists out there, it means: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”
Unfortunately, there are many people in this day and age who (lets be charitable) refuse or in some extreme cases, have the acumen and the ability, to recognise this fact or to take the necessary hint, and it is necessary to alert them to the requirement.
This can be achieved by a succinct word or two, sometimes in the brutal imperative.
(Left to me as a gentleman of discernment and refinement, I would prefer to accomplish this purpose by raising my (preferably) right hand, bent at the elbow and the open palm facing out, to roughly a point midway between the mouth and the eyes (maybe even higher if its a big group or comprising
w) and gently patting downwards…. but then I am a minority)
Let us see how some languages – ok my favourite languages, cope with the situation.
In English, there is the admirable “Quiet” or “Silence”, which work well in a languid tone of disdain, or as an quickly enunciated urgent exhortation. There is also the rather abrupt “Shut Up”, which is most effective when delivered as peremptory order or in a tone indicating murderous mayhem might follow if not complied with…
In the most admirable Farsi, you will say – سکوت! (okay, Sookot, or Silence), or for the more emphatic phrase –خفه ش. (Khafeh sho!)
In Russian, you will say Тихо! (Quiet!), Молчать! (Silence!) or if the need is for a more powerful word, then use заткнись.
The word for silence in Spanish and Italian will be most familiar to English-speakers. However the intonation of these languages lend it a powerful effect as you can see from its usage by Giovanni Capello (as portr.ayed by George Camiller) and Juan Cervantes (as portrayed by Ricardo Montez) in the popular British TV comedy “Mind Your Language”.
In the first, you can seek silence with ¡Silencio!, or ask people to pipe up with ¡cállate! (You can see an example of the first word’s usage = at about 08.05 here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=ZEm7WSReUrk) In the second, use Silenzio! or Stai zitto!
Coming closer home, Hindustani or Urdu offer Chup! or Khamosh! but it is my considered belief that the most expressive and evocative phrase can be found in our Avadhi, when you need to eschew sophistication and come to some earthy language, where sentiments can be expressed unrestrainedly, though not descending to crudity. “Ama, chuppe raho!” works wonders if delivered with the right amount of annoyed exasperation and a certain sense of resignation….