Hold Your Tongue (Keep Quiet)

Hold Your Tongue

As a child, when I first heard the phrase ‘Hold your tongue,’ I was baffled. Why would I want to, and more importantly, why would anyone want to ask me to? Of course, as is the way of learning, I learnt the hard way. Try it . . . hold your tongue and speak . . . thought not.

‘Haud yer wheesht,’ (keep quiet) my granny would say if I interrupted adults during their conversation. She was a real dragon, spat verbal flames and kept a bamboo cane that could inflict as much pain as a swipe from a dragon’s mythological tail.

There are many phrases, or idioms related to keeping quiet; most are uncomplimentary. Some of the least offensive are not only the words used, but how the speaker delivers the words: the tone of voice. Try it yourself. Say the words keep quiet in a jocular way and we can even laugh. You could be ribbed about a new boyfriend or girlfriend and this expression wouldn’t cause offence. Others are Bite your lip, or Give it a bye, or perhaps Shut it, but this would definitely be borderline.

Most of the others are generally likely to rile.

Shut your face, shut your trap, keep your trap shut and shut your gob. If someone tells you any of these, they are telling you rudely that you should be quiet and not say anything. They  all make the top league.

Gob, a slang word for mouth. Now there’s a word that makes me smile. To find the reason for my mirth, I’d have to go back to my childhood. It concerns one of my favourite (then) sweets, the daddy of them all when it comes to ‘holding your tongue’: the mighty Gobstopper.

Has any product ever been more aptly named? I doubt it. That oversized sphere made from layer after layer of water, corn syrup, food colouring, and a sugar called dextrose. It has an alternative name, Jawbreaker. Even White Fang would have difficulty crunching one of them. You just had to suck for hours, but the name Gobstopper tickles my fancy.

Now to some of the real embarrassing, or downright shameful terms. If you happen to be on the end of this vitriol you’d better be prepared to walk away or take action.

Shut the fuck up, Stop talking shite, even Put a sock in it could be inflammatory, but the idiom Put up or shut up leaves no room for doubt (used to tell someone in a somewhat rude way to start doing something or to stop talking about it. You’ve complained long enough).

Speaking of which – if in doubt – Hold your tongue!

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