"The silent majority" is a phrase only uttered these days by politically inclined individuals. It means "a large group of people in a country who do not express their opinions publicly but can sway elections" and was most recently utilized in the Trump campaign on signs that said "the silent majority stands with Trump". The background behind this seems absurdly simple; silent and majority, two transparent words, combining to talk about a transparent political group of people. Well, to quote Trump, "wrong!" The silent majority used to be a euphemism for "dead people". This can be traced as far back as Petronius, who said abiit ad plures to describe deceased people, translating as "he's gone to the many" or "majority", since even then it was common knowledge that the dead outnumbered the living. Additionally, sometimes the dead would be described as "the silent" in Roman times. Whether or not these was translated by scholars is unanswered, but they later showed up in Victorian times as the phrase "silent majority", which slowly fell out of favor during the early nineteen hundreds to a more ubiquitous definition, where any large group that was not spoken of could be labled thus. Eventually, the Nixon Administration picked up the phrase in 1969 to describe those secretly in favor of the Vietnam bombing, as opposed to the "noisy minority", and it remains a politically charged statement to today.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.