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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

Wondrous Words Wednesday … 02/11/2011

    ‘Wondrous Words Wednesday’ is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we have encountered in our reading.

It is hosted by Kathy, over at BermudaOnion’s Weblog. You can either stop by and leave a link to your own ‘mystery’ words of the week, or just browse the eclectic mix of words that others have discovered, there is always a great selection.

Don’t forget that Kathy and the rest of us, all love to read your comments  as well!!


I had thought that I was finished with the ‘new to me’ words, from The Children of Men by P.D. James, however I have discovered one final word, which is probably one of the, if not the most, pivotal expressions in the entire book.

I had assumed, incorrectly as it turns out, that this word was a fictional one, made up specifically for the book.

In the context of ‘The Children Of Men’, it is used to describe a ‘ceremony’, whereby a group of elderly people gather together, having apparently ‘voluntarily’ decided that it is the right time to end their lives, then en masse commit suicide.


The word is ‘QUIETUS’

“…. But he had promised Julian that he would see a Quietus and that must mean watching until the boats were out of sight ….”


The definition of the word, is taken from:  Dictionary.com


noun, plural -tus·es.


a finishing stroke; anything that effectually ends or settles: eg. Having given a quietus to the argument, she left.

discharge or release from life.

a period of retirement or inactivity.


Such an innocuous sounding word, but used with such venom and malicious intent in the book.


Written by

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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    • Hi Scribacchina,

      Thanks for stopping by and starting off the discussion this week, it is always good to talk with you.

      I didn’t think to mention that this word had its origins in Latin, but even I didn’t realise what an ancient word it is:-

      “Origin: 1530–40; < Medieval Latin quiētus quit (in quiētus est (he) is quit, a formula of acquittance), Latin: (he) is quiet, at rest" It has pretty much the same meaning as in modern day English ... quit, quiet, at rest ... yet somehow I find it quite a disturbing word, as born out by the use of it in the book.

    • Hi Kathy,

      I think that it was used by P.D. James in this book, with the second definition in mind … discharge or release from life.

      Without giving too much away … There are no young people left in the world, so with an ever increasing elderly population and no-one working to maintain the infrastructure or food supplies in the country, the elderly are ‘encouraged’ to make a decision as to when the time is right to end their own lives. In what macabre way this mass act (called a Quietus), is periodically enacted, I am not going to reveal, as that would be just too much of a ‘spoiler’ …

      Thanks for hosting this great meme.

    • Hi Julie,

      Thanks for visiting today and joining in the conversation, it is good to hear from you.

      I know that there is a film of the same name as the book, as many fellow bloggers have watched it. Personally I have never seen it and as those who have seen the film have never read the book, so I am not sure how closely they both follow the same storyline.

      You say that the film is disturbing and I think that would be a fairly accurate assessment of the book as well. It is almost too much like something that I could envisage happening in a few years, if the strange events that keep happening in the world just lately continue for too much longer!!

    • Hi Lisa,

      As I mentioned, I actually thought that this was a fictional word, devised by the author to describe the act of mass suicide, which takes place periodically throughout the country.

      I was actually quite shocked to discover the different defintions of the word. Maybe the first definition, of it being used to denote the finishing stroke of an action or argument, is quite a good use of the word. The second two definitions however, were where the word fits into the context of the story and they have altogether more macabre and sinister meanings, which I must admit, left me ‘cold’.

      It is a very ‘creepy’ word, for want of a better description.

      Thanks for stopping by today.

    • Hi Annie,

      It is good to speak with you again, thanks for stopping by.

      I have only previously read P.D. James in the context of her crime fiction series, with her character of Adam Dalgliesh and have never thought about reading her stand alone novels, until now.

      This is not a crime story at all, but a very powerful dystopian, almost apocalyptic tale, which found me not wanting it to end, yet very disturbed by what I had read.

      Definitely my kind of book.

  • That’s a very interesting word. I hadn’t heard it before. As a small coincidence, I bought PD James’ new book today- Death Comes to Pemberley. I’m looking forward to it.

    • Hi Louise,

      ‘Death Comes To Pemberley’ is P.D. James’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride And Prejudice’, after she was commissioned to re-write this epic classic, as a murder/mystery.

      Whilst I am sure that James will make a fantastic job of re-working the storyline, I am not at all sure that I agree with the concept of changing the classic books of the English literary scene.


      I shall look forward to your review of this one, with interest.

      Thanks for stopping by and adding to the discussion

    • Hi Mary Ann,

      At first it sounds like a very peaceful and restful word, but having read the different definitions and from the context it is used in the book, I have come to the conclusion that it is quite a sinister word which would be appropriately displayed in a funeral home, or care home.

      I just wonder who made that word up and then attached such terrible meaning to it?

  • I found “quietus” very interesting. Since one of the meanings is a time of retirement, I wonder if I should re-name my blog Joyfully Quietus? Nah, I think most people think I was joyfully not talking. Thanks, Yvonne, for letting me have fun with your new word.

    • Hi Margot,

      Thanks for having some fun with this word, I definitely can’t imagine you being Joyfully Quietus LOL! I like the way it equates retirement with inactivity!!!

      I thought that the second meaning .. Discharge or release from life .. was pretty thoughtless and not very tactful somehow.

      Mind you, in the context of the book, it has a much more sinister take on the word!

  • Very interesting word.. I am going to try reading the book too (books like these are ones where I find them too disturbing to continue reading but still feel the need to reach the end).
    love your blog… and have the exact sentiment you do about reading – ‘I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.’

    • Hi,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, I really appreciate it and I always enjoy talking with new people.

      I cannot imagine ever finishing a book and not having another one ready to read. Our house is full of books, fiction for myself and non-fiction for my husband, and just about every genre in between.

      I stopped by your site and read your Tuesday post about books which evoke a strong emotion when you read them, whether that be happiness, joy, sadness or frustration.

      This book did just that for me. I really do think that it is a book written before its time and what at first glance seems like a purely fictional plot, could so easily become something akin to the reality of our situation, in an ever expanding and demanding world.

      The book is full of fantastic words that had me rushing for my dictionary, in order that I could fully appreciate the great quality of the writing.

Written by Yvonne