What kind of person is "quietly aggressive"?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Ryu, Jul 27, 2005.

  1. Ryu Senior Member

    Japan and Japanese

    One of my students asked me about an adjective to describe a person with a certain kind of stubbornness, "quietly aggressive."

    My impression is, a quiety aggressive person is a peson, when someone gives him or her advice, who does not listen to the advice, does not talk back or explain his or her own idea, and sticks to his or her own policy.

    (1) Is this definition proper?
    (2) Is this expression often used?
    (3) Are there many such people in America or is it particularly fit to describe the characteristics of the people of some country (for example, some Japanese who don't talk much)?

    Thank you!

    PS: In fact, the student of mine heard this expression used for his mother when she underwent a rehabilitation in America after a leg injury. She wouldn't listen to the advice, without explaining why (she can't speak English, but she could in Japanese through his English-speaking son), and then one of the rehabilitation advisors used this expression to describe her stubbornness.
  2. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    "Quietly aggressive" isn't an expression (of which I'm aware), but rather simply a description. Another description that may describe that kind of a person is passively aggressive, or passive-aggressive. However, a passively aggressive person is one who appears very passive yet in reality uses that appearance to be aggressive.

    E.g. A person really wants others to stay at home and do what he wants to do instead of going out might say, "Oh, don't worry about me. I'll be fine right here all by myself. If I need something, I'll just wait until you return home. And I'm sure there won't be a fire that would trap me inside or anything like that. Oh no, you all go out and enjoy yourselves. I'll be just fine!"
  3. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    From the US National Institute of Health, on "Passive Aggressive personality disorder"

    ...A person with this disorder may appear to comply with another's wishes -- may even demonstrate enthusiasm for them -- but the requested action is either performed too late to be helpful, performed in a way that is useless, or otherwise sabotaged to express anger the person cannot relate verbally.
  4. Edwin

    Edwin Senior Member

    Tampa, Florida, USA
    USA / Native Language: English
    In the case of the student's mother I think it is possible that she was said to be passive-agressive. Perhaps the student misheard what was said.

    Althought perhaps not as common as passive-agressive (basically a psychological term) the phrase ''quietly agressive'' is certainly understandable and is used---for some examples see the link http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&as_qdr=all&q="quietly+aggressive"&btnG=Search

    Two examples from the Internet:

  5. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    I agree with all, and just wanted to add that "passive-aggressive" is a little trendy, like the "anal-retentive" of yesteryear-- but I think it will survive as a useful term.

    I also agree that "quietly aggressive" was fine usage, and if the implication was that it should be left as is, I emphatically agree. A set phrase would cost the writer something in impact.
  6. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I was about to answer "Me" to the question, but then I read this stuff and decided that I am not such a clinical disaster - I don't think.
    I heard the phrase as something like assertive, persistent, controlled - and probably justified - anger? Sort of iron fist in a velvet glove thing?
  7. foxfirebrand

    foxfirebrand Senior Member

    The Northern Rockies
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Well yeah, "passive-aggressive" tends to be devious at best and run the gamut to downright psychotic. On the other hand, if you're a disadvantaged person in a rigged game, "passive-aggressive disorder" might serve you well-- it did Gandhi. That's the default consensus so far, I hear.

    That's why I like "quietly aggressive." It can mean stealthy and Macchiavellian, but quietly can be more a matter of style than stealth-- a man whose assertiveness is straightforward, but applied with uncommon civility.

    Inkhorn word for the post-digital future-- clockwise.
  8. modgirl Senior Member

    USA English, French, Russian
    (Kelly and Edwin -- just to note: aggressive is spelled with two Gs)
  9. Edwin

    Edwin Senior Member

    Tampa, Florida, USA
    USA / Native Language: English
    Inkhorn is an inkhorn word. :)
  10. Ryu Senior Member

    Japan and Japanese
    Many many thanks.

    Judging from your valuable input and how this description is used in Google search results, I got the feeling that this description is often applied to people in businesses or professions that need to "scheme" or "calculate" without being apparently aggressive.

    I also understand that our friends are not generally described as "quietly aggressive" because people don't behave that way when they are with friends. Right? Generally speaking, if somebody is described as quietly aggressive (providing they are not politicians or in any other profession that requires scheming as mentioned above), you wouldn't want them as your friends. Or wouldn't that character bother you if the relationship is friendship?

    I'm asking this question because I want to figure out what kind of person is quietly aggressive by trying to find somebody like that in my daily environment, that is, work environment, friends, acquaintances, or neighbors.

    Thanking you for your input!

    Ryu from a seismic country

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