‎Close Quarters

Meanings of “Close Quarters”‎

The phrase “close quarters” means close contacts, or coming close to a person or a thing, especially feeling uncomfortable. However, it is mostly used in military jargon or terminology.

Origin of “Close Quarters”‎

The phrase “close quarters” is stated to have originated in the middle of the 18th century. Then it was used in the sense of living close to each other. Its first printed use has appeared in William Falconer’s book, An Universal Dictionary of Marine, published in 1769. He has defined it thus; Close-quarters, certain strong barriers of wood stretching across a merchant-ship in several places.” He has further explained it that they are the places to retreat in case the enemy boards the ships. With the passage of time, it has been used in different senses.

Examples in Literature

Example #1‎

Landfall by Jimmy Buffett

Now what do they do if I just sailed away
Who the hell really compelled me to leave today
Runnin’ low on stories is what made it a ball
What would they do if made no landfall

I lived half my life in eight by five room
Just crusin’ to the sound of the big diesel boom
It’s not close quarters that would make me snap
It’s just dealing with the daily unadulterated crap

The singer has used the phrase in the second last line of the second stanza. The first stanza states that he has sailed but the landfall has made him see different parts of this ship. The second stanza then states where he has passed his time yet it points out that it is not “close quarters.” The phrase has been used in the sense of very close space or less space as he is clear that he was perhaps tired of the same company and rude people.

Example #2‎

Only One Will Die by Cannibal Corpse

A violent conflict
Between two foes
At close quarters
Pound and slash, the blood will flow

Barbaric melee
A hateful duel
Shared abhorrence gives the conflict

Add to the fire
Resentment built
For years

The first stanza states that when a close-quarter conflict erupts, there is always violence and bloodshed. The second and the third stanzas show the mayhem or melee of this close quarter battle. Here, the lines suggest if that people live in closed quarters they will eventually turn against each other and build resentment, leading to hatred. Hence, it is always good to maintain distance to continue peace.

Example #3‎

Close Quarters by Angus McAllister

Written by Angus McAllister, this comedy presents the self-proclaimed dictator, Walter Brain, who is very fastidious about his family values to be imposed in the home first. However, it happens that he is killed with no suspect in sight. There are many of his estranged neighbors such as Tony Miller or Qayle and Machinnon, yet it does not seem that they are his murderers. The tenement life of the city of Glasgow shows where people live in close quarters, it is not a far-fetched idea that such accidents happen. Therefore, the phrase has been used in its connotative use for proximity and short space.

Example #4‎

Life, Battles and Career of Battling Nelson By Battling Nelson

The men shook hands. After feinting with the left Gans sent three smashes to the face and swung to the ear. As Nelson rushed in Gans met him with a right uppercut. Gans backed away slowly and evaded Nelson’s onslaught. They went to close quarters and were ordered to break by the referee. Before breaking, however, Nelson planted a short right the wind.

This excerpt occurs in the autobiography of Battling Nelson where he states how he comes across Gans and had a fight with him. The paragraph just states a scene of the fight and uses the phrase “close quarters” in the sense of closeness or proximity, though, it does not have military connotations. Therefore, it is clear that it has been used in its literal sense but in a connotative way, showing the proximity only.

Example in Sentences

Example #1‎: The Iranian boats have close quarters with the US SS Cole. However, there was no news of any such close quarters meeting in the media.”

Example #2‎: Germaine and Lisa were tired of each other after living close quarters for more than a year. They decided to take separate vacations after that.

Example #3‎: Due to the panic, most people are living in closed quarters. They have to wake up to less privacy they had before the lockdown.”

Example #4‎: With more than two hundred boats and several huge ships, the naval force set in close quarters to the opponents and started firing.

Example #5‎: “Ian has tried my best to come out from the mentality of close quarters to remain positive, but he failed, as they were sailing far away into the vastness of the sea.”