Why all this silence?

Why not?

I think: I have, maybe, heard people say things like this, speaking. May these seem proper, and grammatical?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Catija, Nathan Tuggy, Varun Nair, shin, Chenmunka Jun 2 '17 at 7:48

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  • Normally there has to be an explicit or implicit negative assertion of some sort. We can't go. -- Why not? or Why blue? -- Why not blue? In the latter example, the listener can take the question "Why blue?" to be a tacit criticism: "I think it should not be blue". Why not blue? = "What's wrong with blue?" – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 31 '17 at 11:27

(And) why not?

can be used to contradict almost any statement prohibiting something.

No smiling here!
And why not??

Don't walk so fast!
And why not?

It is usually not said in a way genuinely asking for clarification, but more in a sarcastic way.


When a "why" question is asked, if the person responding doesn't want to give a reason, or wants to respond by questioning why they were asked in the first place, they can respond by saying:

Why not?

This then requests the original questioner to justify their question - i.e. to give a reason why not - or gets the original questioner to consider why/whether any justification was required in the first place.

In your example, the original questioner asks "Why all the silence?". The person being asked probably thinks that there is no reason for noise, doesn't think they need to justify their actions, or wants to know why the questioner asked the question in the first place, so says "Why not?". This can be interpreted as either "Why do you think there shouldn't be silence?", or "Why should I have to justify myself?"

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