To hear crickets, or simply the word crickets, is an American idiom. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as beat around the bush, cut the mustard, let the cat out of the bag, hit the sack, ankle biter, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom to hear crickets or simply the word crickets, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.
To hear crickets or crickets means silence. The idea is that the only thing one can hear is the chirping of crickets. Crickets are insects that may be found in many parts of the world. There are many species of crickets, including field crickets, tree crickets, scaly crickets, mole crickets, house crickets, and hundreds more. Only male crickets chirp by rubbing their forewings together, which is called stridulation. The idiom to hear crickets or crickets became popular in the twentieth century. This most probably stems from the use of crickets to designate the quiet of an evening depicted in radio plays or in films. The sound of crickets came into use in cartoons to mean silence, usually when an awkward moment was being exploited for humorous reasons. Today, when someone says “crickets” or “all I heard was crickets”, he means that an awkward silence occurred. This may mean the listener did not agree with the speaker or approve of what the speaker was saying. It is often used to describe an instance where a joke falls flat and no one in the audience laughs.
So far, she’s heard “crickets” in the Legislature about fixing the problem, she said, “about a gas tax or any alternative that someone’s got.” (The Detroit News)
[Mark grins, maybe one person in the audience laughs] I know that we don’t exactly have the … the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly. [crickets; Zuck is clearly holding in giggles] (New York Magazine)
In the middle of the film, Katherine finds herself on the stage of Theatre 80 St. Marks off-Broadway, doing her first standup set in years in front of a young audience that’s more accustomed to alternative comedy and extreme openness than Johnny Carson’s joke book. Crickets. (The New York Post)
I posted the photo on social media and…crickets. (The Kansas City Star)