Stay Safe

At the end Jim says, “be safe.”

A viable alternative to the oft-heard salutation “stay safe.”

This expression, as have many others I’ve heard, arose – apparently – in my lifetime.

Here is a Google n-gram graph for the expression:

n-gram for "stay safe"

According to this graph, this expression doesn’t get off the ground until around 1990.

Others I have heard include: “quick,” as in, “quick question;” “no problem;” “dude” and of course all the other Valley phrases like “gag me with a spoon,” “whatever” and others.

These are in a sense “memes” or imitated behaviors. Though this didn’t start in the 1900s, it has greatly increased since the rise of the internet, and then social media following that.

Culture changes

Some of these are just silly slang words mostly (see Valleyspeak). But others seem to have acquired some cultural significance, and have been legitimized by “leaders” at least as old as I am, simply on the grounds that they express some popular sentiment, or possibly for the purpose of making that sentiment more popular.

For example, references to doing things “quick” or faster often seem to refer to a perception that we have to move faster these days in order to keep up. The environment is sometimes characterized as a “fast-paced world.” Which, per the n-gram viewer, did not exist as an expression in English until 1966!

Here we see the abstract of a study about “Pace of Life.”

This study compared the pace of life in large cities from 31 countries around the world. Three indicators of pace of life were observed: average walking speed in downtown locations, the speed with which postal clerks completed a simple request (work speed), and the accuracy of public clocks. Overall, pace of life was fastest in Japan and the countries of Western Europe and was slowest in economically undeveloped countries. The pace was significantly faster in colder climates, economically productive countries, and in individualistic cultures. Faster places also tended to have higher rates of death from coronary heart disease, higher smoking rates, and greater subjective well-being. Discussion focuses on how the pace of life is intertwined with the social-psychological and community characteristics of a culture, and the central role of pace of life in defining the personality of a place and its people.

Levine, R. V., & Norenzayan, A. (1999). The Pace of Life in 31 Countries. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 30(2), 178–205. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022199030002003

It is ironic that people perceive themselves to have greater well-being while at the same time dying more from heart disease and related problems. But perhaps this perception, though apparently illogical, really indicates how people feel.

And so with the expression “stay safe.”

The whole subject of “terrorism” doesn’t really get started in literature, per the n-gram viewer, until the 1980s. In 1940 there was one violent incident at a school that resulted in 5 deaths. The perpetrator was on bromide, a pain killer. It was not until 1966 that another act of mass terrorism would occur at a US school. That perpetrator was later found to have a brain tumor, and was taking drugs to deal with headaches. The Columbine School incident did not happen until 1999, and Dr. Peter Breggin has cited psychiatric drugs as a key factor in that incident and in many that followed.

I had head about The Troubles in Northern Ireland, which included some of the earliest terrorist attacks I was aware of. These started around 1966. The Oklahoma City bombing happened in 1995. And of course we have the whole “war on terror” ramp-up starting at the end of 2001.

Meanwhile, we were seeing an increase of drug use – and drug pushing – in our country as well as in Europe and other places. This was accompanied by increased gang violence and some riots.

It is in this context that the idea of “stay safe” must have gathered enough real meaning to enough people to make it into the common phrase it is today.

Is “staying safe” really that great of an idea?

Ben Franklin’s take on a similar subject is often quoted:

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Ben Franklin in a letter to a Governor protesting the use of a tax increase to protect the state from Indian attacks.

If we were really that concerned about our safety would we:

Drive cars?

2.2 million injuries and fatalities per year from driving cars.

Do things that give us heart disease, cancer, diabetes or obesity?

The “average” American consumes over 100 pounds of sugar per year. That’s up from 5 pounds per year in the early 1800s. High fructose corn syrup wasn’t invented until 1965.

“Staying safe” seems to be rather at odds with enjoying life! Imagine that!

I wonder who would want us to enjoy life less by pretending that we are doing more things to keep us “safe.”

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2 Responses to “Stay Safe”

  1. COVID-19 Mascot and other Animals | The Life Force Blog Says:

    […] that needs to get out of its shell and walk around a bit. Hiding was not enabling it to “stay safe” in that particular […]

  2. Thoughts on senior dating | The Life Force Blog Says:

    […] population seems nearly evenly split. A huge number seem fine with corporate slavery and the “safety” that results, and the rest despise it to varying […]

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