Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A New Conversation-Ender Reflects the Times

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A New Conversation-Ender Reflects the Times

Article excerpt

Long before bombs started falling on Iraq two weeks ago, and even well before the attacks on Sept. 11, a subtle shift began taking place in everyday language, suggesting a mood of caution.

Instead of ending conversations with the usual "Bye" or "See you soon" or even "Have a good day" - the verbal equivalent of a smiley face - some people began signing off by saying "Take care." Gradually, others upgraded that farewell to a more serious "Be safe." Now even TV anchors use the two phrases as they end interviews with reporters in Iraq.

There is something rather touching about these solicitous wishes floating through the air, however perfunctory they might sound. In some circles, they represent little more than the latest fad-speak. In others, they reflect the somber mood of the times. "Take care" can be interpreted as either "Take care of yourself" or as a veiled way of saying "Be careful."

Cautionary sentiments are hardly new, of course. Whenever members of my father's family traveled even short distances, his German grandmother would say affectionately, "Come home safe."

Such solicitude has its charms. But however well-intentioned, it can also have its limits and produce its petty annoyances.

A friend who has traveled alone many times to remote corners of Nepal, Bhutan, and India booked a trip in January to Burma (also known as Myanmar). But vague fears of terrorism, combined with looming war clouds in the US, prompted a few friends to express concern. She weighed the trip carefully and decided the pros outweighed the cons. She knows how to temper a spirit of adventure with common sense.

Before she left, I dashed off an e-mail, wishing her bon voyage. She replied in a slightly exasperated tone: "Always before I leave on one of these journeys, there are those who tell me to be safe, safe, safe. Only a few - you, my mother, other wanderlusters - are supportive of the spirit of curiosity and adventure. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.