Drive Safe!

Yesterday I heard someone say to “drive safe.”

I hear this a lot, and every time, I add a silent “ly” to the end of “safe.” Drive safely. How do you drive? In what manner? Safely. Not safe. Adverb, not adjective.

But yesterday, I paused.

Suddenly, I remembered Dylan Thomas’s ultra-famous: “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Note that Thomas doesn’t say not to go gently. He says gentle.

“Gently” would mean that the person GOES in a gentle way. It’s the GOING that’s being referred to. How does he go? Gently.

“Gentle” means that the person IS gentle when he goes. It’s HIM that’s being referred to. How was he when he went? Gentle.

Subtle distinction? Maybe, but that’s why poets make the big bucks. Thomas knew what he was doing. His poem was asking his dad not to be gentle when he went.

Maybe “drive safe” is similar.

“Drive safely” would mean that the person DRIVES in a safe way. Isn’t reckless, for example. Avoids trees.

“Drive safe” means that while driving, the PERSON is safe. May drive like a maniac, but makes it home in one piece anyway.

“Drive safe” a blessing and wish for safety, rather than a command to drive in a particular way. It’s saying, “be safe, dear friend, whilst traveling along the byways of this world we call home.”

Still sounds stupid to me, though.

3 Responses to “Drive Safe!”

  1. BruceS
    December 10, 2008 at 9:50 am #

    LQTM. I picture someone swerving madly through traffic, causing accidents in his wake. I knew someone who drove home very drunk (possibly also drunkenly, but we don’t really know except for the last part, which I’m about to get to, because he was too drunk to recall and no sober witnesses came forward). The next morning, he found his car parked halfway up the steps from his garage to his home. He drove safe.
    “How ya doin’?”
    “I’m doin’ good.”
    “like Mother Theresa?”

  2. weeklyrob
    December 11, 2008 at 1:57 pm #

    I keep trying to picture someone going gently, but not gentle. Like, maybe they’re acquiescently walking toward The Light, but tearing up bits of paper, or occasionally kicking puppies, along the way.

  3. IronGumby
    March 10, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    I just had this same revelation today! I told my coworker to have a safe drive home, but I, being an adverb advocate, made sure to say, “Drive safely!” Then he said, “Thanks!” I was bewildered. All this time was, “Drive safe,” actually a blessing donned upon someone, and I just TOLD him to drive safely?! Oh no! My world has changed forever. Now I will always say, “Have a safe drive!” to remove all doubt!

    I, too, often think when people say they’re “Doin’ good” that inside I question, “What, like, conquering evil?” My girlfriend and I had this discussion once where she said, “I did good, huh?!” So I said, “You have to say, ‘You did well,’ or, ‘You did a good job.’” She paused for a moment, surely unflattered, then blurted out, “I done good job!” Gotta love that 😛 .

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