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Fare thee well

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21st Aug 2015 | 01:17

At some point, 10 or 15 years ago, I got into the habit of saying goodbye to people by saying "stay well!"

I like it because it is cheerful, it closes a conversation without introducing a new topic, and it feels meaningful without being stilted (like "farewell") or rote (like "goodbye").


"Stay well" works nicely in a group of healthy people, but it is problematic with people who are ill.

Years ago, before "stay well!" was completely a habit, a colleague got prostate cancer. The treatment was long and brutal. I had to be careful when saying goodbye, but I didn't break the habit.

It is perhaps even worse with people who are chronically ill, because "stay well" (especially when I say it) has a casually privileged assumption that I am saying it to people who are already cheerfully well.

In the last week this phrase has got a new force for me. I really do mean "stay well" more than ever, but I wish I could express it without implying that you are already well or that it is your duty to be well.

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Comments {10}

from: anonymous
date: 21st Aug 2015 00:41 (UTC)

Probably why ‘goodbye’, in its original form of ‘God be with you’, caught on; if you are well, God be with you and protect you from harm; if not, God be with you and give you strength to endure.

Pity it became a cliché and lost its meaning.

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from: cartesiandaemon
date: 21st Aug 2015 08:31 (UTC)

Yeah, it's hard changing a habit :( I feel a bit the same about "how are you?" -- it's fine for most of the time, but if the answer is "still awful, duh" it's not really what you want to ask.

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from: ceb
date: 21st Aug 2015 10:25 (UTC)

I say "look after yourself" to my parents with their many health problems.

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Tony Finch

from: fanf
date: 21st Aug 2015 10:40 (UTC)

That's a good suggestion, thanks!

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Rachel Coleman

from: rmc28
date: 21st Aug 2015 11:40 (UTC)

I'm fond of "take care [of yourself]" for similar reasons.

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from: tigerfort
date: 22nd Aug 2015 13:24 (UTC)


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(Deleted comment)


from: entropy_house
date: 21st Aug 2015 17:35 (UTC)

For some reason, I flashed back to 'The Prisoner' and Patrick McGoohan's 'Be Seeing You' with the thumb/forefinger circle gesture. I don't know if anyone else could carrying it off with such panache, though. :^)

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from: delta_mike
date: 23rd Aug 2015 08:58 (UTC)

I've likewise fallen into using the pattern "take care and be well", which while it's meant positively, could have similar unfortunate connotations.

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from: irishkate
date: 23rd Aug 2015 22:06 (UTC)

Stay well yourself. Make sure you are looking after yourself in all this.

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