Sometimes a catch phrase arises from the expression of a slogan or a motto. For more than forty years, Girl Scouts have been taught to say, “A Girl Scout is always prepared.” Now any group that wants to encourage preparedness might send out this message: “Be prepared.” Those two words have now become a catch phrase.
A catch phrase can develop from a watchword. In the 1960s, the State pf Pennsylvania began to tell drivers to “drive defensively.” At the same time, the state made sure that each student in a driver’s education class learned what it means to “drive defensively.” All of the State’s young drivers thus learned the true meaning of the State’s new catch phrase.
Still, the vast majority of older drivers lacked a full appreciation for the skills that should be employed by a defensive driver. For them the state’s watchword was rather meaningless. The phrase had “caught on” in the mind of the public, but not everyone understood what it meant.
While not all the parents then living in Pennsylvania understood the meaning of the phrase “drive defensively,” some of those parents did appreciate the value of a catch phrase. Some mothers had their own sort of catch phrase, a phrase that they used when correcting a son’s or daughter’s behavior.
One Pennsylvania mother used to tell her daughter, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.” She would tell her daughter that whenever the young girl did not demonstrate a sufficient level of assertiveness. The daughter never forgot that phrase, but she did not always put it to good use.
During that same time, another mother in Canada was apparently telling her daughter, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” That Canadian woman later met up with the less than assertive Pennsylvania woman. One December the woman from Pennsylvania heard the Canadian version of her mother’s catch phrase.
Sometimes, the public can tire of using a particular catch phrase. That can be good or bad. Sometimes a catch phrase sends a message that the public needs to hear again and again.
Take, for example, the phrase “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.” Smokey the Bear used to repeat that phrase on TV. Now the public hears many other catch phrases. That phrase has been sort of laid aside.
It is a phrase that should still be repeated. Too often people fail to remember how their careless action can start a fire. The recent fires in California are a case in point. Some of them began because one person forgot (or maybe never even heard) that rather dated catch phrase.
Maybe the new store that allows customers to create their own stuffed bear should sponsor a program that would encourage creation of a number of 21st Century bears named Smokey. Maybe that would help to bring back the phrase that should never have been simply laid aside.